The Fourth of July's this week, our national day. It's a good time to think about America, the place the poet Langston Hughes called, "the land that never was/ and yet must be./ The land where every man is free."
Our country has always been based on that kind of a dream. I think we've moved away from it lately under a president who thinks torture is okay, who thinks putting people in jail without charging them with anything, without the right to a trial, is okay. That is not the America that I grew up in. And anyone who goes abroad can tell other countries think less well of us than they used to. But we have a chance to change that this year when we elect a new president. I think either John McCain or Barack Obama believes in "the land that yet must be" a lot more than George W. Bush ever did.
We were never promised an easy dream. We have never moved forward in a straight line. We slip and slide--slavery here, emancipation there. Men voting here, all Americans voting there. We inch forward, as I have said before, but we do keep moving. The dream is more real for more Americans today than it was fifty or a hundred years ago.
John Kennedy used to end his campaign speeches with a quote from the poet Robert Frost, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep/ But I have promises to keep/ and miles to go before I sleep." We aren't nearly there yet. Some of us are racists, or sexists. Some of us despise people whose religions differ from our own. But we have kept the dream alive, one way or another, for more than two hundred years now.
We've been in a bad patch lately, but we do have promises to keep. We may not see the dream come true for everyone. But our kids, or their kids, may. "Got to keep on a-walkin'," the old civil rights movement song said, "Keep on a walkin', till we get to Freedom Land."
We may have miles to go before we sleep, but it's time to start walking again. Happy Fourth.