Do I dare write on this July 4th? I have dear friends who fought valiantly to keep this nation free and to defend it's rights and liberties and who proudly display their colors. Others friends believe that America was made by horrendous decisions, that effected the lives of many others, and that we should never celebrate this day. I admire people on both sides of the spectrum. Friends have been hurt by the 'culturization' of the nation that they have lost their own beautiful identity. Friends have had new beginnings in this country that gave them opportunities to become contributing members of our society. Friends have been shamed for their beliefs on both sides. Friends who carry the deep burden of abuse, slave labor, labeling, othering and segregation. Friends who have moved from other countries to come here and for first time have a chance to be free.
I don't know much about history, the many reinterpretations, rewrites and changes that have happened over the years. But I do know that democracy without morality does not work. No political system works unless there is a common moral compass that guides it's decisions.
I was born in Germany. I lived in a democratic republic, living the shame of a nation decades after allowing Hitler to be in power. I experienced the different degrees of various governments in Europe. I lived in communist China and saw the effects on the people. I have seen people struggle in Africa and Central America.
I have seen enough to know that there is no country on this planet that does not have it's problems, its struggles and its pain.
We all live with the consequences of our decisions and choices, individually and nationally and there is no lack of blame, shame, and resentment to go around. I know there is a race issue. I know there is discrimination. I know we struggle with immigration policies and corrupt government. I know that it is easier to label than to talk to each other.
But I also know that the USA has a system (however flawed) where people can move forward, where you have opportunities to become something different (maybe not you, but your children). Where an immigrant can go to law school to help reframe the immigration laws, where a single mom can make it out of poverty, where an African American can become president and where a German immigrant can run a non profit to help under-resourced neighborhoods. I understand why people come here. I understand the struggle we all face to make a better life for ourselves and our family.
Every country is a growing organism. America is still young and in it's early stages it might not look like much. It is trying to figure out what it will become. At times selfish like a 2 year old, who only sees it's way. Sometimes generous like a 5 year old who thinks a kiss on the friends' scraped knee will take away the pain. Sometimes like a teenager who is self-absorbed in it's own life....looking out for themselves and their friends.
The amazing part is, I get to be part of the growing process, shaping what this country will become. Me, a small organism in the big body getting to help design this country. And, if I am honest, I don't even know where I stand often myself. I am changing constantly. New thoughts, new ideas, rewriting of my own history to move away from shame and guilt, changing my own mind as I learn new things. All the while redirecting my life to a greater moral standard, because by nature, I am selfish.
Our country is changing as well.
You and I get to be part of history! We will be the ones to determine what happens, through our votes, our engagement in society, our responses to things. And 100 years from now a new generation of great minds will look at this time in history and wonder how in the world we could have made these decisions.
America is great because you and I can disagree and still be friends. It is in the conversation, the learning, the growing that things change. I know that there are many who see too much violence and discrimination in this process.
I can have friends who are capatialist and friends who are socialist and learn from both of them. As long as we have a moral compass that guides us all, we can work together to help America grow.
So, today, I am not sure about putting out the flag. Yes, I am proud to be an American and so thankful to live in this country with all it's opportunities for me. But I also have neighbors for whom this flag does not yet represent freedom. Where discrimination and othering is still hounding them.
My life quote is from Micah 6:8 in the Bible: "To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God."
I am for America and what it stands for at it's best. I am for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if it is linked to a moral compass that guides us to love God, and love your neighbor, how it was intended.
But, I am still growing, just like America, so next year... I might write something different, because I might have learned something from one of my friends. I hope that's true.
So, as my friends would say "Stay curious"!