Sociology

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.

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Think About It

It’s 8:15 pm and I’m doing the dishes, and we hear a knock. A little bit unusual because well, we don’t really know anyone in our neighborhood. I open the door and our neighbor comes in, a super nice lady, and she lets us know that water is pouring through her lights in the kitchen. Are we running water? Something is leaking.

 

We check the washing machine, but no, wait, that doesn’t make sense. Our washing machine is over her living room. It must be the sink. Open up those double doors, and yup, sure enough, a u-pipe (Dylan taught me what it is called) has popped out of its proper place and water is drip, drip, dripping not into the correct pipe, but onto our cabinet floor, and yup into the kitchen below us.
Now this my friends, is not a beautiful problem. In fact it was pretty gross. This problem made me immensely thankful for indoor plumbing – something I do not spend much time thinking about. This little predicament, too, made me immensely thankful for living with a man. Dylan jumped right up, got out the tools, the bucket, cut the pipe and got it fixed – even before our landlord called us back. I quickly became the flash light holder, and we worked through the problem. Team work makes the dream work – as one of my previous co-workers used to say.
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Isn’t it incredible how quickly, in a moment of stress, we fell into traditional gender roles here. Dylan’s fixing, I’m helping. I was doing dishes – he knew which tool to use. And this is by no fault of our own. I would say we both strive to have a balance of power in our relationship, an approach of equality, a respect for one another’s strengths. But the simple fact of the matter is – HE KNEW HOW TO FIX THE SINK AND I DIDN’T. AND THAT”S OK!
As the time passed and our evening wound down, I started reading a really interesting book called, “The Meaning of Wife”, written by Anne Kingston, all about the historical implications of being wife, living that title, embracing that role. It’s an intriguing thing to think about, wife, and even though I’m only on chapter two, this author has got my wheels spinning.
As you may know, I studied Sociology and Gender Studies in college, so these topics are right up my alley, and are dear to my heart. I’m excited to delve deeper into the book. I was raised by a strong woman, one who taught me to question my role as one who identifies with this particular gender, challenge patriarchy in respectful ways, not accept the status quo. We frequently chatted about feminism at the dinner table, about reversal of traditional gender roles, and how I can appreciate what women have done for me making great strides in terms of equality. There are not many years that women have been spun in a positive light, and that makes me sad. Really sad. And I’ve struggled a little, if I’m honest, to accept that I’m getting married before a graduate degree. That I’m acquiring the letters MRS. before MBA, or MFA, or MSW. Because I was the one who laughed at those girls who wanted just a MRS degree. But here I am, ten weeks away from the big white dress, and the name change, and the new adventure as life partner. Call it whatever you want, I’m going to be a Mrs in a world that doesn’t favor wives, doesn’t promote equality, and sends so many messages about the right way to perform “wife”. They say men gain while women quite often lose in marriage – lose what? I’m a little afraid to ask.
So where are you going with all of this Katie – you might be thinking? How is a nasty sink and your love of asking questions beautiful? Well, I think, this week, I am finding the beauty in thinking critically. I am an individual who participates in a much larger societal structure – I can’t embrace social problems with a desire to change broad societal trends without crippling anxiety and anger. How do we stand up as women, aim our target at change, and want simple acceptance at the exact same time. Isn’t it all so complicated? Pick an angle – Christian wife, working wife, educated wife, stay at home wife –  and there will be a critic from every single lens. And so, as I embark on this new journey, as a woman, I get to think critically and ask how do I want to do it? Be a wife. What do I want to value? What do I want to bring to this new position – because my individual participation in an insitution that demonstrates immense privilege can change things. I get to walk into this new journey and read and learn and ask questions. Oh I love asking questions. But sometimes, this world get’s overwhelming with all of the self-help recommendations, the shoulds, the how-tos. There is so much beauty in saying “Well looky at this – isn’t it funny how quickly we fall into situations because of gender – and how many forces are going against us – and how many critics we may have by choosing to do these things. But when I take the time to sift through all of those voices, I’m left with the ability to think critically – ask questions, and go from there.
What is your experience in being wife? In having a wife? Or maybe, in fixing sinks?