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Archive for the ‘Am I "proud to be an American?" (La la la)’ Category

I rarely crack open a Bible these days; it seems that the older I get, the fuzzier my theology becomes. But there was a long period during which I read from that tome every. single. day. I memorized big chunks, which I used to feel self-righteous and eviscerate anyone who didn’t share my rather literal perspective. While there’s virtually no chapter-and-verse reciting I can do anymore, the pieces that do continue to float around in my brain concern Jesus’ compassion and his focus on serving those on the margins: the poor, the sick, the “sinners.” (You know, the 47%.)

So when I read this article from today’s New York Times, which explains that a fundamentalist evangelical organization is encouraging parents to keep their kids home from school on “Mix it Up at Lunch Day” on October 30th (designed to encourage kids to spend time with a peer they don’t normally interact with, to promote tolerance and diversity and combat bullying) because it “promotes the homosexual lifestyle”, the first images in my head were of Jesus: hanging out with the Samaritan woman at the well, talking Zaccheus out of his tree, healing the centurion’s servant with a word. Demonstrating his love for people, singling out those who society had labeled as “other” for whatever arbitrary and indefensible reason. This is one of the ways I strive to emulate him.

And while I fall short often and repeatedly, I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by top-flight folk who are better than me at this. Some of the best I know are David, Mark, Willow and Karen. I am regularly in awe of each of them as they demonstrate empathy and generosity, and continually see the best in everyone. They are some of the significant manifestations of God in my life.

My heart is heavy thinking about kids being kept at home on October 30th. All I can do is hope that God crosses their paths (and those of their parents) with people like these tremendous friends of mine. Everyone should be so blessed.

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With one leg in the shower, a little bit crabby and a lot sleepy, I had to back up and stand, dripping, in the doorway to my bedroom to make sure I hadn’t mis-heard: “The Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009 Peace Prize to President Barack Obama” said the stoic NPR news announcer. “He brings hope to the world….” Now wide awake, a little teary, and grinning from ear-to-ear, I returned to my shower.

A good start to the day that was already guaranteed to end well, since tonight we’ll be celebrating the effervescent Jenny.

Way to go to both of these people I love!

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Let me state it for posterity, in unequivocal terms: I H-E-A-R-T Barack Obama. And not in a “you’re-so-sexy-I-wanna-get-with-you” way. In a “You are a capital-L Leader who has vision and wisdom and EMPATHY (you heard me)” way. And I’m not a latecomer, either. I hitched my wagon to this star way back in June ’07, when I bought a deck of Barack Obama playing cards at Politics and Prose in our nation’s capitol:

They're inspiring, but lousy for playing Nerts.

They're inspiring, but lousy for playing Nerts.

And lest this isn’t evidence enough, let the record state that my first bumpersticker said “Obama ’08” and my first, second, third, fourth (etc.) campaign contributions were to “Obama for America” during the primary and general campaigns  (BTW – don’t believe everything you see on The Huffington Post). (Also, to the development staff at the DNC: just because I donated a couple hundred bucks does NOT mean I can pony up $15K for dinner with the prez, regardless of my explosive admiration – but thank you for the invitation).

I even tried to win one of the “have dinner with Barack and other key demographic representatives who might sway the vote of some people like them” (not sure that was the actual name) contests. I wrote this somewhat-contrived sounding (but sincere) piece and shot it off into cyberspace, with nary a reply (I’m not bitter!).

In February of 2000 I spent twelve days in Gjakova, Kosova. I was 28 years old, fresh out of college, working for a fundamentalist Christian humanitarian aid organization, and outside North America for the first time in my life. The devastation was rampant – Gjakova suffered more deaths than any other city in the province – and in the face of their overwhelming losses the people were unfailingly generous, warm and hospitable. Time and again, upon discovering that we were American, people would grasp our hands, kiss us soundly on both cheeks, and thank us for saving them. Photos of President Clinton – against whom I voted twice – were posted everywhere, alongside photos of KLA leader Ramush Haradinaj. The two were the national heroes. While in Kosova, I vacillated continuously between feelings of great pride and great shame. As an American, I was grateful that our government had urged NATO to intervene. And I was troubled by how easy it was for me to stay uninformed, blithely going on with my life while people suffered.

That trip was the genesis of a significant shift in my ideology, theology and politics. I had grown up in a white, middle class Lutheran family in the suburbs of Seattle and became a fundamentalist late in my teens. For the decade following, I was a one-issue voter, paying little attention to the needs of those outside my church. After my trip to Kosova, fundamentalism was a much less comfortable fit. Slowly compassion and a commitment to community replaced self-righteousness and judgment as the expression of my faith.

One of my final acts as a conservative Christian was voting for George W. Bush in November of 2000. While I understand that as a voter in Washington State, I had no influence on the election’s outcome, I look back on that as one of the few things in my life that I regret.

The blessings in my life are too numerous to count. Chief among them is my community. Participating in the lives of my friends and having them participate in mine, contributing to one another’s success and well being is fundamental. I believe that we were designed to live in community at a personal, local and national level; that we have an obligation to give and to receive.

Paradoxically, as my transforming faith urged me to become more engaged in my community, my disillusionment with this administration made me ashamed to be an American. Patriotism became entwined with imperialism in my mind. Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Hurricane Katrina – to me these became signs of the inevitable decline of empire. This administration’s intolerance of opposing viewpoints and rampant fear-mongering eroded my sense of national identity. For the last several years I’ve held a dim view of America’s future.

Senator Obama’s campaign has – dare I say it? – restored my hope. In his speeches and writings, I’ve caught glimpses of the nobility of democracy, and felt moments of pride in the American dream. For the first time in my life, I believe that the ideal of individual sacrifice for the advancement of society is more than a pipe dream – that people desire to work together for the common good. I want to be a part of that vision, to take my place among those working to make this a more perfect union.

Over dinner with the Senator, I would love to discuss his vision for civic engagement – how an alliance of the public, private, nonprofit and citizen sectors can reimagine and reshape education, health care, affordable housing, to name just a few, restoring this country’s future.

Anyway, blah blah blah.

So it was with enormous, heart-bursting gratitude and joy that I watched those electronic, over-produced U.S. maps turn mostly blue all across basic cable on November 4, 2008. And the euphoric feelings ramped up and up through January 20th. I was so proud and moved to witness, alongside lovely, lovely friends including two handsome boys in high chairs, who clapped at all the right places, this historic sight: 

Look at those amazing gams! And by the way, is that Andy Bernard's slightly chubby cousin trailing the first couple?

Look at those amazing gams! And by the way, is that Andy Bernard's slightly chubby cousin trailing the first couple?

And, I’m willing to admit, this sight gave me plenty of warm fuzzies as well:

Goodbye, W.

Goodbye, W.

Not since FDR has an American president inherited such a pile of poo from his predecessor. President Obama has grappled with an enormous economic crisis, two messy wars, a healthcare debacle and our nation’s stinky reputation in his 8+ months in office. (By the time I’d finished eight months at my current job, I finally had the jargon down – but a lot of the concepts still alluded me, and I’m a smart cookie!) And he’s making headway. It’s incremental, painful, not always ideal, but it’s headed in the right direction. And he’s gracious, articulate, frank….

I’m still quite proud of him.

So you can imagine my… irritation? fury? homicidal impulses? when I hear mean-spirited, spiteful, attention-whore JACKASSES on certain cable news programs liken our president to Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot. And my accompanying frustration and disappointment when innocently ignorant people echo these sentiments rather than engage in real debate.

My hat’s off to Barney Frank in this clip.

He’s on the money: it’s impossible to engage in a real conversation, where common ground might be reached, when someone is shouting “Facist! Socialist! Communist!” seemingly never taking a breath. Besides, isn’t it pretty basic knowledge that those three “ists” are not synonymous? Today, I came across the perfect image that expressed my bemusement and inspired this long, long post:

Alas, I can't name the fourth "ism" represented here. Pacifism? Liberalism? Peacism?

Alas, I can't name the fourth "ism" represented here. Pacifism? Liberalism? Peacism?

I say to those who shout and shout: read up a little on history, political ideology, and current issues, and let’s have a real debate. I’m betting we can teach one another a thing or two.

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It’s 12:20 AM on Friday morning and I have to be at work later so I SHOULD be in bed, but pooh on that, because I went to a Storm game tonight and when I came home I had to visit with Angie and eat chocolate cake and read my fave blogs and watch Glee. Soon, very soon, I will sleep.

But first, I have something to say.

I read an article in the NYer this week about Mr Isomething, the leader of the Liberal Party in Canada, whose likely to be the next PM. He was in the backseat of a car on the way to Stratford Shakespeare Festival (which the author had the cojones to call the far-and-away best classical company in North America, and my ignorance in this area means I don’t have a leg to stand on in dispute), and made the point that liberty and equality are not easily reconciled.

This got me thinking.

I love many people with whom I don’t agree about many things. Once upon a time I did agree, but no longer. These people, who have treated me so well for many, many years, esteem liberty above all other ideals. Me, I’ve got to go with equality.

American folklore pushes us one direction: “Give me liberty or give me death” is something I’ve known for as long as I can remember. Quotes about equality – I’ve got nothing. Except “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Conservatives embrace liberty as a God-given right, but I can’t see a way to true liberty without first pursuing equality. Whether or not legislation dictates what we can and cannot do, if my neighbor lacks food or shelter or healthcare, neither of us is free.

The American, declarative motto of “in God we trust” is perfectly adequate, a statement with which I agree. But I prefer the French motto: “liberty, equality, fraternity,” in which I see a lifelong pursuit: recognize that we’re one family, treat everyone well, ensuring that each is provided for, and liberty will come to all. This is how I want to live.

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