The United States?

To the Editor: How sad that in this country it appears more people know what’s going on in the world of celebrities and sports figures than in the country as a whole or the world.
Apr 21, 2014


The saddest thing is, after over 200 years of living together with respect and tolerance for each others’ beliefs and rights, with a few bumps along the way, we now appear to be living in a society of intolerance and disrespect for each others’ rights and beliefs.

It seems in today’s world if you say, do or display a sign or symbol someone doesn’t agree with, you may find yourself in court or fired from your job. Your only crime appears to be not to believe as they do. You appear to have offended them, but not really harmed them, except in their perception of it.
Another sad thing is what appears to be an assault on the core values and principles upon which this country was founded. The biggest perpetrator of this assault appears to be our own government.
In the country today, it appears the minority (in numbers) and not the majority (in numbers) rule.
It does not appear our “leaders” are taking the country in the right direction. We may not be perfect, but no country is. I love my country, but am confused and uncertain as to what type of country we are going to be.
Could these be part of the problems in our country today?

Gay Petersen
Grand Haven Township



I appreciate the sentiments about maintaining a civil dialogue and awareness of public issues. However, this letter has some serious problems.

Petersen says: "[A]fter over 200 years of living together with respect and tolerance for each others’ beliefs and rights, with a few bumps along the way, we now appear to be living in a society of intolerance and disrespect for each others’ rights and beliefs."

To be blunt, this statement portrays a casual disregard for the unhappier side of our nation's history. It's a quotation deeply steeped in cultural privilege. The deeply unfortunately phrase "bumps in the road" implies that things have been mostly good in American history.

Let's consider a few of these bumps:
* The wholesale destruction of Native American cultures and the murder and deportation of Native populations in violation of countless treaties.
* The enslavement of African-Americans in the millions, including the importation and trading of slaves. This covered the first ninety years of the republic and only ended after the bloodiest war in the country's history. Slavery was followed by the 80-year era of Jim Crow and sharecropping, in which any African-American attempting to exercise civil or political rights was in peril of their life.
* Women were not even allowed to vote (in most places) for the first half of the country's history. A woman who spoke up "out of her place" was at risk of being fired and/or beaten.
* Then we could consider the waves of anti-immigrant sentiment, which saw prejudice and violence visited upon the Irish, the Italians, and Hispanics in turn, to say nothing of anti-Semitism and, more recently, anti-Muslim prejudice.
* Violence and intimidation -- including beatings and murder -- were applied against those who advocated for labor rights, particularly the right to unionize.
* Finally, we consider the civil rights struggle of GLBT Americans, to whom Petersen alludes without addressing directly. Again, these people faced the risk of lost jobs, classification as a mentally insane person, or even prison through most of American history.

These are not "bumps in the road." These are the stories of untold millions of people who suffered greatly at the hands of a dominant culture indifferent or hostile to their lives. This does not make America uniquely bad in world history, or undermine our positive contributions to the world. Many countries have dark histories, and generations of Americans have worked tirelessly to make America a better place. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right to say, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." This is true of the United States, which has gradually overcome many of its prejudices to become a melting pot. To suggest that the times we live in today are somehow worse than the past, in which these repressions were inflicted systematically on various groups, is absurd.

I love my country, too. The struggle of America to live up to the challenge posed by its ideals is a noble one, and we are ennobled as a people when we seek to uphold the values of our credo. We are a great country. The embracing of human diversity does not diminish that greatness; it enhances it.


Thank you for taking the time to craft this response. Peterson's letter illustrates the "good old days syndrome" quite well. Many (but not all) white males whose families have been in the USA for at least 2 generations have indeed had a smooth existence. It's easy to criticize the 'other' when you aren't them. I'm a white male, and while I feel no guilt for the sins of those before me, I feel no need to deny these events or to feel attacked if the status quo, as it were, is challenged.

To imagine a past that was free of strife (or even to admit to a few 'bumps in the road') is to blame injustice on its victims. Why should they be causing all this noise and trouble? Things were just fine for 200+ years (for me and for those like me.)


Man is corrupt, flawed and ignorant of true justice, judjustice only comes from God, and Judgment is God's domain. Looking to the state for justice or to heal iniquity is myopic, pointless and foolish and places man above God in the seat of judgment… it never ends well.


I agree; at the same time, the state must not propagate iniquities or behave unjustly. There is a vast difference between "repair all evils" and "do no evil".


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