Tag Archives: America

The One Word that Makes America Really America

A Contemplation for Our 241st Birthday

I read a book in which an Aboriginal tribe asks why we celebrate birthdays. They point out that we get older regardless. That, in itself, is not a reason to celebrate.

“We celebrate if we are a better, wiser person this year than last. Only you would know, so it is you who tells the others when it is time to have the party.”- Mutant Message Down Under/ Marlo Morgan

Today is America’s birthday. It is up to each of us, individually, to decide if the collective spirit within our land has become better and wiser.

There is a part of me that wants to rail out against the plans to defund our public libraries, the first of which was founded by Benjamin Franklin. The current efforts to privatize our public museums, parks, and schools, for me, diminishes the flame that fires our collective imagination and soul.

Emma Lazarus was the Jewish poet who gave our Statue of Liberty these words to proclaim:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

I feel the pilgrims, the founding fathers and Emma would all be ashamed at our current lack of hospitality.

Still, there is a part of me that appreciates that we were the first nation to not be ruled by a king. Our ideal is that America can be ruled by the people, for the people.  A nation that recognizes its inhabitants are…

“created equal…endowed…with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”- Thomas Jefferson

To me, America is all of humanity living peacefully, boldly, as weird as we want to be.

There is an image conjured up in the TV show, This is US, of an abstract painting. While the painting is a metaphor for life, it can also apply to us here in the US.

“We all get to come along and we add our own color to the painting…

And these colors that we keep adding, what if they keep getting added on top of one another, until, eventually, we’re not even different colors anymore? Just one thing, one painting?

Not you, me or them, it’s just us. And this sloppy, wild, magical thing that has no beginning and no end is right here. I think it’s US.”- This Is Us – Kevin’s Painting of Life https://youtu.be/xh-Tof_QxKU

I am celebrating today because I am grateful that, at this point, we still have the one word that really makes America truly beautiful.

We still have a free press and can share the ideas of those we admire. So, I would like to allow the American author Tom Robbins the chance to reveal this one word to you:

“The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible.
The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love.
The word that throws a window open after the final door is closed.
The word upon which all adventure, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends.
The word that fires evolution’s motor of mud.
The word that the cocoon whispers to the caterpillar.
The word that molecules recite before bonding.
The word that separates that which is dead from that which is living.
The word no mirror can turn around.
In the beginning was the word and that word was,,,

CHOICE”

 ~ Tom Robbins/ Still Life With Woodpecker

From the far right, to the far left, from the Jimi Hendrix museum in Seattle to the Pride-filled sunsets of Key West, from the nude beaches in San Diego, to the bilingual English and French speaking residents at the tip of Maine, and everyone in between, the CHOICE is still yours!

Happy 4th of July!

 

Thanksgiving for living signposts

“E pluribus unum”- out of many, one (the motto of the US).

“Devise means for removing the Inconsistency from the Character of the American People,” and to “promote mercy and justice toward this distressed Race.” -Ben Franklin (His last public act was to send Congress this petition asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade. Feb 3, 1790)

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving cartoon

George Washington was the first to call for a national “public thanksgiving and prayer”, but each state celebrated this holiday at various times. In September of 1863, in the midst of our Civil War, Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote to President Lincoln urging him to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday to unite the country. Lincoln listened and by October, issued a proclamation that set aside the last Thursday of every November as “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

This week, Julia and I drove out to Iowa from New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with her mom and family. On the way, we listened to episodes of a podcast called On Being with Krista Tippet. People have been trying to get us to listen to this podcast for a long time. I bring up the show because as we strive to avoid talking about politics around the family table today, it is important to explore within ourselves the roots of why our communication has broken down.

ON Being

To explore what has divided us in the hopes of uniting us, I will share some quotes and thoughts from two of the On Being Podcasts we listened to. 

Vincent Harding

Vincent Harding was a leading figure in the civil rights movement as well a close friend and occasional speech writer for Martin Luther King Jr. He said that “the phrase “civil rights” never adequately described King’s vision or the human transformation that it stirred.’ The movement, he reminded us, “was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; it aspired in biblical words to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society.”  The question for us now, is “how to carry on democratic conversation that in a sense invites us to hear each other’s best arguments and best contributions so that we can then figure out how do we put these things together to create a more perfect union. To develop the best humanity, the best spirit, the best community, there needs to be discipline, practices of exploring. How do you do that? How do we work together? How —to go back to our conversation —how do we talk together in ways that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts?”

Isabel Wilkerson

Author Isabel Wilkerson, reminds us that that there were 246 years of enslavement here in America, that is 12 generations of enslavement. “You think about those cotton fields, and those rice plantations, and those tobacco fields, and on all of those cotton fields, and tobacco plantations, and rice plantations were opera singers, and jazz musicians, and poets, and professors, defense attorneys, doctors — I mean, that’s — this is the manifestation of the desire to be free and what was lost to the country…we’re so very divided, and there’s such a focus on “other.” And “other” can mean all kinds of things. And so people will often say, “Why is it that those people do that thing?” The only answer to that question is, “Why do human beings do what they do when they’re in that situation?” And it calls for radical empathy in order to put ourselves inside the experiences of another and to allow ourselves the pain, allow ourselves the heartbreak…”

People’s concerns go beyond the economy now. When the chief political strategist for the White House is a member of a white supremacy group, and when CNN broadcasts the question posted by a member of the alt-right asking ‘If Jews are people…”, we have to wonder what Benjamin Franklin would think of his beloved America? We short change ourselves when we try to suppress our diversity.  “By the people, for the people,” is the America I hold in my heart.

Vincent Harding suggested that when we find we are “operating in a situation,” that is, “very, very dark all around,” what we need are “some signposts, some lights that would in other peoples’ lives help them …Live human signposts.”

Fortunately there are many  signposts for us.  We can also rise above our differences to shine out for one another as we gather round a table of gratitude for what we have and what we can share. As a beloved community, we can be a light to the world. 

I am Thankful for you!

Shining out while standing within

In the shadow of the country club

“Let man be noble,

Generous and good:

For that alone

Distinguishes him

From all the Living

Beings we know…

…Let the noble man

Be generous and good.

Tirelessly achieving

What is just and useful:

Let him be a model

For those beings whom he surmises.”- Goethe

(And her too, by God!)

Having finally watched the movie Spotlight, I was outraged and saddened. The movie follows the investigative reporters in Boston verifying the local and then world-wide systematic abuse of children by priests. I remembered a bumper sticker that said, “If you are not furious, you’re not paying close enough attention.” My old roommate used to say that “Things are always much darker than people think,” and I would counter with, “Things are much lighter than people are aware of.”

Spotlight

Religion has often been compared to a country club. It is the smugness of the members of the club regarding this abuse that rots its foundation.  My friend Drake Powe has often pointed out to me that wherever there is a strong light there will be a strong shadow.

Watching the show Call the Midwife, I am moved to tears almost every time at the humanity of the nuns in East London.  This show is taken from an actual account of life as a midwife in the nineteen fifties.  These dedicated women use their faith, not as a smug affiliation that allows them to leave their responsibility at the door but motivates them to roll up their sleeves and provide service, mercy and kindness to many who have never received these things in sustaining portions.

Call the Midwife

My friend Janeen once said if women ran the various religions they would be not only closer to God but beneficial to human beings as well.  While I tend to agree with her, we all have to take responsibility for our shadows.

Yesterday, I read an article * written by a young man who went to a Trump rally, expecting it to be funny and he was horrified at the crowd’s ugly, antagonizing intolerance towards any protesters. Even a man silently wearing a shirt that said, “Love is the answer,” was thrown out and ridiculed.

A group of farmers fought the most powerful army in the world to create the first nation in history that was not ruled by a dictator or a king but by the people for the people.  Here is our shadow abdicating love and responsibility using the word Freedom to justify hatred, racism and greed. We are bigger than this.  We are stronger than this and each of us individually, while not being perhaps as strong or consistent as the nuns in Call the Midwife can make a difference despite our shortcomings and fluctuations.

It is never too late to exercise freedom of choice. May we choose freedom for ourselves and those around us.

*- http://m.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/11/1499735/-Trump-Rally-No-Joking-Matter

Happy Birthday America

It is the birthday of America, an idea of a nation not ruled by a king, where we are not confined to a caste system, locked into a station in life but free to move up and down the ladder, to align ourselves with whatever our moral compass points to. 
 
America stands for freedom that allows for choice; choice of religion, philosophy, expression, the gambit of experience.  We are a mirror pool of manifestation reflecting back every possibility and our manifest destiny is to move into the new frontier where we can hear and see ourselves as we truly are beyond centuries of prejudice, fear and doubt.  
 
We are our own forefathers and mothers declaring our independence from the tyranny of prideful ignorance.  A new nation reaching out beyond the borders of limited thought to embrace liberty as she bestows dignity to all who reach out for her.
 
Happy Birthday, blow out your candles and may your year be sweet.