Ending The Violence: The War for the Heart of America

COLUMBUS, OH – 26 Sep, 2016 – Today I am in the hospital with my 75 year old Dad.  He has been here for 7 weeks recovering from complications due to chemotherapy and radiation.  When you have to face death head on you get rather sober about what is important.  Things get a lot clearer with age and experience.  Born in 1940, my Dad comes from a generation of Americans who had just won a major World War and were set to the task of building a stronger and more civil America.  Dad didn’t grow up in a wealthy family and nothing came easy to him and his four sisters.  They owned a small grocery store in Hopkinsville, KY but deep in my Dad’s heart was the desire to become successful and go further than those before him.  When Dad was 18, the Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and American’s were deep in the throws of the Vietnam War. 

The protests to the Vietnam War birthed the sexual revolution and the use of drugs to find inner peace.  “Make love not war.” The Jim Crow laws had set a blue print for decades of segregation and racism.  The America of the 40s and 50s looked much different than that of the 60s and 70s.  America was a melting pot about to boil.   1976 was the 200th anniversary of America.  We were still an infant as far as nations go.   Our founding fathers did their best to fight tyranny and give us documents labored over in wisdom to help us steer the course of the American experiment.  Those guiding documents eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation, Women’s Voting Rights, The Civil Rights Movement and our continued commitment to ensure Justice and Liberty for all.

Dad graduated from Hop Town High in 1968 and went to college by working jobs between classes.  He got his degree in accounting and moved to Nashville, TN where he worked for Ernst and Ernst.  It was there that he met my Mom and the man who would change his life and help him accomplish his dreams.  That man was Dave Thomas and he had a vision to create a better hamburger.  Dad worked with Dave as his bookkeeper in the upstairs portion of their first Wendy’s store on Broad Street in Columbus, OH.  The rest is history.

And so here we are today nearly 50 years later sitting in a hospital room, laughing about stories from his past, my childhood and funny stuff my dog Boomer is doing.  I always love talking to my Dad because he has a great heart.  We almost lost him a few weeks ago.  But this man is a fighter.  One day my Dad told me that he thought he wasn’t going to make it and he wanted to say goodbye to his family.  Holding back my tears I said, “Dad you can go be with Jesus now if you need to, but I think you still have some fight in you!”  Later that day he informed my wife and I that he was gonna fight it out.  That he was gonna stick around. 

Dad is made of something that is woven into who we all are as Americans.  He has a faith that has never been broken.  And today in America we are sick.  The doctor has just stopped by and his diagnosis is not good.  Between the school shootings (Sandy Hook), terrorist bombings (NY), mall shootings (WA), attacks on nightclubs (FL), Police violence, Protestor violence, we are well on our way to becoming a footnote in the history books of the nation who died of self inflicted wounds.  And maybe its time to give up on the whole thing.  Maybe we need to face the facts that we are as good as dead.

“When you have to face death head on you get rather sober about what is important.  Things get a lot clearer with age and experience.” 

News flash: The heart of America is under attack.  There are enemies of America within and without who would love to see our demise.  They are trying desperately to turn us on each other, to cause confusion and fear.  The enemies of democracy and freedom are pounding on the walls of our heart.  They desire to create a culture of mistrust and violence so that they can easily come in and take over.  And so here we are just like my Dad sitting in his hospital room.  We need to decide if there is still fight in us.  Is America, the land of the free and the brave,  going to stick around?  For our children and our grand-children? 

Our problems right now as a nation go way beyond anything that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can fix.  We need a change of heart.  We need a renewed heart.  How do you change your heart?  How do we change our nations heart?  This my friends is the most important question we should be asking.  How do we rise above racism and prejudice and class wars and political division?  How do we unite?  How do we overcome the fears and prejudice, reach across to those who are different and fight together for the heart of America once again?  We are, after all, The United States of America.  Our ancestors never quit working out the meaning of that name. 

We really do need to make a decision.  But more importantly than who we vote for, we need to decide who we are going to become, as individuals and as a nation.  There is still time to turn this ship and lead future generations to more united and prosperous shores. Today I was telling my Dad what was going on, filling him in on the latest news.  Shootings in Charlotte, shootings in Washington, bombs in New York.  He simply said, with his usual few words of wisdom. “Violence isn’t the answer.  Peace among men.  We can’t blame everyone else.  The heart needs to be fixed.”

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