I try to be optimistic about our kind—humankind. I believe there is “that of God” in every person—well, at least most of the time. I struggle with us, you and me, with us, as Americans, in particular. I’m not naive about human nature. I do not live in an ivory tower. I do not idealize humanity. How could I possibly do that with Hitlers, Mansons, and “me and you” in our history? I’m a believer in the biblical “Fall,” not just the “fall” of persons, but the “fall” of the whole of creation. I’m a believer in God, who is in the mess with us, seeking us and calling us to become what and who we are meant to be. I’m always thinking about US.
I’m thinking of US—all of us together—and our history. My sparse gleanings from three years of high school Latin was the phrase attributed to Julius Caesar: “Veni, vidi, vici!” I used it all the time when I was young: “I came, I saw, I conquered!” No other phrase describes US better.
We came to a new land, uninvited and as illegal aliens. We occupied, settled, and despoiled it. We decimated the natives. We plowed the prairie. Felled the forests. Shot and trapped or poisoned the wild animals. We called it “taming” the land. We exterminated the Passenger Pigeon and nearly did the same with the bison and the whale. The wilderness was ravished; the country was “developed.” We were unable to see and too busy to care about the devastation we were wreaking. We were too greedy to recognize the waste and the immorality of what we were doing.
We’ve covered the grass with asphalt. The skies darken over our cities—the fog of pollution. The fish have died and if they haven’t died, they are contaminated by mercury. We’ve washed the soil and refuse into the ocean. We’ve poisoned the rivers and streams. We’ve besmeared the earth with our waste. We’ve effectively “put down” the natives and those not “like us” by forcing them to live in barren places, from deserts to ghettos. We boast of our “Veni, vidi, vici” mentality, our innovations, our technology, and our gadgets. We acclaim our rugged individualism, our acquisitions, our deal-making, and our shrewdness as our national virtues. We’ve appropriated, accumulated, and now demand that we should be, ought to be, and will be number “ONE!” That’s US! That’s the U.S. where 90% of all consumable goods produced on the earth are devoured by US. I just can’t help thinking about US.