America is a great nation. America embodies important principles of freedom, democracy and humanity uniquely and often with enormous success. The American people present an entrepreneurial spirit that is less complicated and certainly less refined than previous world empires. We are a determined people unaccustomed to anything but success and dominance.
And yet, like a dream team that fails to win the gold medal, our spirit does not always translate into a winning performance. Our educational system ranks 16th in reading, 31st in math and 22nd in science among leading nations. While our gross national product per capita puts us in the top 10 globally, our income disparity is among the worst. The United States ranks 36th in combating poverty, 40th in infant mortality and 40th in life expectancy.
On the other hand, we are No. 1 in prison incarceration, divorce, gun ownership and rapes. And, of course, we are first — far and away from the rest of the world — in military expenditures. These are not the rankings of a great nation. These are the numbers of a nation that values global conquest rather than caring for its own; punishment over prevention; and immediate gratification over investment in its future.
As a minister, I meet people struggling to find jobs and raise children, coping with disease and addiction, and desperately searching for love and meaning in life. I meet people with no health insurance; people fired from jobs for being gay or lesbian; and people who followed all the rules and are still denied the American dream. They are denied the American dream because of student loans, greedy banks, prejudice and discrimination, and because of systemic inequality that no amount of grit and determination can overcome.
I constantly meet the casualties of our various wars across the globe — our own people starving for resources. I am tired of funding wars that give us record stock prices and leave veterans homeless and suicidal. So let’s declare a new war … on ourselves. I want America to declare war on injustice, assaults on freedom, and corruption within its own borders — to win the hearts and minds of the American people. We need to stop bickering over unimportant differences and join together to build the great nation that America can be. We need to embrace each other — black or white, gay or straight, citizen or immigrant, man or woman.
A great nation should have no homelessness, no hunger, no untreated illnesses and no unemployment. A great nation should not tolerate violations of the inherent worth and dignity especially of its own people. We can be a great nation if we all come together.