I don’t know if the summer of 2021 is going to look anything like the summer of 2020. Perhaps massive demonstrations of social unrest will sweep across the nation again like they did last year. It would be hard to argue that the issues that prompted such an outcry last summer have been resolved in any meaningful capacity over the past year. Maybe you are like me and feel as though we are just about due for another seismic eruption of protests. Mick Jagger said it first: Summer is the right time for marching, charging people to hit the streets. Or, perhaps Mr. Jagger and I are mistaken. Perhaps the summer of 2021 will pass by quite peacefully. Perhaps the street fighting man will choose to stay at home this summer. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Regardless of whether there are people in the streets this summer or not, we ought not forget the state of discord our nation is currently in. The socio-political temperature has been rising in this country for a while now, and it doesn’t seem to be cooling down anytime soon. It would be a mistake to ignore this tension and expect it to go away with time. When there is a fire, one shouldn’t be out pouring gasoline, but one also shouldn’t ignore it completely. We need firefighters to come to the rescue. As members of a democratic republic, that means we all must be firefighters. The responsibility of social reform and progress lies on our shoulders, and that is a duty we ought not take lightly.
I strongly believe that one of the most serious roadblocks keeping us from meaningful progress is our widespread refusal to see the humanity in each other. In this age of technology, people are reduced to puppet-like straw men. It is much easier to attack, disregard and dehumanize a sound bite than a real human soul, with all its beautifully flawed complexities. If we do not get better at appreciating the basic humanity in each other, we will never begin to repair the damaged state of our society.
We must see the humanity in all people; in those with whom we disagree the most, in those whose views drive us to rage, in the red voters and the blue voters, in the young socialist preaching outside, in the billionare capitalist preaching inside, in the man who lies dead from a police officer’s bullet, in the protester who runs through the halls of the Capitol, in the gay student sitting in fear on this campus right now, in the devout Christian praying at bedside, in the migrant worker toiling tirelessly in the sun for shamefully little pay, in the President of the United States, in the prisoner who sits chained and weeping, in the addict who cries out for help and salvation — in all people. We must see, appreciate and respect human dignity. This is the first step. If we miss this, no other effort will be of much substantial worth.
We can and will disagree and argue endlessly, but we must conduct this discourse from a place of mutual respect and common interest in creating real solutions and healing. We are in desperate need of firefighters to come put out this fire, so grab your red hat and let’s get to work.