Patriotism

July Favorite Things

Every time they say “It’s nasty out there” I cringe. The world is falling apart. Look up the hashtag on Twitter #Americain3words and people are not full of hope. We’re depressed, and scared, full of fear and angry, and hurt and confused.

Some days I am these things too.

How can you not be?

I cringe because by focusing on all the ick we miss out on the good waiting there, like a puppy, hoping to lick the salt from your tear-stained cheeks. Yes, cry, wail, hurt, advocate! But also sit, savor, ingest the magic surrounding the cells that make up your fingernails. You are not an accident.

I’m listening to podcasts now at the gym (any recommendations? Or better yet, know anyone who wants podcast guests? I’ve got a goal to appear on one this year) and I heard mention of this poem tonight. It’s number one on my list of favorites for July.

We’ve got to find delight.

  1. A Brief for The Defense – by Jack Gilbert
A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants. Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay. If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. We must admit there will be music despite everything. We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning. To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.

2. This Anne Boleyn Shirt

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My brilliant and creative friend Lynn Schwebach has crafted these funny, bold feminist t-shirts. Support a local artist, immerse yourself into the feminist narrative. I know this artist does not mean to downplay any harassment or trauma women have faced. Rather she stands in creative solidarity, pointing out just how absurd it is that women have dealt with these issues for the longest time. View her full Etsy shop here.

3. Grumpy Old Ove

I’m reading this book for book group and have been charmed by this grumpy old man. When we suffer it’s easier to want to be alone. In this book, the universe won’t let him. A poignant story on grief, joy, and showing up for others in the most unassuming of ways.

4. Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

I brought a bunch of these little treats to work and filled up a bowl on my desk. Every time my co-workers go by they curse me under their breath, then pop two or three into their mouth. I’m a treat provider – what can I say. These are yummy.

5. 4th of July Gear

Most of us have complicated connections to what it feels like to be an American these days. I’m mixed on patriotism and still feel so amazingly grateful to live here. We’ve got work to do, yes, but much to be thankful for. So on Wednesday I hope you spend the day with family or friends, in the sun, and have time to lay on some green grass under bursts of fireworks in the sky.

Wear this shirt. People will love you.

This one works is a stupendous option to consider.

Order now. With Prime it could get here by Wednesday!

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One Little Piece of the Pie

Patriotism.

A buzz word these days. The concept is sure to spark a conversation, or perhaps simply a stirring in your stomach because the challenges now facing America have a lot of ‘not quite rights’. Maybe this post will piss you off, start an argument, make you throw your expensive mobile phone to the floor. Or maybe you’ll scratch your head, nod along, and think hmm. I’m hoping for the later.

I’m not one to consider myself overly patriotic. The red, white, and blue is something I respect, certainly, yet I haven’t given much thought to what it means to be an American. I’ve taken freedom for granted. I’ve been angry with our government, our culture and the unspoken rules in which we operate. I have a degree in Sociology and I’ve been trained to look for the gaps in equality. I see the ways systems benefit some while leaving others out. I know I have immense privilege, but I’m not exempt from feeling that our culture counts my skills and potential as less than because of my gender. We live in the grey where ‘isms’ overlap causing pain and confusion.

Patriotism is not simple – it can be a loaded word. I wave a yellow flag of friendship (is that symbolism wrong?) and say hang with me here. This America stuff can be tough but let’s dialogue together. As with all things – God, faith, country – I just have a lot of questions.

The New York Times released an article last week called “A Patriotic Fourth: What Does That Mean Now?” and these shared perspectives got me thinking. Journalists stationed themselves across the country and asked travelers what the holiday means for them. Many ages, many backgrounds, many perspectives of the real America presented by those journalists – not just the ones we glamorize or relate to.

What is it I feel about our nation, our land, our challenges? Big, beautiful, important questions that are hard to answer in one blog post. 

Cataloguing my swirling thoughts I’ve made a list of the reasons I’m thankful and proud to be an American. For every bullet point listed below, there could be thousands of ‘buts’ that follow. Take a moment to let each statement to sink in before we go contesting and looking for the negative. Yes, my friends, there are paradoxes. The ‘buts’ exist, yet so does the beginning of these thoughts.

  • I can share my heart freely on the internet for the whole world wide web to see. Freedom of speech is a powerful thing.
  • Our land is immensely beautiful. The Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, coastlines, prairies, and fields of sunflowers. Giant forests and desert cactuses. We have something to enjoy in creation.
  • People can wear our colors proudly. Classy they may not be, but we have flag pants, and bro-tanks, and shorty shorts, and swimsuits and jackets and hats that boast our colors. We are allowed to indulge in the wearing of the red, white, and blue. We can share our pride on our shoulders – literally.
  • I have access to clean water, healthy food, and supportive community. I haven’t seen war on my doorstep.
  • I have been given the opportunity to work and to write.
  • Green chili. Sushi. Naan. Spring Rolls. Exposure to different cultures through the reality of the ‘melting pot’ has brought me delightful experiences with food. Sorry folks, but I’m not sure the hot dog is something to be proud of on a culinary scale.
  • Creativity and innovation. Mix those with access to resources and we have technology that holds so much power. Channel music, painting, writing, and poetry with passion and make humanity weep happy tears. Variety in creative expression remains of utmost importance.

We aren’t perfect, but there is good here in the United States. Coming up with a list that doesn’t cause anger or leave people out is immensely challenging.

My family spent the 4th of July hiking in open space just a half-hour away from our house. The sun beat down on our necks, and sweat dripped underneath t-shirts. Wild flowers grazed my ankles and dirt came home with me on my calves. We ate lunch at a small business in a smaller town outside my bigger city. Locals slinging pie and sandwiches out of an old gas station. I sipped on an iced vanilla latte (of course) out of a disposable plastic cup.

We went to a bigger outdoor store, still local, and searched for flip flops to wear – hundreds of choices that symbolize abundance at our fingertips. We went to a bigger box outdoor store and joked that we don’t actually spend time outside on days off, but instead wander around gear stores and buy a bunch of outdoor gear that sits in our garage (another, more embarrassing American trait). We came home and showered in clean water and fell asleep on the couch. Rest is revolutionary.

We ate a dinner of avocado toast with salmon – hot dogs be damned – and when it came time to decide about fireworks, this year we passed. Riding bikes to the park and fighting crowds felt too hard. Freedom in opting out.

Dylan got out our ladder and we climbed up on our roof. Well he climbed, I slowly crawled as my heart pounded in my chest. I decided I hate going on the roof. We tried to watch the city’s fireworks from our own home (a beautiful gift – homeownership) and saw bursts of color through our neighbors trees.

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Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Since the big fireworks display was hard to see, I directed my attention to the young family across the street. A dad and his son, probably five or six, were lighting little fireworks off in the driveway. Whirring light mixed with cracking, sizzling flames lasted thirty seconds at most. The boy was delighted with each repetition – light, boom, repeat. Down the street another set of children lazily grasped sparklers in their sweaty palms. Circling the sticks of fire into the dark, the wands produced smiles on these kids faces, and a tickle of joy in my stomach. Time moved slowly up on the roof.

I climbed down the ladder with an ache in my heart, missing my dad and the summers he was with us. Standing with shaking feet on our deck, I sent a wish his way.

One story of an American holiday. One little piece of the pie.

Being American can mean so many things. It is messy, painful, zealous and enticing at the same time. Sitting of the roof helped me remember to be thankful for the freedoms we are given. To bless with a kiss the multitudes of beauty we can choose to embrace.