Opportunity for positive change
John F. Kennedy was fond of saying that the Chinese word for “Crisis” has a dual meaning. We generally see a crisis as a time of chaos and danger, but President Kennedy claimed in Chinese it could also be interpreted as meaning, “opportunity;” a chance for real, decisive change.
Retired Marine Corps General James Mattis reminded us this past week that “The (COVID-19) pandemic has shown us that…not only our troops are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of our communities… Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line (serving) their fellow citizens and their country.”
But he also sounded a warning saying, “We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square,” calling us to hold Mr. Trump accountable for making a mockery of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
In March 2014, President Obama awarded 24 Congressional Medals of Honor to veterans, from the Second World War through Vietnam, whose service records indicated they deserved higher recognition than they had received, but which apparently was withheld merely on the basis of their race, creed, or religion.
One might ask why this matters now, when there is protesting, rioting and fighting in our streets? I believe it matters, precisely because there is rioting and fighting in our streets — especially in light of the reasons for the conflict.
Psychologists tell us that when we fear, hate, or harbor resentments toward some person or group, we are actually binding ourselves to them in a mutually-destructive relationship which we carry around inside, eating away at, and weakening us.
Those long-overdue medals remind us that, not so long ago we had a president who took steps to heal the wounds that divide us, which keep us all from being fully free.
In my opinion, the only difference between today and 2014 is the moral character of our leadership. Then, we had a leader who sought to unite us, working to heal the wounds of the past.
Now, we have a leader whose only allegiance appears to be to himself, who continuously speaks and acts to divide us, weakening the bonds of law and custom which have united us, in spite of our differences, for more than two centuries.
We have the duty and the responsibility through the next 150 days to face this time of crisis and to turn it into an opportunity for positive change.