Oh, Mary

Of Knights and Nots

July 1, 2018
Tracy Squillace

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

Perhaps no Broadway play has ever had the impact on politics and culture than Camelot. Adapted by Moss Hart and scored by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, their work took on a life of its own, becoming a clarion call for a generation. The cast recording was the favorite bedtime music of President John F. Kennedy. And it became central to his legacy and to the Kennedy family dynasty.

For those of us old enough to remember those heady days, we’ll never forget the spirit of optimism, hope and promise that the concept of America as Camelot engendered. There was nothing, it seemed, that our country couldn’t accomplish. We envisioned America as a beacon for the rest of the world: as a “City on the Hill.” Despite our failures – and we had many – we were inspired by Big Ideas.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” We established the Peace Corps. We approached every seemingly insoluble issue with a confident, “Why not?” We challenged ourselves to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade, and we succeeded.

This is why the Trump era is so disconcerting to so many people. By purposefully replacing our shared vision of America as Camelot with America in Carnage, the current administration has stripped our nation of its spirit. It is dark and dystopian. It manifests fear in place of hope. By making race a central issue, it turns its back on our history. By refusing to be part of the solution to a host of global problems, we have relinquished our standing in the world.

What is most disturbing is the tyranny of the minority. Loud and vocal and often profane, one in every four of us seem determined to reverse the tide that made our nation great. For it is our differences that have brought us together. The melting pot that was once our strength is now being demonized. By all rights, we should return the Statue of Liberty to our French benefactors. It no longer symbolizes the lamp to The Golden Door.

Or, we can act. We founded Action Mary to live up to its name. We believe – perhaps naively – that the vast majority of us celebrate our differences. We are of one mind that all lives have equal value. Ours is a human mission. With apologies to Lerner and Loewe:

Let it not be forgot
That America is the spot,
That lives up to the promise
Of a place called Camelot.