The Unfinished Work of Freedom

I was today years old when I realized something. As we stood in the meeting house this morning and sang “America the Beautiful”, I found myself looking at the lyrics, the music dying away on my lips as I read and thought. The latter section of each verse is, in its essence, a prayer.

v1 – O beautiful for spacious skies, 
for amber waves of grain; 
for purple mountain majesties 
above the fruited plain! 
America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
and crown thy good with brotherhood 
from sea to shining sea. 

v2 – O beautiful for heroes proved 
in liberating strife, 
who more than self their country loved, 
and mercy more than life! 
America! America! May God thy gold refine, 
till all success be nobleness, 
and every gain divine. 

v3 – O beautiful for patriot dream 
that sees beyond the years 
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! God mend thine every flaw, 
confirm thy soul in self-control, 
thy liberty in law.

For all their extolling America’s virtues, these verses and the prayers embedded into them acknowledge that there is still so far to go, so much to do in the work towards that American Dream of freedom. And I find myself appreciating this honesty, whether the authoress, Katharine Lee Bates, intended it or not.

The absolute truth of our country is that freedom is still an unrealized dream. No, slavery doesn’t exist anymore in our country (not as we historically think of it) but the cultural and societal beliefs and mindsets that engendered it still survive and pervade. Freedom and independence still do not exist for all in America. The fight for equality and equity is still on-going. It is not over because not everyone is truly free and, ever more the worse, many refuse to acknowledge this truth.

“God mend thine every flaw.”

We are such a flawed nation, dear readers. We pull away the rights and access that we were taught were the very basis and foundation for our country’s creation in the first place. We deny others the security, equality, and freedoms that we have enjoyed. We shove people out instead of welcoming them in. We revel in and even proudly display our biases, our prejudices, our hatreds, and out the other corner of our mouths, we declare this “the greatest country on earth”. It is not. We have not fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, clothed the naked. We have not welcomed the desperate stranger nor loved our neighbors as ourselves (no exceptions). We are not free. Not yet.

So, as we cook our hot dogs and terrify our pets with colorful explosions, let’s not forget, dear friends, that one of our most “patriotic” songs acknowledges the long way we have yet to go and prays for us in it.

Till all success be nobleness.”

We are not free because not everyone is free or has the equity or ability to live with dignity and rights. Freedom has never been and still is not yet “for all”. We are not done yet. So don’t you dare think that this is the time to sit back and rest on your laurels and admire how great America is. We aren’t there. Not yet. We are closer. But not there yet.

So. Finish up your hot dog and potato salad, make sure that your sparklers are all the way out, and get up. Let’s go. There’s still work to do, friends–for our loved ones, for our neighbors (all of them), for our country. Let’s go make it beautiful.


On this July 4th…

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

In our celebrations today, may we not forget those for whom this country was created: those who wished for freedom and a better life. Those “tired, poor, yearning to breathe free, the homeless, and the tempest-tost” (Emma Lazarus). Let us not forget. Let us keep fighting for justice, for freedom, FOR ALL. July 4th isn’t for those of us who are already free but is held in stewardship as we (should) continue to love and to work for those who are not yet so.

NaBloPoMo Day 15: Write It All

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plathsylvia-plath-quote

A friend sent me that quote after a conversation we had pertaining to creativity and writing. I hesitate to proclaim anyone without creativity, regardless of their protestations. Everyone has a creative touch, whether it be artistic, musical, dramatic, literary, epistolary, physical, athletic, or oratorical.

I tend to write about everything. In way or another, I write it out. I do not always like what I write and I surely do not share it all publicly (the stack of journals speaks to that), but I still write it. My writing is a space of vulnerability for me. My soul flows openly through written and typed words. I’m not a bad speaker, not at all really, but I feel freer when I write. Freer with my feelings, freer with my opinions, freer with my words, and freer with my creativity. Do I still doubt my courage? Yes, sometimes. I fear that my words, however personal and well-intentioned they may be, will cause offense and backlash and whatever else. Do I still write? Yes. Being bold in my art and craft has proven good for my soul, no matter how scary it might be. Even when someone has disagreed with my writings or postings, I have managed to take a moment, express myself clearly, and I am then the better for having had the experience.

Writing about everything is not always so simply done as said. The English language is sometimes woefully bereft of the definite-rich vocabulary I need to accurately (I feel) express myself. But I still try, albeit a bit clumsily, to do so. Sometimes I have to make decisions about what to write about or to let sleep.

The other day, I opened my journal and saw where I had begun to write about an incident the night before and I had to make a decision: finish recording that incident, which honestly had a negative effect on my mood and soul when it had occurred and immediately afterward, or move on and let my writing flow through that day, to live in the now of that moment. I chose the latter for two reasons: One, I had already fleshed out my feelings on that incident with a trusted friend a few days beforehand so, really, I had written out that experience. And two, I wanted to enjoy my day out, my precious little time to myself when I could just let my mind wander wherever it dared to roam without being snapped back on the end of the leash that is often motherhood and adulting.

My lifespace is full of paper (literal and metaphorical), of writings, letters, stories, academic observations, literary reviews, and cards – encapsulated in Skype and Gchat conversations, emails, text messages, blog posts, journals, notepads, marginal annotations, idea books, and letters to the future. I write it all. I always have. And you can’t make me stop, which is a really good thing.