A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I headed north for my sister’s graduation. Being only a few hours away from Niagara Falls at that point, we decided to make a weekend out of it since it would be a new experience for both of us. It is quite easy to see what makes the falls such an attractive place for tourists and nature enthusiasts alike. As cliché as it might sound, the pictures we had seen our entire lives really did not do it justice. As I sat across the river from the falls, amazed at their beauty and power, the words from the prophet Amos slowly worked their way around my head.
Let justice roll down like waters
It has become increasingly difficult to hold this verse in tension with the realities I continue to witness in our country since the presidential election. Too often in the last seven months, it has felt like it is the waters of injustice, rather than justice, that are rolling down upon the marginalized and oppressed in our country. “Build the wall” chants continue to reverberate in areas of our country, and a federal budget plan was just put forward that proposes taking critical programs and support away from already vulnerable individuals and families. As a result, it has become impossible for me to continue to ignore my own privilege.
I identify as white, straight, Christian, and male. I have documentation stating I’m a citizen of this country and to my knowledge I have no pre-existing conditions that would make health care under the American Health Care Act inaccessible to me (although with the absurd list of what would qualify as a pre-existing condition, it wouldn’t surprise me if the fingernail I broke moving my sister out of her apartment after her graduation would count). If there is anything that I have learned since the election it is this: the changes that need to be made in our country to make it a safer, more equitable place for everyone don’t start with banning certain demographics of people or “fixing” our inner city neighborhoods by reinvigorating the war on drugs.
In order for justice to roll down like the waters of Niagara Falls (some 750,000 gallons per second), the change has to start with me, and people who identify similarly to me, learning not only to claim our privilege, but then to do something about it. Donald Trump isn’t the producer of the racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and the wealth gap in our country that have become more evident since the election. He’s the product of those very fears, misconceptions, and prejudices that have been part of the fabric of our country since the first European settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607. Justice doesn’t just start rolling down like the waters of Niagara Falls. It starts long before with tiny water molecules gathering in Lake Ontario before starting the journey down the Niagara River, gradually gathering more and more water along the way as the movement gets stronger and more rapid. This is the work before me and people like me and I believe it is how we Make America Great for everyone for the first time and not just for some people Again.