My Hope for a New America

22 Dec

The calendar turns to a new month and a new year. Six months ago, there was a lot of talk about how things would change after the pandemic, that we would not go back to the “old normal.” 

There was reflection on what we were learning about America and our society: (1) That African Americans and Latinos are marginalized in ways most Whites had not even imagined. (2) That our society in general and we ourselves personally are dependent on the multitude of people we call “essential workers” who we also call “heroes.” (3) That these essential workers, both people of color and whites, are largely underpaid and overworked—this includes nurses and nurses’ assistants, personal caregivers, school teachers, grocery store workers, janitors, and a host of others.  (4) That even though we have made progress toward gender equality, when our economy slowed down and schools closed, women most often had to assume duties of caring for children and families and also working in “essential” occupations.

We talked about how these revelations would demand new ways of doing things.

Now, however, I don’t hear so much talk about these things. Now there is much said about the new vaccine and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I remember there was a lot of talk about the end of the tunnel during the Vietnam War—when we finally exited the tunnel, things were not as we expected; there was conflict here at home and upheaval. There was a “new” normal at the end of the tunnel, and it was not always easy for us.

I hope we find a new understanding of America when we emerge from the tunnel. I hope we see that our nation is more than the story of the Mayflower and the European settlers. I hope we see America as a Euro-African-Latino nation. Millions of immigrants entered at Ellis Island, symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. But millions more came on the slave ships from Africa, beginning in 1619. Still more millions arrived at the southern border as Hispanic-Latino immigrants.  

Asian Americans first arrived in Louisiana in the late sixteenth century, but major immigration came in the nineteenth amd twentieth centuries. These immigrants came through California. There are now estimated to be 21 million Asian Americans.

And of course several million native Americans arrived far earlier than any other group.

The words of the founding fathers about striving for a “more perfect union” take on a new meaning when we consider an actual profile of who the Americans are.

My hope is that we will imprint a new image of America in our minds and a new idea of a more perfect union—an image that embraces all our people, cutting across social class, gender, race, ethnicity, and geography. 

There are many challenges for us as we reach the end of the tunnel. We will also want to memorialize the nearly 400,000 Americans who died by the coronavirus, perhaps erect public monuments to them. All of us who survive are represented in the number of those who perished.

But please do not think of returning to an old normal—it will be nonexistent.

(c) Phil Hefner 12-21-2020

2 Responses to “My Hope for a New America”

  1. Rick Deines December 24, 2020 at 9:54 pm #

    An ‘old’ friend, Rick Deines gives you an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ for your insights. Today I opened your book “A Matter of Watching” and the poem ‘Absurdity’ leaped out. I have friends devoted to C. Wiman, but new to me. Thanks for giving me something for the homestretch. Dixe, Kelly and Tim and families are well in Minneapolis and Lansing. We stay for the late innings in Milwaukee. Your ‘evolutionary’ stance is an eye-opener that deserves repeating. Hi to Neve. Grace and Peace, Rick Deines

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