I have always been proud to be an American. That doesn’t mean that I think our country is flawless. We are flawed in countless ways, but the great thing about being an American is that we are always striving to be better–we strive to be more inclusive, more compassionate, more aware of the issues that divide us and bring us together. Every day when I wake up, I always believe that “it’s morning in America;” it’s a new day filled with new chances and opportunities to get it right.
I was raised in a very politically active household. My parents discussed political events, decisions, and issues, and instilled in me the importance of being involved at the local, state, and national levels. They modeled this by attending meetings, and rallies, and in the easiest, yet most important way, by voting. I was made aware at a very young age of the importance of keeping abreast of current events, and also learning as much about the history of our country as possible–you know the saying, “Those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
I’ll never forget, when I was almost nine, my family went to San Antonio for several days. My dad had a work meeting/conference there, and we took advantage of the location and spent our days touring the historical parts of San Antonio, as well as the zoo.
One night, when we were leaving a restaurant, a man came up to my dad’s car window. Being a different, much safer and more naive time, my dad unrolled the window. The man began talking about the gubernatorial election, and said that we needed to vote for Preston Smith. He spied me in the backseat, looking wide-eyed and very intrigued, and as he looked directly at me, he stated, “And I’m going to send you a box of pencils. Would you like a box of pencils?” I quickly nodded, excited about the gift that I would be receiving one day soon.
I noticed my parents exchange glances, and my father said, “We need to get going.” The man was sort of hanging onto the car, and he wasn’t moving so we could drive away. My dad began rolling up the window, and in the nick of time, the drunken stranger backed away from the vehicle.
I asked my parents, “When do you think I’ll get my box of pencils?” My mother replied, “Oh, honey. There aren’t any pencils. That man was just saying that.”
Completely disappointed, I said, “But he said he worked for Preston Smith, and he was going to send me a box of pencils. Why would he say that if it wasn’t true?” It was on that trip that I learned about the “evils of alcohol,” and people promising things that would never be. I also learned a new phrase–“ladies of the evening.” Imagine my disappointment years later when I discovered that those ladies weren’t dressed up because they were going to a fancy party…
For some reason, the drunk man campaigning for Preston Smith has always stayed in the back of my mind. Right or wrong, I relate that experience to my distrust of many things POLITICAL. Candidates promise things, knowing they can never provide or achieve their goal. It’s like in elementary school, when every student who ran for student council always promised to put “coke” in the water fountain. We knew it wouldn’t happen, but oh, the idea of it was delicious and enticing!
I don’t want this piece to turn into a political argument. I don’t want to cause division. I just want to simply say this. I LOVE MY COUNTRY. I want America to always be that shining city on the hill. I want this country to represent all people, no matter their race, religion, or country of origin. I want people to have a dream, and live the dream. I want our citizens to be able to rise from “rags to riches.” I want our great minds to figure out solutions to all the problems that plague us. I want us to be “one and indivisible.” I want our differences to be respected, and our common ground to bring us together.
The thing I love most about America is that it is the land of opportunity. I have been blessed to have been born into a family who valued education, and was able to send me to college. Some may think I’ve had it easy. In many ways, I have. BUT, I could have shirked the gifts that were given to me. I could have partied all the way through college. I could have chosen not to pursue my dream to be a teacher. I could have made other choices, and rebelled against my family. I could have chosen to not take advantage of all that I was given, and gone down a completely different road. I could have decided to wander, and roam, and ended up in a harder, more difficult destination.
Even though much has been given to me, I still had to make choices EVERY single day to get to where I am. My journey is far from over. I try and fail daily, but I keep going.
I haven’t experienced the sting of rejection based on race; I haven’t hungered for food or gone without. I haven’t fought addiction, or abuse, or debilitating health issues. But I have felt all of these things: I have felt rejection, I have hungered for acceptance, I have felt alone. I have battled my own self worth. And I have felt all of these things again in my heart and soul as I have tried to help others overcome their daily struggles, because their lives haven’t been fair. Because they didn’t start out on an even playing field.
As an educator, I try to always drill into the minds, and hearts and souls of students that education provides a way out. It is FREE. Knowledge is dished out daily and freely, and lessons are taught about much more than subjects. Education is a way to rise above the challenges that many students face. BUT students have to be willing to take advantage of all the things that they are offered. Many times, they have to learn to give up certain relationships that are toxic. They have to see their way out of their situation. They have to visualize success.
I don’t want to make it seem like it’s that easy–you just have to see it and believe it and it will happen. It’s not easy at all. Rising above and seeking more requires work every single day, and it also requires help from others. Not everyone can find a way out. I get that. And it keeps me awake at night. But every day, we all make choices that either send us in the right direction, or build roadblocks to our success.
So what does this all have to do with my love for America? For me it’s simple. We all have our own thoughts, beliefs, and political stances based on our experiences. There is no right or wrong. One side isn’t better than another. Both major political parties are extremely flawed. There is no black or white, but there is a whole lot of gray. I am so tired of all the bickering, and shaming, and slamming. I’m tired of the simplicity of branding others as “good or bad” based on their political beliefs. Put a fork in me, I’m DONE.
I’ve been frustrated, and sad, and angry, and upset along with everyone else. If I happen to say I’m ready for businesses to open up, or that I think we need to do this or that, I am bombarded by people saying, “Do you want people to die?” What the heck? What kind of question is that? Of course I don’t want people to die!
I believe that states should look at local control for so much of this. Every place is different. I don’t think we can apply one fix and have it work in the same way in every town, city, or state. Sure, there are common things that make sense that should occur everywhere: masks, and gloves (when worn correctly), staying home if you’re sick, not having big parties, or gatherings.
But y’all, people NEED to go back to work–financially, mentally, spiritually, and physically. We need to be able to provide. We need to get things moving, and do so in a respectful way.
I’m sure I’ll get hammered for these thoughts, but I’m done. I’m tired and sad, and angry, and worried, and scared. However, I firmly believe that if each individual uses common sense, and respect, and does what is right, we can function as a society and move a little more forward each day, rather than sitting around watching things crumble around us.
The bottom line is this: I can be concerned about the impending economic devastation, and take COVID19 seriously, and also be worried and concerned about the expansion and reach of government policies. I can feel all of these things, and still be a good person! I’m tired of Americans belittling each other! I’m tired of politics being played in every circumstance and situation. I’m completely sick of “quid pro quo.” I’m ready to move on! I want to see my mother, and brother, and my sons, and daughter-in-law! And I especially want to hold my grandson for the first time! And if I can do that, and I’m asked to wear a mask, I will! Because I want to move forward and I will do anything to see my sweet, precious, grandchild.
So, for those of you who are complaining about things opening up, but still having to wear a mask, I say it’s a small price to pay. I pray that everyone will do his/her part so we can live our lives and move ahead.
And when we get to the other side, I want to be better. I want our country to be better. I want us to be more compassionate–to feel and understand others’ pain and sorrow and fear. I also want to replace that fear with the courage that has been a part of our country since its origin.
Remember, we are all Americans. We are all a part of the great tapestry of stars and stripes, and the red, and white and blue. Let our differences be realized, and respected and represented. And through those differences, may we find a way to come together, and build a greater nation. Let us take all that we’ve learned during this time of isolation and become more understanding, and more intentional. Let us become united:
“I am the farmer at his plow.
I am the mother with her child.
I am the merchant in his shop.
I am the statesman, the soldier, the minister, the child, the poet, the philosopher, the builder, the lover…
I am 328 million people.
I am one spirit.
I am an American!” (from The American Spirit, Hallmark Crown Edition, 1972)
(*the number of Americans was changed to reflect the current population)
And finally, let us always remember the words and warning of Abraham Lincoln:
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
God bless you all, and God bless America!
(For a more detailed version of this blog, please listen to my podcast on Stitcher, iHEART radio, Spotify, Apple Music, or Buzzsprout)
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