There's a kind of angst associated with our nation's birthday, isn't there? We love our country deeply, cherish our freedoms, tout the special qualities of our homeland and our chosen geographic areas, and we are ashamed of it at the same time.
I expect I'm preaching to the choir here, but despite all the fireworks and friendly gatherings and kids with watermelon all over their faces and softball games between intergenerational teams and all the hoopla that Fourth of July offers, there's a sadness for me. I suspect there's a sadness for many of you, too.
There's such a disconnect for me between what America ought to be and what it seems to be these days. I read the headlines and the stories in the newspaper and cringe at what is happening in my beloved nation's name. And I want to scream "No, that's not really America! That's not me. That's not what I represent in the world! That's not right!"
Religion has been hijacked by the radical religious right. The peace process has turned out to be not so peaceful. Our air and water are sacrified on an altar dedicated to the corporate world. Many Americans fight the very institutions that are pledged to protect their freedoms---the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our judiciary, our governmental system of checks and balances. Sometimes those institutions seem to be under fire from the highest offices in our land.
The ACLU is seen as helpful only when it goes to bat for popular causes. Planned Parenthood is not supposed to tell kids HOW to plan parenthood, but rather to keep them from knowing anything about how to plan parenthood. Religious beliefs are inserted into legislative actions. And those who protest are called traitors.
I still feel hopeful. I still do what I think is right, in my small area of influence. I know I can't change the whole world, but I can change my little piece of it. And isn't there something about a butterfly in Chile changing the weather in the Arctic? That's what I am clinging to these days, in America.