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Perspective: Undress the wounds to save democracy


In the poem, The Wound Dresser, Walt Whitman challenges the reader to undress the wounds of the civil war soldier, to turn and face the wound and “see” the suffering of the Union Army. Today, America faces the same challenge, to undress the wounds, still festering, left by slavery.

The recent refusal of the U.S. Senate to pass voting rights legislation is further proof of leaders who want to hold onto and even nurture the legacy of the enslavement of human beings in this country.

While Senators back slap “Make America Great Again,” they refuse to scrape away the ugly oozing evil still buried in our country. The American Dream is a myth. No matter how many different leaders hold out the image of possibility, limiting the vote limits the power of all people to have agency over their lives.

The wealth of the United States is watered with the blood of human beings who built America’s wealth while having no access to the prosperity they harvested. White power has refused at every opportunity to right this wrong. The recent actions of the Senate confirm my belief, “the way to hold on to white power is to withhold the vote from the very people we fear.”

There is no hope of reconciliation until we undress the wound of slavery and expose the putrid lingering traces of this institution. Throughout history, when the moment came for right action, white people took the other road, the one well- traveled -- Segregation, intimidation, lynching, Jim Crow, redlining and more.

After all, to know better is one thing – to do better is another.

Lou Ness has been working in service to people for decades. She has headed church-based programs in Rockford and served as Director of the Rockford Police Chaplains Program. She was an early pioneer in the domestic violence community.