Long ago and far away were heavy hearts struck deep with hope,
with longing stare unto the distant “over there,” with a sigh, a tear.
It seemed like dreaming, to some a joke, this hope they held so tight
Whispers of peace and land and liberty fell on every listening ear.
Farther still in other homes where strife and battle daily raged
heavy hearts feared a hideous trade that happened out their door
The battles fought and won and lost came at a grave and human cost
For the spoils were fathers, brothers, mothers, children taken to the shore.
From Irish to Italian to Jew to African, they came with heavy heart and mind
Some had in tow their livelihoods, their children and their earthly lot
others were dragged by chains with just their naked bodies stained in blood
God was their only family now and fear their every waking thought
Onto the boats some took their lives and all their worldly treasures
Onto the boats their lives were dragged bound, shackled by the neck
On the boats through storms and gales hope floated on the billows
On the boats chained up like cattle some prayed the ships would wreck
Oh people of Eden, American Eden, across the sea you saw a tree
And from it though you knew it wrong, you plucked the fruit and sank your teeth
Yes, you who came with hearts of hope and freedom in your eyes
slashed down your captors with freedom’s sword then placed it in its sheath.
Though beautiful and true, “equality and freedom” were unequally applied.
For wealth and for security and for a sense of unity a people stayed enslaved
This is the curse from Eden’s bite of fruit that was not hers to take
We still do feel its curse in a bitterness and strife so painfully engraved.
In life we sail through calm and gale, we ride each wave of grief and joy
and as we look back on the sullied journey, we see the hand of God was stayed.
We must accept America as what it is through shackles and through rising hope.
By ships like Mayflower, Exodus, Ferruccio and Wanderer, America was made.
We have a beautiful but sordid past just like every human soul on earth
fraught with promise and so much hope yet broken by our lust and greed.
Still we cannot look upon it with disgust, for God conveyed us here.
Through hopes and shackles, life’s dirt and water, we all are freedom’s seed.
Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”
This is my hope that all Americans, no matter how they got here, whether by choice or by force, will now look back at the oppression that drove them here, the dreams that drove them here, the slave-traders that drove them here or any other worthy or unworthy ambitions that drove them here (and by them I mean our ancestors), will realize that though man’s sin is often what drove us here, these were their sins, not ours, unless we choose to continue in the pattern of treating people as commodities (and this can happen in any racial or class direction), it is in fact God’s will that we be here to embark on this great human experiment — America — together. The experiment of freedom. That freedom is not a guarantee. As pride and greed and all other manner of human motives have driven people from their homelands at every point in history, the same can happen to America. America is not inherently exceptional. It is only as exceptional as we keep it by embracing one another in the common cause of liberty — freedom of religion in all spheres of life, freedom to try things and freedom to fail, freedom to work hard and experience the blessings and hardships therein or freedom to refuse to work and reap the harvest of such inaction, freedom to be born and freedom to die naturally or by just consequence, freedom to save our money, invest it or waste it and then live with the results, freedom to help one another out of the universal call we have to care for those in need and those who are oppressed, freedom to know that the government is not going to do the job of caring for one another for us, freedom not to do whatever pleases us at any cost to others, expecting them to pay it, work it off or die trying — for such freedom isn’t freedom at all, but slavery again.