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Home of the Brave

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. 

Albus Dumbledore Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling


I want to start by telling you that I am a patriot.  I love America, and many of the ideas on which it was founded, the many great things it has done/is doing in the world, many facets regarding our way of life, American "ingenuity", and you know, apple pie.  I respect our flag, its beauty, its symbolism, the hands that sewed it.  My soul sister, fellow PTA mom, hippie-chick, fellow progressive feminist friend and I took extra time one day when leaving our school building with children in tow to refold the flag that had been taken down at the end of the school day and folded incorrectly.  Practically no one would've known or noticed, and our kids weren't really paying attention.  It wasn't really about it being a teachable moment for us, and it wasn't done out of anger or frustration with whoever folded it in the first place.  But that Boy Scout mom, and I, a once attendee of Missouri Girls' State, respected that flag, that fabric that flies outside our public school that is flawed, but certainly a great example of American ideals and of our beautiful American salad (melting pot is so 10 years ago), and gave it the attention it deserved.

I am a grand-daughter and grand-daughter-in-law of four American veterans, and the aunt of a niece who is currently serving our country in the U.S. Navy.  I am the friend of contemporary American heroes who currently serve or have recently served in our Armed Forces.   I am aware and grateful for the sacrifices of those individuals and their families.  I am a person who engages strangers in a handshake and a "thank you" when I notice their hat or vest declaring their proud service to our country.  My favorite encounter was with an elderly gentleman in Target (where else?) who served as a war photographer in the Pacific at the end of WWII and took a photograph of the signing of a peace treaty.  Amazing.  I am grateful and have a deep love and respect for our servicemen and servicewomen and their families.  

 I love Americans.  I love America. 

But I Do Not Worship America.

When I pledge allegiance to the flag, I do not pledge blind allegiance.  I can see this country that I love for what she is, warts and all.  I can recognize that she was founded on beautiful ideals by flawed people with limited views and experiences.  I can admit that we have failed at a lot, and I can hope that as a country that declares that all are created equal and are endowed "with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,"  we can collectively admit our failings to live up to that belief and choose to fail forward.  America is and was an awesome prototype.  It wasn't perfect at its inception and continues to be imperfect.  

Click here to download unalienable right doodle.

Loving something or someone also requires recognizing faults and the responsibility to move toward correction of those faults.

It is true in all relationships and institutions.  Marriages in general and the legalities around that institution have been tweaked for centuries at a macro level, and at a micro level, my husband and I just had a meeting this weekend over the parameters of using the word "fine."  Churches and religious movements experience failures and reformation and Reformation with the big R too.  

Parenting is also a great example of loving someone, recognizing faults, and having a responsibility to move toward some correction.  My younger daughter rushes through her school work.  She is incredibly bright, but this habit causes her work to be nearly illegible.  Sitting at her side, gently correcting this very minor flaw, feels very hard for her.  She gets very defensive and denies doing anything wrong.  She argues too and sometimes tries to blame the problem on me.  

I was listening to Jen Hatmaker's podcast, For the Love, today, well, really over the week.  All one episode, I just haven't been able to get through the whole thing uninterrupted.  This podcast is a conversation between her and Glennon Doyle Melton  and at one point Glennon talks about her youngest daughter and how much she fretted about her when she and her husband divorced, and how she was going to be able to protect her from the pain of that situation, because until that point, her view of parenting centered on the idea that it is the parents' job to shield their children from experience pain.  But what she and her daughter found out from walking through that fire, was that they got through it and didn't get burned.  Now, walking through the fire isn't so scary, because they both realize that it is that very act that refines them.  

Actual quote:

Glennon: We just always survive. That fire is actually what transforms into the fuel that allows us to get our work done on the earth, which is why the people who avoid the fires never live life on fire.

Right now, some of us are the children, some of us are the parent, and some of us are both.

Our brothers and sisters are quietly and peacefully protesting our nation, our culture, us, who are disallowing them to fully receive their unalienable rights.  They are gently correcting us, and it is hard, and we are defensive and we are denying and we are arguing and we are shifting blame.  But they are loving us, because they are trying to help us shift our focus to something our privilege has allowed us to overlook and is continuing to allow us to overlook by focusing on symbols, instead of meeting them on their knees to hear their whispers of despair.

And this protest and this outcry feels a lot like a blazing fire to me.  If we turn away from the problem, or turn off the TV, if we demand it stops, if we minimize their pain or increase our ridicule, we think that perhaps we can walk around the fire and avoid getting burned, when what we really need to do is live into our title of being the Home of the Brave and walk directly into it.  We have to do the difficult, blistering work of drawing near to each other, admitting fault, identifying how and when and why our prototype isn't working and fail forward.  Here we are standing outside the fire, all nursing our own pain, our own outrage, when really, we belong to each other and so does that pain and outrage.  

And I don't want to discount the feelings of folks who do deeply identify with our national symbols, and feel like not standing during a song dishonors our brothers and sisters who fought for our country.  But I can't, and many of us can't, presume to speak on behalf of all of our veterans and our armed forces.  I read one gold star family who expressed deep pain on behalf of their fallen soldier.  I can't understand that pain, but I can hear it and I can help them carry it.  We can move toward understanding and share in each other's burdens, and we may not come out of the fire completely agreeing, but we will come out strained, sifted, cleansed....refined.  


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