Eds. Note: is in Boston, Mass., participating in the NY Times Leadership Academy. The following column was first printed in September and is From The Right Side archives.




A century ago, this great nation was the spitting image of those countries upon which America today casts aspersions.




We are told our "enemies" are intolerant, vicious, violent, repressive and oppressive. A half-century ago, those very words were still being used to describe the attitude and behavior of the majority of this population and government. Those who didn't fit the color scheme of the majority populace suffered the pangs of false promises, failed schools, sub-standard housing, and innumerable obstacles deliberately set in the path of progress.




Just a few decades ago, most states denied marital relationships between whites and blacks &

and those who dared to love one another across racial boundaries experienced widespread contempt. While this walk down memory lane seems a bit surreal and a description of a time long past, perhaps it may serve us well to be reminded that such was the state of affairs in America during my parents generation. And it was under this umbrella of deliberate disparity that I was raised.




How much has really changed over the past 45 years, beneath the surface of apparent progress?




Within my own Christian community, I still witness intolerance and attitudes of animosity toward others for a variety of reasons that often boil down to just being different. I still see the same image of an Anglo-Saxon Jesus being promoted across America as the official photograph of my Savior. Not only is it an ongoing lie, but it's hypocrisy is inescapable. Words of truth are derived from the book with the lying pictures?




I am told America is the greatest nation on earth. If we are the greatest of nearly 200 nations around the world, presumably others are less so. But the same leaders who profess their faith and lead this nation to war have forgotten the words in the book with the lying pictures. Those words say we ought to consider others better than ourselves and love our enemies, not annihilate them.




If this nation has progressed as far as many believe it has since the days of institutionalized racism, would a concerned leadership have allowed the catastrophe to continue in the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Would we today be spending hundreds of billions of dollars to commit mayhem in the Middle East for ever-evolving reasons, while ignoring the massive devastation in our own backyard?




How much has truly changed over a half-century of progress?




In 1953, America's CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Iran in an effort to control its oil. Well, why not? They're just Muslims. We ruled their land through a puppet dictator for 26 years until the people revolted. The next year we assisted the dictator in Iraq in an eight-year war against Iran that killed more than one million Muslims.




Well, why not? They're just terrorists.




Just two years after Iraq and Iran called an end to that war (1988), George H. Bush sent hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia in preparation to invade Iraq. In January 1991, he did. And from 1991 to the present day, the U.S. military has never left Iraq.




Well, why not? Aren't they terrorists?




Earlier this week, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accepted an invitation to speak at Columbia University. Before he opened his mouth, he was insulted by the university president Lee Bollinger. Well, why not? He's just a Muslim.




Bollinger's attitude is reminiscent of an America that views itself as supreme and looks down its Anglo-Saxon nose upon the rest of the world while justifying its hostile aggressions as acts of self defense.




Ahmadinejad's nation is one that has been militarily, politically and economically attacked by the U.S. and its allies since WWII. It is completely surrounded by nations with nuclear capabilities, yet told by the U.S. it cannot develop its own.




The Iranian leader politely asked us to question the so-called facts we've been told by our government about Sept. 11 &

which is the foundation for America's fear-based aggression &

and he was told he is uneducated. He asked us to question why the Palestinian people are paying a price for the Holocaust that occurred in Europe, and he was told he is ridiculous.




Beneath the leadership of this nation there exists a multitude of multi-faceted peoples, all who consider themselves Americans. I am one of them. We love this planet and its multi-faceted multitudes. I imagine a day when America's leadership will exemplify its citizens with a love for humanity that transcends political ideologies, and a respect for nations and cultures that exemplifies a belief in the God of the universe, not the god of America.




Perhaps that may happen in my lifetime, if I hang on for another 50 years.