Letter to the editor: ‘Amazing Grace’

To the editor:

The debate is about who we are. We seem to be searching the mirrored face of America for clues. How can we know what we should do if we can’t agree about who we are? Health care, immigration, climate change, wars, guns? It boils down to the three basic questions. What can we know? What must we do? What can we hope for?

We can read history books and books about philosophy or theology. We can talk to the scientists about their measurements. Not bad places to start. We should also surely read the Bible, maybe some Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, some Carl Sandburg and some Robert Frost. Certainly, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. There are sacred words to be found in the Declaration of Independence and in the Gettysburg Address.

But even these are not enough; they don’t tell us enough about what makes America or makes up Americans. They don’t fully explain Woodstock or Nashville or Motown or Omaha Beach. They don’t explain baseball, jazz or the NBA. They can’t make us understand both Jim Crow and Atticus Finch.

We’re all searching, or we should be, but I think I glimpsed a corner of the mirror recently when I watched Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace.” I saw us there. Subtract what you’ll find there from the rest of whatever else you believe you know about us and there won’t be enough left to matter. Certainly not enough to justify any enlarged view of ourselves. But watch and listen to Franklin’s synthesis and find our Amazing Grace.

William Skepnek,



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