Wednesday, May 16, 2018

When It's Complicated

A few days ago, I was driving down a busy Anchorage road with both my kids in the car. I glimpsed something in my lane up ahead and tried to make sense of what it was. As part of my brain registered that it was a crumpled American flag in my lane, the other part of my brain began to scan for where I could safely pull off and grab it, before it was run over, soiled, further disrespected.

I have not said the Pledge of Allegiance in years. I remember clearly the curious looks I got for standing with my hands by side on my son's first day of kindergarten, silent while everyone else recited along with the principal over the intercom. I love to sing and the American national anthem is great for a soprano who wants to pretend she's Beverly Sills, but I stay quiet. My relationship to my country is not my greatest allegiance and I've pledged everything I've got to the One Who Loved Me First.

Due to my activism, my efforts to bring change on a variety of levels of society, to what people are sure they know about my politics... (Just a week ago someone mentioned assuming everyone in a group was registered as voters for a certain party- I'm not registered with any party.)... due to what people see and hear from me, assumptions are made. For most of those doing the assuming, it is an impossible idea that I would be found sprinting down the sidewalk toward a crumpled American flag, hoping to reach it before the situation was any worse. Yet there I was.

When I was about 50 yards from the flag, a man sprinted across several lanes of traffic from the other side of the road and snatched it up, rescuing the cloth itself from additional ignominy. And I returned to my car, panting, trying to figure out how to explain to my children why their mom was suddenly possessed with a frantic need to rescue a particularly patterned fabric from the street.

I barely understood the frantic need myself.

I wanted to save my own hope in the flag as a symbol of what this nation can be and could be.

I wanted to show my children that you can be deeply frustrated and disappointed and still faithful.

I want to continue to have the hope of General Lafayette in the "perpetual union of the United States" that it may "one day save the world".

Inside me, beyond how impotent I feel, how grieved, how desperate, how revolutionary, I believe there is a soul of an idea of who the United States can be that seeks to repair the wounds of the Doctrine of Discovery, to heal and repent of the on-going injury of enslavement, racism, and white supremacy, that truly embraces the concepts of equality and equity relative to justice, access, and opportunity.

My jaw is tight, I cry, and I'm so tired.

Better is possible.

Surely, better is possible.

It is a sign of high privilege that I can even entertain that notion.

And, yet, I know that I am an Esther among Esthers, an Abigail among Abigails, a Huldah among Huldahs, a Priscilla among Priscillas. I am not alone in the work or the call or the disappointment or the anger.

I will resist the efforts to cave and accept oppression, silence, complicity, lies, or misdirection as normal, representative, or necessary.

I will fight.

And I will hope.

And, if I have to again, I will sprint down a sidewalk along Tudor Road on a Monday evening, to rescue a tangible symbol that is more than history; it is possibility. It is that possibility that my Truest Allegiance will not let me ignore.


Dan said...

I am next years president elect (fancy term for vice president who will be the president the next year) of my Rotary club. They take great pride in beginning each meeting with a pledge and a prayer. I find myself, head bowed, hands folded and in prayer for both. Thank you for naming what I feel when I honor, respect, but not pledge allegiance to a nation, even if it claims to be one and under God. Thus far I have avoided the conversation, but with a retired general in our midst, I am sure my prayer stance (I spend that time praying for our nation) will not go unnoticed and the conversation will be had. Thank you for some words to help put to my thoughts for that day.

Jennifer G Brownell said...

This is such a wonderful reflection. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Preach on!