Today I take a virtual tour of Philadelphia, PA, where the signers of our Declaration of Independence used their quills to forever separate themselves from the paternalistic power, Great Britain. I visited Philly in January 2013 with my uncle and today browse my photo album that captured my experience. It was a strange day for me tip-toeing down the uneven cobblestone roads and marching my way through Independence Hall with my tall leather boots pounding noisily on the 250 year old wooden floorboards. Since I was raised as an expat in East Asia, I feel a different tie to the nation represented by an eagle and 13 stars proudly embossed on my passport and IDs.
One thing that stands out in my experience is the memorial to the LIBERTY bell. Even the name memorial makes me think that we’re honoring something that died and indeed, the 2,000lb bell ordered by the PA state government lived a short life as a chime to assemble or sound peals of celebration. Early on in it’s call of duty, it cracked, was repaired twice, but cracked and cracked again. It was retired from service but became a symbol of American liberty.
Is there some irony in this? A land infiltrated by Europeans with a destiny to conquer and settle was also the land of slaughter and bloodshed of millions of indigenous peoples who had called it home for centuries on end. It was the land of enslaved people of African heritage who often wore bells like cattle so their “masters” and “owners” could keep track of them. As we took our stand and declared our independence and liberty from our “unjust” fatherland, were we not also perpetuating a worse injustice in this new land?
My heart is in turmoil. I don’t know what to do with this 239th year of our nation’s “independence”. While I am grateful for the freedoms I have grown up with–to never go without a meal, enjoy fine arts and athletics, get a higher education, travel the world, learn from people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds–I recognize that my freedom came at the price of other’s freedoms being taken away, and for this I grieve. Isn’t Selma, Ferguson, Charleston… an indication that our nation is still divided by a fissure of false liberty? The bell doesn’t ring, it clanks to a tune of racial divide. We cannot ignore any longer this sickness which brings a fragility to our attempt at appearing united. If we want to truly be united, we must re-examine the pains of our past, the cracks in our nation’s foundation of liberty and justice.
I think this is possible, otherwise I wouldn’t care to write on such a sobering subject. I believe healing of our nations deep wounds of colonization, subjugation, and domination can be cleansed. I believe we can be reconciled along the lines of racial injustice. I believe we can re-imagine a nation that has become home to people of every ethnicity where it can embody liberty and justice for ALL.
How!? I don’t have the recipe or play-by-play of instructions. I don’t claim to have a manual for fixing a divided society. I don’t suggest that it’s easy or quick. But I do know that the path to healing is found through the way of the cross. It is found through the life of the man who descended from the place of greatest power to become the least powerful and in doing so, to reconcile the great divide. The man JESUS who in humility left his heavenly throne, to walk with us and bleed with us, to get close to the lowest in society, to flee as a refugee, to be the friend of the poor and needy sinners, and to die as a criminal. It is his example of surrender to the suffering inflicted by unjust powers that opened the way for a greater power to emerge–power over death! The power of LOVE.
So on this day I pray, that in some small or great way, my life can reflect that love that heals the great crack. I pray that there will be many of us who are captured by His desire for our reconciliation and humble ourselves with our faces in the dirt and then rise to march forward to carry healing for our land. By His grace and power, alone it is possible. Lord, let it be.