Whose Streets Are These?

My wife and I are the proud owners of our home. It’s not a mansion and it took a good 30 years to get it paid down, but it’s ours now, our own little piece of our beloved country. I can look out my back window and imagine seeing all the way to the Rocky Mountains (an impossibility, of course) and the west coast beyond, or all the way to the Atlantic off Delaware, with its blue fish and dolphins and coasting pelicans.

I can see all the places I know so well, the battlefield at Gettysburg, the Red Rabbit drive in with its Bunny Burgers on Rte. 220 at Duncannon; New Oxford, my wife’s town, with its Tropical Treat Drive In. Hanover, Baltimore, Washington, all the places we have lived in,. Atlanta and Arlington, and visited over the years. My own hometown, Altoona, my grandma’s house in Portage. All points and every point in between.

That’s a pretty ambitious thought, you might say, but I think its right within the context of where my mind sits these days. This, indeed, is my country, just as it is yours and theirs and everyone else’s. It does not belong to the buffoon in the White House or any of his goofy associates, not the Supreme Court, not Congress, not anyone but us, you and me.

Those streets people were marching on, protesting on, and yes, looting on, those are mine, too. I know that because each year I pay a big chunk of my income in real estate taxes to maintain and police them. And I am here to tell you that it is just fine by me if people want to draw up signs and put on t shirts and march in support of justice for Black Americans who are, after all, just like the rest of us, but not so fortunate in some cases.

One of the things we are in danger of losing in these fraught times is that sense that the nation actually belongs to no one but us. That includes immigrants, native Americans (of course) and people of every ethnic description you can imagine. My street is their street. My avenue, theirs. Use it for a march to underline how strongly we believe in civil rights for everyone, use if for a march to demand an end to the unjust treatment of African Americans at the hands of bad policemen. Use it to march in support of the police and the fine and difficult work almost every one of them does, and firefighters and guardsmen and state troopers and each member of the armed services, too.

Nurses, doctors, nursing home workers, aides, all those people who put their lives on the line to help virus victims, those streets belong to them, too. Take off your mask when it’s safe to do that and go out and march in support or the fine work they have done. Those streets belong to them, too, as much as they belong to me.

We make a big mistake when we watch these kinds of events on TV and think they are happening elsewhere, in another universe, just because they have only two dimensions. They are happening on our streets, to our towns, to our people. We need to take a minute to think about how it would feel to have someone kneel on your neck so you black out. We are connected to that incident, whether we want to recognize that or not, because it happened on our streets, in our towns.

We need to keep our sense of outrage intact when the president threatens to unleash the military, OUR military, on our own people. We are not being threatened by a foreign nation. We are not in such dire straits that we need that kind of power on the streets. We already have the kind of power we need on the streets, the people power that flows from the nation’s sense of goodness, its righteous belief in equality, its embrace of the unity embodied by our national mythology.

Keep it all real. This is not an imaginary place. It is a real place, yours and mine!

This is our place and we won’t have it wrecked by a dysfunctional politician in the White House. His days are numbered, I pray, and our salvation is, as it always is in this hopeful nation we have created, just over the horizon. I can see it out my window!

6 thoughts on “Whose Streets Are These?

  1. As ever, words that give me hope because of their rightness and goodness. Thanks, Charlie! Keep writing.

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  2. So nicely put! Our home..worth fighting for by a rainbow of color! We the people…of all shades & beliefs. Thanks brother for your fine reflections.

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