A woman and her husband walk their scraggly dog, whistling a tune and chatting privately to each other – a murmuring without words carried by the warm air. A man – home from work – bounces a basketball; a solitary game as he digests his day. A couple walks their baby in a stroller – bedtime is coming and they must enjoy that brief moment when the sun finally releases its stranglehold upon the land – but before night falls over the neighborhood. The wind is gentle and warm – here in the kindly west, in the evening-time when the land rejoices. Life across America moves in patterns. It has a rhythm, calm and serene. Each season: winter, spring, summer and fall in a tender loop; spiraling upward as our children grow. Punctuated by moments: Christmas, Easter, July 4, Halloween, Thanksgiving and back to Christmas. Birthdays, vacations – each serving as an exclamation point before Father Time escorts us steadily, evenly forward.
This is America. The America I have known; and the America that continues to abide. The America I can always return to when my heart becomes too heavy.“There is nothing wrong with America which cannot be fixed by what is right with America.” We’ve all heard this – it’s a popular slogan from politicians who want to point out what is, well, wrong with America I suppose. The irony – lost on all of them – is that it is most often they that are what is wrong with America. Those who seek control, power. Those who divide in order to conquer and rule. Those who conjure our demons, seeking out their own advantage, and in doing so weaken our better angels – ever so slightly perhaps, but perceptibly for sure.
This year, however, it seems more protracted, doesn’t it? So much violence in our policy discussions: talk of torture, of redistribution, of taxation and deportation and penalties and fines and investigations. Name calling; insults; lies. I wonder sometimes if we haven’t forgotten what it is that brought us together as a country. Not the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Not reading the Preamble of the Constitution in a public square: acts of defiance against those who would be our overlords. Important, of course, but somehow esoteric – set apart from our daily lives. I’m talking more about our Home Owner’s Associations where we come together, black, white, brown, green, and purple to make sure our garbage is collected and the weeds are pulled; our Parent Teachers Associations where we vie for a better education for our children; our churches where we care for the needy and the destitute; the Saturday night soup kitchen that has too many volunteers. That elderly woman at the DMV so helpful in getting my license changed. A border patrol agent, sweating in the heat to make sure that my family is safe.
This is the America that works.
How is it that those vying to rule over us have missed this? Is it possible they never knew it; lost as they have been in their gated communities, golf clubs and private planes – emerging only occasionally and always behind armored glass in their chauffeured limousines?
Because the problem for them – and for me – is that I don’t want to be ruled like that. To be sure, I’m just an insignificant man in a huge country – a country full of people with names written in bold caps across the glossy covers of magazines, whose insults echo through cyberspace like Kipling’s Zamzama. Nevertheless I am also sure that I’m not alone – that beside me there are a chorus of others who want to remember first that in November it is Thanksgiving, and only second that there is also an election. Who want first to figure out their son’s schooling, and leave the torture of our enemies for another time. Who want to pay off their mortgage before they fret about how to pay for free, well free everything really. Who want to marry, to love their wives and make babies and build for the future; hard work of honor and dignity and sacrifice which has made America strong.
Perhaps I feel this more acutely than others – spending so much time as I do in terrible, terrible places, I have seen just how badly things can go. But when I come home, when I sit on the grass with my son eating a popsicle watching the cars go by – I can’t help but wish that those who plan such an assault on Americans would first look at the world around them and give us some credit; recognize that, despite all odds, what’s right with America really is working hard to fix what’s wrong – and very often succeeding. And instead, take some time away from their insults to tell that story. It’s a grand story indeed!
The little freedoms. We exercise them all day long without notice. At any moment, we can do almost anything we want. Such a gift.
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