A couple weeks ago, I took a trip to Washington DC with my best girlfriend. Neither of us had been there since we were kids. And neither of us was prepared for how emotional the visit would prove to be.
Honestly, we decided to go on a whim because I was on the East Coast visiting her, and DC is only three hours away. It seems like a great excuse for a quick girlfriend’s getaway without her son or partner.
While it was a great getaway—we talked and laughed, we ate good food, and we saw the sites— it ended up being so much more. Because we found ourselves standing at the intersection of the past and the present, of yesterday’s norms and today’s reality.
From the moment we set foot on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by people of every color speaking languages from around the world, we were both overwhelmed. All these people had come from all over to understand and celebrate the characteristics and moral values America was built on. The ones that make our melting pot country strong. The ones that inspire others to create their own “American Dream”.
The dichotomy between our reality standing on the street, and the rhetoric coming from the capital building just blocks away, was almost too much to reconcile. Especially while gazing at quotes from Lincoln, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr. and more. And visiting the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
“We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1943
I couldn’t help thinking about the recent calls for diversity in movies and TV, as well as in books, and romance novels in particular. The Civil War ended in 1865, yet there are people who still don’t believe that people of color (any color, really. Or people with disabilities. Or people with different sexual orientations. Or frankly anyone who doesn’t look or act just like us.) are human beings just like everyone else.
That the vast majority of us, regardless of the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes, or the language we speak, all want the same things. Our fundamental desires are simply human. Not relegated to one kind or color of person or another. We all want to be able to live our lives with freedom. The freedom to choose our jobs, our lifestyles, our religions, and our partners.
We want to be able to support ourselves and our families. To put good food on the table, a solid roof over our heads, and clothing on our backs. When we are sick, we want access to healthcare. We want clean air to breath and clean water to drink.
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1937
If it’s not too much to ask, we’d all prefer to have these options and opportunities without fear of violence, rape, murder, war, and mass shootings.
“Freedom of speech…Freedom of worship…Freedom from want…Freedom from fear.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941
And I think most of us want a sense of community, a sense of family, and a sense of value.
We all want to love and be loved.
That is an undeniable truth. We are a country of immigrants. While diversity has been our strength, it’s also turning in to our Achilles’ heel. When we let ourselves become divided into us and them, we are no longer the United States of America.
It’s no different than when we forget that we welcome immigrants with these words:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” she wrote. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These words on the Statue of Liberty said nothing about the color of anyone’s skin, their religion, their national origin, or their sexual orientation.
Walking through the bustling streets of DC, I could see and hear and feel our diversity. It made me proud and happy to be an American, even if I’m not proud of everything that’s happening right now.
That doesn’t mean I write about diversity, or religion, or politics overtly. It means all characters are worthy, regardless of the color of their skin, or where they’re from, or who they sleep with, or who they pray to, or any disabilities they may have. It means I have an opportunity to show people that everyone has value.
That everyone should have the choice to be who they want, do what they want, and love who they want—as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.
That everyone should be treated equally, and everyone deserves love.
Maybe, by doing that, I can help change minds. One reader at a time.