In these recent months we’ve been facing events that have changed our way of living, our expectations, and our way of seeing our existence.
First came a virus that paralyzed the world. That virus now forces us to stay at home and wear masks so that we do not infect or become infected.
More recently, an event revived another virus that sickens society and can make it crumble. That virus is racism, and it destroys human dignity!
It’s sad and painful to witness the reality of discrimination, of racism, when we live in a country where – with patriotic pride – we proclaim: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Where we also affirm: “In God we trust,” and where very often “God bless America” is recited at the end of speeches.
We mention God, but I wonder: Where is our faith in that God to whom we so often implore as a country? Living a Christian life behind closed doors – as something private – doesn’t give us the space nor the ability to influence the life of our republic.
I repeat, the evil of racism destroys the dignity of the person. In racism one group, who believes itself superior, sees others as mere objects. In racism, one group silences another because of color, culture or language.
We know it by heart. We say it. We recite it: "In God we trust," and “God bless America," and "… one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Liberty and justice for all? Really? Why don’t we live this liberty or see this justice? A society that lives in fear of violence and inequality is not free. Neither is a society that reduces God to a few simple, pretty sounding phrases – it doesn’t allow God to make his love effective.
God created us equal, with the same dignity, and gave us the commandment of love as the law by which to live in peace: to love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22, 34-40).
When we keep God out of the life of our country – that is, when he no longer is the point of reference – a void appears. This void leads each person to create one’s own truth, one’s own law, where equality disappears and is replaced by discrimination and racism. How can that void be filled? By living the commandment of love.
Faced with heinous acts of racism – which make our country tremble because the dignity of the human person is trampled – we react, we attend demonstrations, and we seek solutions to help eradicate the inequality, abuse, discrimination and death that exist in our culture. Looking for solutions to that pain is essential, as long as it doesn’t degenerate into a source of destruction.
How can this virus that is stifling our culture be eradicated? We cannot simply act or create laws as a reaction against the sad and painful events of racism. All this does is to put racism in a state of “hibernation” – to "lower" its temperature, so to speak – and give the impression that it is possible to continue living as if that virus no longer existed. This is a mistake.
The solution comes via a process of transformation in the heart of each person. When we turn our gaze toward God, who is love and mercy, there is a conversion from sin to repentance, from lukewarmness to fervor, from doubt to faith, from error to seeking truth. Mercy and love are the key to combating and eradicating the destructive and harmful virus of racism and discrimination.
This process can only happen in freedom – as the Bill of Rights proclaims – where there is true and unrestricted space for expression, where sincere dialogue can take place, where all voices are respected, and where – by truly listening – the common elements with which to transform society and refine its laws, can be found. Thus, we will proclaim from the depths of our heart, by word and by action, the respect for the dignity of the person.
The Bill of Rights, which protects freedom of expression, brings with it a big challenge: the challenge to live with humility. Why? Humility is necessary to learn to listen with respect; if one doesn't listen in this manner there is no dialogue, but a monologue that imposes silence on the other. That is, there is no true freedom of expression.
No matter how many laws are created to protect the dignity of the human person, to protect life, and to abolish racism, these will never take effect, nor will they change reality unless they spring first from within the heart and are expressed in a sincere and free dialogue, with God as principal point of reference.
We’re all called to a conversion of heart so that, through a free and sincere dialogue, with God at its center, we may again see each other as he created us: equal, where differences are respected and our daily living in community enriches each other.
Without God there is no love, without love there is no respect, without respect there is no dignity.
God bless America!