First of all, BAH! I am a hypocrit. A rule breaker, in that I was not going to post this month. Call me a liar. I don’t care. 🙂
(To Be American requires more than knowing how to barbque and to set off fireworks. It requires being subject to a higher, Godly being and compells one to the cause of all people. It asks for more moral fortitude, and more gratitude. This is the ideal I explore in my mind, in defining being American, in tonight’s meanderings. Read on if you like…if you can follow.)
I limped myself though the front door last night, after a full day of wonderful hiking in the Uintah Mountains. America the Beautiful, indeed! My family was viewing the end of the musical, 1776. It is a favorite. It was near the end, at the part which depicts the compromise, in which slavery is retained in order to achieve a unanimous majority. Each statesman is being polled in their voting. Each is required to stand and report either for or against Independency. John Adams is sweating bullets, and has a serious case of TMJ. So tense is this group, that they have quit telling John to “Sit Down, John…..Somebody Open Up A Window!”
This silence is powerful. The void broken only by the expressions on mens’ faces. Their emotion causes me to wonder what is running through their minds, and what they are feeling in their hearts. They have just heard a pony riding page read the most recent letter from General G. Washington. This explaining the terrible state of war, loss of lives, depavities. The report tells of 25,000 British troops advancing and bearing down on a rag-tag, aged and adolecent 5,000 man volunteer army. The reality that seems a certain suicide mission…by God’s grace….would turn providence….at a huge price.
The musical production ends in each man signing his name to the famous document, The Declaration of Independence, the bell ringing in the bell tower, setting a solemn tone. There hangs a heaviness, at the sure threat of arrest and sentencing to death of these “traitors” to the Crown. The weight of the moment…..is not one I hope to ever feel, but may have in some small way in sometimes paths of sin. Truth is, some day, we may be called upon to take a stand. Some day we may all be required to bear the burden of preserving this great country. Whether in life, or in death many are called, but few are chosen to sustain the document that subsequently came forth in form of the Constitution of the United States of America. Perhaps this IS the American duty.
Wow. I tell my husband, “I am glad I did not live back then.” They paid a big price. I put myself in the place of a wife of a statesman, separated from her man, working to maintain children, home, day to day demands, sickness, death…. for weeks, months, years…forging bullets, selling pins for salt peter. What the heck is is salt peter anyway!? Must google this.
I think I (we) as Americans, take much for granted in our time, even in a time, where for many there is such abundance and technology. Also, for others…such poverty and want. Disparity and accompanying hopelessness. Crying, hungry children. Broken families. Things, a teacher sometimes sees, or hears, over the span of a teaching career. Small, BIG unsightly things that impact lives. Makes me think literate, empathetic leaders are needed more than ever.
I lounge at home, feeling quite carefree. Healing, except for the weight my mind sometimes lifts in pumping not so “free” weights. Peaceful, sweating a little, on the hottest day of Utah summer so far. I am contemplating whether I want to complain, or just retire to a cooler basement burrow to write.
It is maybe 95 degrees. I have already begun to forget what HOT REALLY IS. Forgotten that in nearby Arizona, the destination I just returned from a week ago, it is likely nearing 120 degrees on the balck asphalt. Now, behind me again, is this dear, traditional end of school year, beginning of summer, transitional get-away….I think of as Arizona Highways and Convection Ovens.
Today, I lounge, and think, and think and lounge, as I allow my body to heal from a wonderful over doing, and I ask…..
What Does it Mean to Be American?
This is the question on my mind today. According to trends, to be American in our country’s education system has grown to mean….to be tested. (^*%&$$$$$@#) This is where I begin cursing! Turns out to be an American citizen ALSO means being tested. Ha ha. Testing to become a Citizen. I think…wow! Who is playing God here?! I begin to hear a chorus of “There’s Not Enough to Go Around!” Taxes! Taxes! Free loaders!
Maybe people who are born citizens, or anyone who is born into privilege, should also have to take such a test. Maybe. And if they don’t pass, and even if they do…then, require them to complete community service, or work at a soup kitchen, or food bank. There’s pencil pushing, and computerized battery, and then, there are a whole lot of other tests that are formally, and not formally addressed. Tests in life that are “assessed”…monitarily, morally…and in simply just living out trials toward successes, failures, and in betweens. Come to Jesus stuff. 🙂 Not a side of America we readily want to view, much less do something about. Requires honesty toward selfless action.
I recently spoke with Gloria, a Latina grocery bagger at my local food store. She used to be a math tutor at the middle school. I don’t know why she is no longer this. I knew little of her then, and still don’t know much about her now. Then, she spoke limited English, and I spoke broken Spanish. This status has not changed much. Back then, the teachers knew her as the Mexican National aide. In the last year I have bumped into her at Nena’s Market on Main Street Coalville, and at Smith’s Market in Park City.
Recently, Gloria has gained American citizenship, a great accomplishment. So knowing this, I congratulated her, and in doing so asked her what kind of questions she had encountered. Of course, she mentioned the obvious, “Who was the first American President?” and a few other common knowledge questions. These I knew the answers to. I probed about essay questions. She struggled explaining these, and I struggled understanding. I told her….”You probably know more about the history and workings of this country than I do. She smiled. I was serious.
In the ‘80s, in a rural Texas high school, I remember having many a history teacher who was more passionate in being a football coach and flirting with the girls, than in teaching. One was even arrested for sexual assault. I thought of mug shots that more and more surf and surf on my news blog home page. One of my Arizona friend’s drama teacher, who looks like a kick back from the 60s, a real Rainbow family man. Sad.
Then, in clicking away…..I thought of the facebook survery I took “for fun,” the one to see “HOW MEXICAN” I was. Wow! I answered the 20+ questions, having no clue about many of the picture prompts, just guessing at many, knowing some, and digging deeply into the little background I held, including language and word knowledge. At the end of the survey I was told that I was…..”100% Mexican. I was blow away, but thrilled! This is something I once wished I was. In my Texan lover, college days, I longed to be Chicana, if only to feel closer to him.
I couldn’t believe it! That was too easy, I thought. Or maybe it was rigged! Hm. Why would it be? This was even more nagging. Also, crazy was the fact that my friend’s husband, Stephen, was deemed 100% Mexican. He also was NOT. He had answered the questions differently from me and had still been awarded the highest marking: 100% Mexican! In reality, Stephen is 25% Mexican, according to Family Search. In the spirit of frivolity, and loud laughter, I told my friend, Che’, “Now I can don my Latino In Action name tag with pride, and get to work helping kids with math homework at school! As if I wasn’t already doing that?!!!
What does it mean to be American? I flip the queston to…What does it mean to FAIL at being American! I think…..I should read more, learn history, and think toward writing more deeply. To be American….should demand more from each of us. I may never do all the things I should do in my life time. Or I may. I haven’t scratched the surface of this big topic, but from an even larger Big Picture vantage point I want to.
In a few hours the Boy Scouts will be by to collect flags and to put them to bed in a storage shed. Night will fall, and the holdiay will be all over… but for… Fire works. FIRE WORKS! As if bombs bursting to fill the Salt Lake City, and Sugarhouse skylines would make people more American! Stadium of Fire in Happy Valley. Here, Summit County will lie silent, except for a handful of rogue law breakers in unincorporated Hickville. Our County will make one measly attempt at the conclusion of Oakley Rodio, rivaled only by the excitement of BULL RIDING! Not even Park City will light up, as it once did over the golf course.
No displays for me. No, I will be home counting my blessings. Happy… that I won’t be out on the freeway dodging deer, semis, and drunk drivers. At home, counting my blessing…..because I am American, but mostly because……under God, I am free.