by Christopher M. Halleron
I’m an imperfect man in an imperfect country, writing what will likely be an imperfect column. Some will see my words here as insufficient—assuming they even bother to read them at all. That shouldn’t prevent me from making the effort.
My own history is riddled with countless mistakes, misjudgments, misguided actions and missed opportunities. In a variety of instances, what I thought was right turned out to be wrong in the end. More often than I’d care to admit, things I knew to be wrong were still done nonetheless.
Through my own insecurities or inabilities, I’ve pointlessly spurned old friends and needlessly made new enemies. I’ve proven myself capable of tremendous achievement, while equally demonstrating deep-seated character flaws—flaws that can take a moment of triumph or graciousness and turn it almost instantly on its ear.
I’ve underestimated the impact of my actions on others, or seen myself as beyond reproach. As I’ve struggled to develop my own identity, I’ve careened back and forth along the spectrum—aspiring to find my center, but proving unable to hold that balance for long.
Despite many glaring shortcomings, I’ve spent most of my existence believing I’m better than I am. I speak out for justice, but fail to mete it out. I’ve spoken truth to power but lied to the mirror. I’ve promised myself greatness, but invariably slid back into my rut. Meaningful change is difficult; it requires a complete overhaul. Though I have both the tools and the framework to do it, I simply lack the will—a sad reality that I continue to prove time and again.
I am, as previously stated, imperfect. I don’t believe in forgive and forget… but I do believe in forgive.
Flawed as I am, enough people in my life have demonstrated a willingness to work on my behalf. I can only hope that means something—that they see in me the potential I had when I was young and idealistic, before turning jaded and despondent. Even in my darkest times of deep Depression—brought on by outside forces or self-inflicted—enough people continue to invest their efforts into mine. When people make the choice to rally on my behalf, I need to respond.
I am an American, and I am imperfect. I know that—and knowing is half the battle.
Here’s what else I know…
I know there’s still an opportunity for the American Dream—provided it is legitimized. The balance of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness can be maintained, provided it’s honest.
Rather than wallow in wrongdoings and double-down on divisive doubt, I need to dust myself off and remember who I am. When others gleefully hijack the conversation and mock my defects, I need to acknowledge the whispers of promise coming from those who still stand in my corner. I need to stay mindful of the numerous occasions when my own ignorance was supplanted by understanding.
I need to recognize that empathy is not about making it more comfortable for those who make others uncomfortable. I need to take solace in those who are changing their own minds. I need to keep working on behalf of those who are raising their standards—not get dragged down by others who let theirs plummet.
American imperfection is very real, and it needs to be acknowledged. We can still love ourselves, and take pride in ourselves—we just need to remain worthy of that pride. We can no longer rest on our laurels, because we’ve trampled them. We need to stay fresh, stay sharp and stay true. We need to continue to advance, forsaking dogma for ethics and institutions for evolution.
If your version of the American Dream requires the subjugation of others, then yes—your America is coming to an end. If you still think we can make this work, then speak out and strive for genuine justice through a civic renaissance. Join together and make ours the loudest voice in the room.
We’ll never be perfect, but we’re better than this.