As we counted down the hours left in a year many of us would rather forget, and waited in anticipation for a year we pray will bring solace, strength, and unity, I was reminded of a poem by Maya Angelou that she recited on a brisk January day on the steps of the Capital 20 years ago.
“Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need for this bright morning dawning for you” she exhorted a nation.
“History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.”
Emotionally speaking, many of us crawl into the New Year already exhausted and afraid of the partisan battles that lie in wait. We will wrestle with the irrational yet understandable guilt we feel for allowing a horror to transpire on the hallowed ground of a first-grade classroom. We will try to come to terms with the frustration of having to negotiate with some of our countrymen who now believe the answer to protecting our children is putting armed guards in our schools.
For many of us, the prospect of that process may seem daunting. We may feel a temptation to disengage, turn inward, and focus on our own problems. This is the moment when we must heed that call issued two decades ago and muster the courage to face our history nationally, locally and personally.
Rest assured, if we remain vigilant and unyielding in our efforts, no matter how small in the grand scope of things, our children will someday be able to describe to their children that there was once a day in the life of our nation when it was possible to walk into a gun show and walk out with a military-grade assault weapon. They will undoubtedly look at their parents with the same incredulity you felt when you were first told that slavery was once legal in America.