I cannot say what I want for fear of being condemned as a “—phobe,” or a hater or a bigot. Language has been weaponized in a way that I cannot remember in my lifetime. I am not for hate speech, real hate speech. On the other hand, if an educated nation allows its haters to say what they want, they would be seen for what they are and wither away. There is something about the atmosphere that we have created that makes us all understand that the soil is fertile for such idiocy to grow and cause damage.

I know it is a lunatic fringe and the numbers are relatively small, but we have witnessed a shocking ignorance of our story as a nation. It has been expressed in violence toward marble, stone and metal representations of national heroes (I am excluding the Confederate statue issue here).

I cannot go where I want to go. Well — strictly speaking maybe this is always true to one extent or another. But as it stands right now my children could not return to the country in which they were born — never thought that would happen. I cannot visit my aging parents right now in their room. A real health crisis has been exacerbated by a chronic leadership crisis. We have found ways to polarize anything in our nation right now. By “we” I am no doubt speaking of another vocal but somewhat larger minority than those destroying public heritage.

Some places are closed, some open, and some are in a strange world in between. And all of us are struggling, some more than others. The dream of owning a business has, or is, slipping away from our friends, family and neighbors. I feel like life stopped somewhere in March and now we are about to celebrate Independence Day. I have been busy enough — working one day doing construction at a youth camp, spending time with some friends and family, a couple of short road trips. But that busyness has not translated into the usual satisfaction of regular, in rhythm accomplishment. It is all a little “Twilight Zone” or for a different generation “Black Mirror.”

Still, we are celebrating July Fourth. The fireworks have been going off for a few days now, joyously for some, annoyingly for others. During the next few days, we will come together in smaller groups than normal and celebrate our independence as a nation. Those who wrote our founding documents — the first of its kind — and those who fought hard to preserve it over the years should be honored and remembered.

We are a nation founded on ideals that we have never been able to fully live into. Things are challenging for us right now, but they will get better. We are prone to having big fights with each other every generation or so and what usually results is movement closer to those ideals. There will be some who go too far and some of those should be punished. There will be those who will entrench out of fear or stubbornness. Most of us will figure out a way to come together, some happily, others grudgingly, and solve some real problems that we have.

We must look past those who continue to gin up fear and division and overcome whatever fears others tell us we must have. Our founding fathers had rather robust disagreements and did not hold back on candor. I hope that we can move back in the direction of being able to speak plainly and clearly to each other. There will be things said that are hard to say and hard to hear. We need all of us to listen with wisdom and open minds.

Being free is hard. It requires of us virtues that ebb and flow from generation to generation. This is not to condemn or judge, but to acknowledge that it happens. It happened in the Bible, it has happened myriad times in the church and in any nation that has existed for very many years. Being free requires thought and discussion. It even requires an argument from time to time.

We are still OK. We have things we need to repent of as a nation. All of us need humility and forgiveness to come to the fore. Our republic is messy. Other nations like to take pictures of our embarrassing family arguments and declare us evil, on the verge of collapse or weak. We have scars and we occasionally give ourselves a black eye. We are also a nation mature enough to figure it out. Just does not feel like it right now.

Happy Fourth of July!

Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at sean.niestrath@outlook.com.