Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

When I was growing up, there was a lady on my street, the mom of a friend of mine, still alive, who had a thing about America. She flew the flag every conceivable holiday, plus every day between Flag Day June 14th and the 4th of July. State holidays and birthdays got the flag treatment too. 

She decorated her house in red, white, and blue. It wasn’t an overt flag theme; it was more subtle and internal. The living room was shades of blue. The kitchen was mainly white, with a blue floor (back in the day when blue linoleum was pretty common—our house had it too). The basement living room had red shag carpet. So, if you were aware, you found yourself walking through flag world. 

She was the leader of our children’s auxiliary at church. So there are many many memories I have of her telling us as children just how much she loved our country, and how fortunate we all were to live here. Her eyes would fill with tears as she said these things with an earnestness meant to convince us of their importance, even though we didn’t fully grasp it all yet. 

In those years, I didn’t think she was cool. I accepted this eccentricity about her; it’s just how she was. But somewhere along the way I have become her; I totally relate to her now. I’m not certain exactly when I made the transition into the neighborhood love-the-country lady. There was a point along the way when I realized this ingrained country-loving aspect of myself. We briefly looked at the possibility of working beyond the US boundaries. Many people we know have lived as ex-pats over the years. But the term, when I first heard it used casually, was shocking to me. I couldn’t imagine calling myself an ex-patriot. I know it doesn’t fully mean that, just someone living outside the country, for probably just a few years. But it discouraged me from going—I am a patriot; I couldn’t imagine being an ex-patriot, even temporarily.  

I also noticed that I cry at parades and any patriotic gathering. The music does it to me. Often the national anthem before a ball game will do it. (A gathering of about 10,000 people downtown for a freedom rally around 2003 pretty much overwhelmed me.) 

Speaking of the national anthem, we sang it as the closing hymn in church yesterday—all three verses that are in our hymn book. I was especially struck by the third verse of the poem by Francis Scott Key and thought it was worth repeating here today: 

O, thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the wars desolation!
Blest with vic’try and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave! 

I especially like this section: “May the heav’n-rescued land/ Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation!” We have been heaven rescued. We have been preserved as a nation—as The Nation worth preserving. But to remain worthy of that preservation, we must remember to praise the heavenly power by which we are so blessed. 

Along with our picnics and celebrations today, there must also be prayers—of thanks certainly, but also for recovery and preservation.

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