“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
It has been a trying week in our country, as we have witnessed a convulsion of racism and violence in Charlottesville, VA, resulting in the death of three people, the arrest of one person for driving into a crowd of citizens and a pitched battle that strikes at the heart of who we are as a people, a country and a democracy. In moments like these, I often turn to the words and ideas of people far wiser than me.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in describing how it is that our country has evolved through tides of multi-generational immigration and how we are all bound together by a constitution and, even more so, a shared set of ideas and values that place us all, ultimately, in the same boat. The first American immigrants came from England, seeking religious freedom. Many came to this country from Africa and the West Indies, against their will, shackled and sold into slavery, America’s original sin. My forefathers, a few decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, came to Ellis Island in New York harbor as a result of the potato famine in Ireland. Every American has a story; and with the exception of Native Americans (who were almost completely wiped out by those who came here from distant shores), all of our forefathers came here “on different ships” to form this country and live alongside those who often looked different than them and whose cultural and religious traditions were often quite different.
As I think about what occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia and the shouts of certain people that they hold some unique claim to this American experience, it is not difficult to recognize both their blind hatred and their absolute ignorance our country’s history, not to mention the words in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. There is no defending people who hold up the likes of Adolph Hitler as their model for America.
This quote, from the senior Senator from Arizona, hits the nail right on the head:
“Our Founders fought a revolution for the idea that all men are created equal. The heirs of that revolution fought a Civil War to save our nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to that revolutionary proposition.
“Nothing less is at stake on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, where a violent attack has taken at least one American life and injured many others in a confrontation between our better angels and our worst demons.
“White supremacists and neo-Nazis are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special.
“As we mourn the tragedy that has occurred in Charlottesville, American patriots of all colors and creeds must come together to defy those who raise the flag of hatred and bigotry.” – John McCain (an actual American patriot)
So, what does any of this have to do with the Y? Well, our Y, as with all Ys that are situated in large metropolitan areas, is made up of a wonderfully diverse set of community members who care deeply not only about their own well-being, but who care about and are committed to the well-being of those across their community.
We don’t ask at the Y what your religion is, or about your race, or who you love. We don’t ask you about your political beliefs, or your party affiliation or who you voted for in the last election. What we do ask is that you accept our core values of honesty, respect, caring and responsibility. We believe that with the right that we all have to be a member of the Y community comes the responsibility that we all have to respect that fact that we’re all in Dr. King’s metaphorical boat together.
Hatred and bigotry have no place in our country, in our community or in our Y. We stand with Dr. King, with Senator McCain and with all of those who have spoken so personally and passionately about what is required to sustain this fragile American experiment.
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland