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Letter to the editor for July 20, 2021
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Letter to the editor for July 20, 2021

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Confessing our national sins

Are we heading for a radical rethinking of national symbols and holidays?

Perhaps the official declaration of Juneteenth as a national holiday is the clearest sign that something new is happening. It has not pushed July 4th aside, but has pulled it into the light of intense scrutiny.

In her regular Sunday column for The News & Advance, Marsha Mercer asks us whether it is “time to retire the national anthem.”

She points out that Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner, was a slaveholder whose views have increasingly come under question. Mercer writes positively about Rep. James Clyburn, Black U.S. Representative from South Carolina who suggests that Lift Every Voice and Sing should become the new national anthem, though she would favor America the Beautiful.

There are rumblings. Is something radical happening? Longtime, almost sacred statues of war heroes are being removed to safe hiding places or museums. Our President has implicity admitted that US military involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake, deadly in its consequences. We have had a spate of headlines and discussions of US military errors and atrocities, including regrets about our Vietnam war, our use of nuclear power to obliterate the civilian populations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Mai Lai Massacre of 1968, the Pentagon Papers scandal, and more: Wounded Knee, Tulsa massacre

Where are we headed? It is not clear. But is it possible that we are moving toward a national holiday when we will confess our national sins? Back in 1961, President Eisenhower warned us about the dangerous role of the military/industrial complex and “...the disastrous rise of misplaced power.”

We are a multi-cultural, multi-religious nation; the Abrahamic religion of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity plus representative populations of other global religions.

Each of these has the tradition of prayer. Those of us who call ourselves “Christian” live by the invitation summed up in I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Could this apply to the whole nation in a national Day of Confession and Reconciliation?

PETER KJESETH

Lynchburg

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