In 1787, when America’s founders convened in Philadelphia to draft a constitution, the union of territories-turned-states was not only new but fragile. At our birth, our nation was far from perfect.
Even today, the goal set out then of seeking to create “a more perfect union” clearly has not been fully realized.
We still are faced with a debasement of dialogue, unbearable gun violence, structural racism, the vilification of immigrants and inequality in education, among the more obvious signs of American imperfection.
Yet ours is still a time in which people are working hard to make America more perfect. Witness the events of just the past two weekends.
June 23 in Washington, D.C., was the culmination of the Poor People’s Campaign’s 40 days of protests and civil disobedience. Led by the Rev. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. William Barber, an interfaith gathering covering more than two blocks of the National Mall shared a vision of America that was inclusive and supportive of all, especially those who have been marginalized by the brutality of poverty.
On June 30 in Chicago and across the nation, we saw no fewer than 700 marches as people protested what has been the president’s policy of separating families at the border. In Chicago, an estimated 60,000 people gathered in and around Daley Plaza, despite the dangerous heat and stood unified to remind us all that our nation has long celebrated immigrants and their contributions.
Then, there is this weekend’s protest against the scourge of gun violence, with the Rev. Michael Pfleger and Pastor Chris Harris leading Chicagoans in a march on the Dan Ryan Expressway to call attention to our city’s insufficient response to shootings and killings.
July 4, 1776, was the birthdate of our nation. America was founded neither complete nor perfect but as a project to continue to create — through growth, evolution, good government and citizen protest — the most perfect nation we can.
The perfection of America never has been solely in the hands of our elected officials. The work of ensuring that we live up to our highest ideals is the work of every American. Reassuringly, many of us are taking to the streets to play our part.
Seth M. Limmer is senior rabbi of Chicago Sinai Congregation. Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath is a member of Limmer’s congregation.