The Washington Times - June 27, 2008, 06:23AM

We live in a society where labels define us. And, with these labels come prescribed behaviors, beliefs and roles. In most cases how we label ourselves is the product of the family, environment or the community in which we were raised. Many of us go through life and never question or challenge these labels and all that comes with them. You know what I mean. We have all heard some one say, “I was born a _____, and I will die a ______.” Or, “If it was good enough for my parents, then it’s good enough for me.”

Take me for example. I was raised Catholic and never found a need to question this identity or label until late in my life. Maybe I should say that when questions about my Catholicism did arise, I would suppress them out of a deep and undeserved sense of blind loyalty.

I guess you could say my political label, which is a Liberal Democrat, is part of my experience as an African American in this country. My choices for affiliating with a political party were limited because of civil rights and other social justice issues. Now I am questioning this label as well.

It is my opinion that labels limit and prevent us from fully experiencing all life has to offer and the options that are available to us. In other words, “If you are this, then you can’t be that.” Or, “Since I am this, I couldn’t possibly be that or consider it.” It may sound like gibberish but it’s true. Essentially what I am saying is that most of us are locked in neatly labeled boxes from which we will never escape. We find comfort in our labels. It’s cold and lonely out there in the land of the unfamiliar.

Where am I going with all of this? I’ll tell you. Blind adherence to labels is destroying this country. It has undermined the independent thought and spirit that supposedly made this country of ours great. We have liberals, conservative, red states, blue states, right wing evangelicals, liberal Christians and etc. There are too many labels out there to mention and because of these labels, we all stay in our neatly labeled boxes and won’t peer over the top to see if there is something new or better out there. Heck I guess you could say that one day blind adherence to our labels just might be responsible for us supporting a leader that will get this nation committed to an unjust war and destroy our economy. Hey, is it possibly for that to happen?

You know the founding fathers of this nation left us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of The United States of America. These men were outstanding and forward thinkers. I say this regardless of what they thought of me as an African American. We all know that most of them were slave owners. But, that’s an issue for another day. However, they were forward thinkers, because they left us inspiring words and wrote a living and breathing document that provided for and allowed for change. Yes, they left us an amendable Constitution, which means that they intended for their future generations to exercise judgment and determine when a course of action, law, policy or ideology no longer serves the common good.

So having said all of that let me tell you what I am proposing. We need to climb up and out of our boxes or step out from behind our labels and see that Blacks, Whites, conservatives, liberals, Christians, Jews, Democrats, Republicans, Muslims, Latinos, men and women, Red State and Blues State folks etc, are all losing homes and jobs, dying in wars and have no health insurance. And we are all Americans.

Yes Americans are suffering on so many levels. That’s a new label for us. We are “Suffering Americans” and we need to get out there and do something about it. I don’t have to tell you what to do. Our founding fathers had faith that their future generations would know when something did not work and act to fix it. After all, who am I to question the trust and confidence those great forward thinking men had in you? We know what’s wrong. Let’s prove worthy of the trust of the founding fathers and do something about it.

Voting the right way in November would be a good start.

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