The wake-up calls are severe on the cusp of this July 4.

Americans are finding an ugly reflection in the mirror held up by protesters: racist policies and practices long unchecked; unwarranted police violence against civilians; and unemployment rates higher than in the Great Depression, brought about by a global pandemic. Others are trying to preserve and entrench white domination.

To celebrate our nation’s beginning, it has been convenient to look at the glass darkly, avoiding the whole image: that many of the founders of this country could not bring themselves to live up to the self-evident ideals they proclaimed.  The soaring aspirations were for only some of the people of this country.

The harsh light of the present does not afford us even that luxury. Its stark, verbal beauty is refracted by the injustices of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, poverty and violence, words arranging themselves in defiance of what has been. 

Evanston is not a bystander in this. The invigorating voices of the high-school and college generations promise much for the future. This is a time, as Northwestern professor Christopher Harris said in a town hall meeting a few weeks ago, to re-imagine what we can be.

We are encouraged that Police Chief Demitrous C00k is open to discussing police reforms, some of which he has said are “long overdue.” We count on robust discussions between police officers and community members to help separate necessary policing from over-policing.

Evanston needs police officers; there are still victims here – of rape, shootings, abuse, larceny and fraud, to name only some.

We would also love to have Evanston police officers live in Evanston; we have to make it affordable for them – and others who offer services through our social safety net – to do so.  

We add our voice to those calling on City Council to put more money into these social services. Over the past several years, the Council has decreased the funding for that safety net, eliminating some critical services and shifting to local organizations the responsibility to provide other services.

We understand the economic burden the COVID-19 pandemic has put on residents and businesses, forcing hard choices for next year’s budget. Still we believe that attentive listening and innovative thinking will help this community through the coming lean months.

Evanston and this country are on the thrilling cusp of change. The catch in the throat is less likely a sign of illness than emotion.

Many know the Chinese proverb on planting a tree: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” We are at the second-best time for change.

May we all find the courage to live up to the values our founders espoused in their Declaration.