On the evening of June 17th, Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. and brutally slaughtered nine people who were attending a Bible study group.
If you are old enough your mind immediately flashed back 50 years to the church bombings of the civil rights struggle. It almost seemed as if the United States was about to enter another summer of racial strife. However, the next day in a breathtaking act of grace, the victim’s families talked of forgiveness and healing. As if they single-handedly shined a light on the whole country a remarkable series of events followed.
As all races of Charleston movingly mourned together, Governor Nikki Haley announced that the Confederate Flag flying on state grounds must come down. At a press conference, the Indian-American governor said, “Tthe flag does not represent the future of our State.” In quick order, confederate merchandise was removed from stores all across America and on July 10th, with state legislative approval, the flag in the state capitol was officially lowered.
One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, an oppressive symbol of that sorry part of history is finally disappearing.
That was only the beginning. On June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote of same-sex couples in the case: “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” Once again, this uniquely American institution lived up to the words on its building: “Equal Justice for All.” Millions of Americans of all sexual preferences celebrated
That same night the U.S. Women’s soccer team took the field against arch-rival China in the World Cup. One had to wonder if the Supreme Court decision provided additional inspiration for U.S. stars Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Coach Jill Ellis. Of course, the women went on to beat symbolically important Japan to win the World Cup on July 5th, in front of a TV audience larger than the NBA Finals. In the process, they showed girls across America you can be articulate as well as athletic and you don’t have to be stick thin to be sexy.
It also demonstrated that once in a while Congress does get it right as it did with the passage of Title IX, assuring American girls the same access to athletic scholarships as the boys. Not to be lost in all this is the domination of Americans Jordan Spieth and Serena Williams in their sports.
This past week has been historic as well. The United States and Iran announced a nuclear treaty that bans the development of nuclear weapons in Iran for 10 years. Most of the world thinks it is a good thing. The merits of the treaty will debated extensively over the next few months. Years from now we may look at this as a first step by Iran in joining the fold of civilized, peace-loving nations, remembering as it was once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I don’t know any American, including the president, who trusts Iran, but one can hope Iran joins a long list of former intractable enemies of this country, such as Cuba with whom we are re-opening our embassy after 50 years
As if all this wasn't enough, last week a satellite launched by the United States 9½ years ago flashed back to earth pictures of a former planet 3 billion miles away — Pluto. The most striking photo show a picture of a heart shaped area of Pluto. It seemed like a Valentine to Earth in general and the genius of American scientists in particular.
Most American’s know that President Kennedy challenged us to land on the moon but we probably have forgotten that he also mentioned beyond.” Not our scientists, though. They are as audacious as the American soccer player Carli Lloyd, who scored a goal from mid-field in the World Cup finals.
What to make of this? At a regular dinner with my fellow baby-boomer cousin, a long-time friend and my silent generation brother, we decided to dispense with our usual cranky exchange on the state of the country. Rather it was a time to enjoy an amazing 30 days for Americans and renew our belief in that the country’s greatness lies not in our arsenal but the spirit and ingenuity of its people.
Mike Abrams is a former chairman of the Dade Democratic Party, former state legislator and currently a policy adviser to Ballard Partners.