I have witnessed a lot of cognitive dissonance and struggle from people, in the face of this 4th of July, trying to figure out how and if they will celebrate. There is a strong sense of betrayal and embarrassment coming out, which I think happens when it feels as though something of value, something we cherish, gets lost.
I must admit, even I was unable to place my hand on my heart and repeat the pledge of allegiance a few weeks ago at a ceremony for my kids' school, and I noticed I wasn't alone in that room. I felt angry and defiant during a pledge that used to make me feel connected to something inherently good. The idea of waving around a flag while dressed in red, white, and blue, now sends images of MAGA rallies careening through my mind, and it makes me feel sick. But anger, fear, and fighting, if that is all there is, means that there is no hope for the America I love. So I have to ask myself, do I believe that America is hopeless and lost? What defines America for me? Is there nothing about this country worth celebrating?
Of course there is.
Sure, the politics and policies perpetuated by our present administration and those who hold financial and political power are bleak -- void of reason and humanity, in my opinion. I see a lot of things happening that I do not condone, and that frankly horrify me. I don't feel represented by my representatives, and I refuse to turn a blind eye to all that and sing the National Anthem in willful ignorance. The horror and frustration ring so loudly and are psychologically pervasive to the point of becoming a thought virus that, if permitted, will easily overtake my ability to see that the things I really value about America are not gone and lost.
The heart of America does not live in policy and politics, in corporate greed, or in bitter division of its citizens. The heart of America, to me, lies in the wild, open spaces, and the gifts of the natural world that exist within them. The heart of America exists in the hearts of the people that connect with one another, listen to one another, demonstrate inconceivable feat of kindness and compassion toward one another. America does not have to be defined by its present-moment qualities that elicit anger, fear, and embarrassment. America can still represent those qualities that I would like to see pulled forward into the future -- those qualities that are easy to forget in the shadow of dark leadership.
I see the possibility of America (and beyond) every day, in the human beings near and far who continue to strive to survive, and to find their place and purpose, while unflinchingly supporting, accepting, and caring for other beings. It persists within those who inconvenience themselves to protect the environment for the sake of a collective future; those who step out of their comfort zone for something that matters to them more than comfort; those who put their lives on the line in service of strangers, every single day.
America, the country, is a set of arbitrary boundaries set out by people that conquered other people and claimed land upon which to build their lives or their fortunes, but the heart of America exists without boundary. It is present in the ways in which we are united as beings sharing space and time; the ways in which we love, and inspire one another, and hold onto hope time and time again. Maybe this concept smacks of idealist dribble in the face of the current sociopolitical climate, but when idealism is supported with action, dreams can become reality. Because honestly, without hope, there is no America.
So I ask -- what makes you hopeful this 4th?