Celebrating America ~ With Eyes and Ears Open

July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Art by Kinuko Craft, from "Starts & Stripes"

Art by Kinuko Craft, from “Stars & Stripes”

(Note: I realized when I finished writing that this is a bit of a rant. Not a full-on, seething kind of rant; more a tempered one. Regardless, you’ve been warned, so bear with me  ~ or not!)

I love my country. It’s home. Much of it is stunningly beautiful. It represents freedom, liberty, and opportunity; and comes with an intense desire to better oneself, to help others lift themselves up, to lend a hand when needed. We’re hard-workers with a fierce independent streak. (We’ve also got, in my opinion, the world’s best plumbing. Not to be sneered at!)

Sure, I may stray to my British and Scottish roots now and then, via my ridiculous love for tea or my way of slipping in and out of accents, or appreciating a certain dry humour (see? oops, that would be humor). I sometimes long for the large, open piazza’s found in European cities, and the marvel of living alongside history reaching back thousands of years instead of hundreds. Still, I’m glad to call America home. We’ve made our share of mistakes, but we are a good and generous people born from all around the world.

So I celebrate the 4th of July with pride and gladness. It is, to me, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But I am worried for us. Maybe it’s always been so ~ the way each generation worries about its youth ~ to be concerned about where the country is headed. Maybe it’s because news outlets and social media make everything so much more “in your face”; things we might have been oblivious to before. But maybe it’s valid to worry. There’s an awful lot on the table.

I have felt, for quite some time, a greater and greater divide growing amongst us ~ a divide which is proliferated by the media and polished off by our politicians (or maybe it’s the other way around). I find it extremely disturbing. It’s us or them, left or right, right or wrong, with each side cock sure of their stance. It becomes Righteous. Zealous. Fearful. Even Hateful.

These are highly charged times, igniting harsh debate – debates that are often shot down before they begin, because folks are so convinced of this or that, which of course doesn’t encourage intelligent conversation but instead shoves ideas aside where they stew with electric-like fervor.

I keep pretty mum on this kind of topic unless with trusted friends, and will most likely revert to that after this post. (This blog is a no-politics zone. Even this may too much!) But I will say that I feel we’re being manipulated on a grand scale. Before you shake your head yes, or even no, let’s remember we really don’t know – and if it’s true, we don’t know by whom or for what. We have our theories, we have bits and pieces of a massive puzzle, but I’m telling you this; it has not felt right ~ at all ~ and continues to feel worse. I’ll also say that ignorance can be bliss! But I worry that that bliss could find us in a place no one fathomed if we don’t pay attention.

I’m not talking about the emotional hot buttons that are used with increasingly rampancy as tools of persuasion, or to get votes or that turn you against your neighbor or family member who may feel otherwise. I’m not talking about who has what material thing when someone else does not. I’m talking about the grander element of personal freedom, and aspirations, and achieving greatness of your own accord in a country governed by leaders with principles who want to see you ~ and all of us as a whole ~ succeed, who will keep the roads and bridges in shape, and will fight with conviction and courage to uphold our freedoms.

So, with that larger picture in mind, this means reading articles from all points of view. Listening to opinions from all points of view. Watching news from all points of view. And it means you read, you listen and you watch, directly. Dig a little. Don’t base what “you hear” on what others say “they heard”. It’s all too easy. It’s all too convenient. It’s all too messy. And we’re all too busy being distracted by a million things, some worthy, some truly not at all.

This isn’t about specifics right here. I just ask that we be present and use our own fine brains. It can be a little tricky, because there’s “power in numbers” but there’s also “crowd mentality” where others are thinking for you. So I say, don’t be a voice in a chorus of voices unless you’ve done your due diligence. If you care about your freedom, as I care about mine; if you love this country, flaws and all, for all its glory, for all its beauty, for all its people; for all our hopes and dreams, for our children’s hopes and dreams ~ you will pay attention. Don’t let the magnificence that is the United States – that place you call home, that place that let’s you speak your mind and stand up for what you believe in and walk in protest and that sends every child to school and has kept us safe from harm ~ don’t let it slip away or be whisked or whittled away right in front of our eyes. Don’t submit to letting someone else make your decisions, or tell you that you can’t succeed without them or that someone knows what’s best for your child or what you can eat or not eat. Don’t even go there.

We are not the sins of our fathers, any more than Italians are all plundering Julius Caeser’s. We have lived and learned, and will keep on doing so. And right here and now is where we go from. Yes, there’s a co-mingling of deception, evasion and truth and it’s hard to take it all in, much less figure it out. And it’s all moving fast. This is the world of 10-minutes-ago being yesterday’s news. But yesterday’s news can have ramifications that last much, much longer. Pay attention!

Split or no split, division or no division, we’re still all in this together. And I believe that at the end of the day we all want basically the same freedom, liberty and justice for all. Please don’t fall asleep at the reality-show, America. Celebrate our birthday with joy and fireworks and commitment. If you think we should be like some other country, you can live there. If you live here and like it here, we may just have to fight to keep it strong.

p.s.: One thing that has kept me from falling into complete dread, came from watching the movie “Lincoln”. I was amazed at the contentious fighting, back-stabbing, hateful and divisive rhetoric between parties. Then again, we were in the middle of a civil war. And maybe those in positions of leadership have always been and will always be angry, aggressive and self-serving. Still, I’d rather pay attention than blindly follow. Maybe it’s just my genetic disposition (I am rather independently minded!) but I hope we’ll all keep our eyes and ears open.

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