Equal Time: We are a ‘perfect imperfection’

I thought the editorial “A month of learning is great, but we need to do more” (The Suffolk Times, Feb. 13) was well balanced and I really enjoyed the following section:

“Their histories as told are incomplete if we don’t also note that many of those families were slave owners — not to judge them through a 21st-century lens, but just to round out the story.”

I always say that America is the “perfect imperfection!” What I mean by this is America is not perfect and it can never be perfect given the imperfections of its citizens. The beauty of our system of government is the design of checks and balances.

Our Founding Fathers understood the failings of their fellow humans and how horrible we can be toward each other, and many of them understood the evil of slavery, too. They understood that it would not just go away simply. 

The choice was to form a union with its imperfect aspects or just give up. Anyone who has ever run a not-for-profit or any type of volunteer organization knows that it is difficult to get the team to agree on what color to paint the walls. Now imagine how difficult it was to form a union comprising some people who wanted slavery abolished and others who relied on it for their economy. Yes — they had more heated discussions than we do about the color of the walls. 

The bottom line is they did not give up. They built a system that would allow growth, change and, eventually, the ending of the evil system of slavery through blood and conflict, but it ended. 

It ended because there were a lot of white men willing to die for the union and to die for the principles to end slavery. Did we finally have an African American president? Yes! He, too, was elected because there were a lot of white people willing to vote for him. 

When I joined the Marines in 1991 one of the first things out of my drill instructor’s mouth — after he said “Drop and give me 50!” — was: “The only color in the Marines is green!” That was the color of our uniforms in 1991 and that is the motto that honestly many Americans of all colors believe and exhibit in their behavior. 

Is America still struggling with race issues? Absolutely, but we all must realize the distance we have covered while never forgetting the starting point. Slavery was evil! Racism is evil! Don’t forget the past but also don’t condemn the living for the sins of the dead. 

I’m just a green-colored Marine!

Mr. Sanders is commander of American Legion Post 803 in Southold.