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A ‘Demand’ for equality

Veteran, public servant offers a perspective

Sylvester Cleary, currently a Forestville resident, is pictured here with the U.S. Marine Corps during his service in the Vietnam War.

I love the United States of America because of the promise and hope of equality and freedom.

I love America so much that I laid my life on the line as I enlisted and served in the USMC during the Vietnam War. Ironically, members of my family fought and died in every war dating back to the Civil War.

With that being said, and because of the current injustice and racial climate that is finally surfacing in America, I no longer ask, plead, beg or request equality for all which is the basis of the preamble of the Constitution of the United States. Quite the contrary, today as one Black citizen,

I demand the equality of a first class citizenship the Constitution affords all Native Americans, Black and Brown people and all people who do not fall in or look like mainstream America, because the strength and power of America lies in our diversity and in our oneness of purpose, which is perfecting democracy. America, we stand at the crossroads of our democracy, were it is the duty of every citizen to weigh in on the future of our existence.

We are at the point in American history we’re it has become mandatory to heed the words of President John F. Kennedy. “Ask not what your County can do for you but what you can do for you country.” What you must do for your country TODAY, is simply make a decision on America’s future. Will you re-engage and pledge your allegiance to become a true patriot of the United States by agreeing to Live by the preamble of the constitution where it says, WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF EVIDENT THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, THAT THEY ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, AMONG THEM ARE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS?

Are you willing to sacrifice a little to help unite our country for the greater good? Are you willing to at least wear a mask per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and our top scientists recommendations, to help curve the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken more than 150,000 American lives?

I recall my first few weeks of Marine Corps Boot Camp at Paris Island. I was put in a platoon with a number of young men from the south. Among them were four or five recruits who let it be known they absolutely hated all Black and Brown people, in addition to Jewish recruits. Needless to say there were a few racial incidents within the first two weeks of Boot Camp, which prompted me to sleep with one eye open. However; it only took three weeks for the Marine Corps boot camp to change the attitude and conscious of our entire platoon. This was accomplished by being put in situations where we had to depend upon each other in order to survive. The pain and sacrifice was too great not to comply.

By the time we graduated from Boot Camp, we were not only friends, but had grown a great respect for each other. John, who stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 285 pounds of pure muscle who hails from Mississippi was one of those 100% good old boys. We had a conversation one day, and I asked him why did he hate Black people so much. He said he was taught by his parents at an early age, that Black people were the scum of the earth, and he should never associate with them. He admitted, that I was the first Black person he ever had a conversation with. I asked him, do you see me as the scum of the earth? He said absolutely not, you’re different, I’ve learned so much from you since we’ve been in Boot Camp.

I told him no, I am not different then any other Black man or any White man as far as that’s concerned. We all want the same things in this life. To put food on our table for our families, to have shelter, to be free to pursue our dreams, to make a positive difference in this world, and to leave a legacy of service for young people to follow.

America, we must regain the great American spirit, which is the only thing that will truly make America great again. Our greatness can only be achieved through the spirit of the hearts and minds of our citizens. “WE THE PEOPLE” are the only ones who have the ability to make America great, not our politicians because we only elect them to carry out the will of the people. It is when the will of the people come together with a oneness of purpose that greatness is created. A prime example of this is World War ll, when we were threatened by an enemy and the realization that we could lose our freedoms if we didn’t work together for the common good of our Nation.

This is the same example I experienced in the Marine Corps Boot Camp where young men and women of different races, and nationalities from all across the United States were put together and had to depend upon each other to survive, became a cohesive and deadly force to protect our constitution and the American way of live. We joined a band of brothers who will live within our hearts until the day we die. If you doubt this, talk to someone who is a member or has been a member in the Corps.

As a Nation of people, any philosophy, procedure, program, executive order, or law that divides us, is outdated and detrimental to the future of our existence as the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Our forefathers didn’t envision states of America but saw this new country as the “UNITED” States of America.We must have 21st century thinking, in order to deal with 21st century problems. As we have all seen, spending billions of dollars on a wall did not stop the COVID-19 virus from taking thus far over 150,000 American lives.

We live in a global society and there is nothing on the face of this planet that will stop people from seeking freedom, no matter where they live. With that being said perhaps we should be building bridges in place of walls and spend the billions of dollars on both sides of the bridges to regulate with procedures,an orderly flow of traffic from one side to the other. Citizens all across America are crying out by the tens of thousands for our government to finally recognize Black Lives Matters and the need for all Americans to be treated as first class citizens. The murder of George Floyd by the hands of an American police officer who swore an oath to protect and serve, has sparked a movement that will not be silent until proper legislation is enacted to stamp out systemic racism. And yes, we must protect the properties of our Federal Institutions, but sending armed troops into our streets who are trained to kill, only highlights the philosophy of no justice, no peace. Here again this is an 18th and 19th century solution to a 21st-century problem. Why won’t our current administration sit down with a delegation of protesters and work out a solution to the concerns of tens of thousands of Americans?

Marvin Gaye had it right when he said and I quote, “War is not the answer.” A war between American citizens and The American military/police is a losing proposition for all concerned. We are a country in chaos, because the Black Lives Matter movement has brought systemic racism to the forefront, the coronavirus has killed over 150,000 Americans, and our economy is in the tank because literally tens of millions of Americans are out of work.

We are in a deep recession. The stock market for the most part is holding its own but the average American family it’s having difficulty feeding their families, and must rely on food pantries and donations to put food on their tables. Look around your communities America, you know this is true.In spite of all of this, I believe we are at the vertex of one of the greatest opportunities in American history. This opportunity can be realized through the adoption, and implementation of just one word, “ACCOUNTABILITY.” Fifty percent of solving any problem is recognizing and admitting the problem exists. Let’s look at the Black Lives Matters movement. As a nation, let us once and for all admit the grave injustice of kidnapping thousands of my African ancestors, bringing them to America as slaves, forcing them to work for nothing, beating them with whips, hanging them from trees, burning them alive, and raping the women, all for economic gain.

This was not the way to treat human beings, no matter what they look like or where they come from. The foundation of American prosperity developed off the backs of my ancestors picking cotton. Let us make sure our history books show that even our forefathers who wrote the constitution owned and participated in slavery. America, this is not fake history, this is American history and our kids and grandkids should be taught the truth.

People all across this nation and throughout the world are supporting Black Lives Matters to hold America accountable for the treatment and suppression of 400 years of injustice to African Americans.

What makes our nation so attractive to others around the world is the diversity within our population and the freedom to pursue our dreams. We are facing major crises in our Democracy and now is the opportunity to hold those in charge accountable.

Thousands of people are protesting all across the United States and the world, the injustice Black people are suffering. Tens of thousands of Americans have died due to the coronavirus, and tens of millions of Americans are out of work. According to the Census Bureau who started tracking data in May, almost 30 million Americans reported they didn’t have enough to eat at some point in the seven days through July 21. This is all happening under our current administration’s watch. Every member of this administration should be held accountable to the American people for its actions in order for us to move forward as a nation. I want to leave you with this one thought, a lie is still a lie even if everybody believes it, and the truth is still the truth even if nobody believes it.

Don’t forget to cast your ballot for the future of our nation. This is your opportunity to help move this country forward and regain the respect of the rest of the world or hold it back with the injustice of the past. The choice is yours America. America we are better than this.

Sylvester Cleary is a Forestville resident and member of the Forestville Central School Board of Education.

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