Sunday, July 7, 2019

2019.07.07 Are We Free Yet?

America has just celebrated its big National Holiday. I hear the echoes of firecrackers and take in all the flags that suddenly popped out everywhere. We think it’s our birthday as a nation, the time we gained our precious national independence and identity. I celebrated with cookouts, friends, sitting by a pool, thinking of my children, loving the world, and feeling thankful and free. This flag image is rigid. I chose it for that reason.

Now that fireworks and celebrity have died down, I wonder: have we celebrated with integrity the spirituality of this great holiday/holy day? What IS the spirituality of independence anyway? How do we live it? Does it mean independence FROM one another? Or does it mean independence TO make local decisions that guarantee state’s rights. OR maybe it means that we have lost sight of our INTERdependence? Have we forgotten how to be ONE nation indivisible yet supple?

At a high school graduation we attended recently we all stood to sing the national anthem, and I wept—yes for the sheer sentimentality of it, but also with grief over our self image. Have we lived up to our song’s vision?  Or have we used it to justify making one more war somewhere? Are we the land of the free and the home of the brave of which we sing? Are we free to be who we say we are and want to be according to our national vision?

I think this holiday is stuck in its original historical context: winning the war and getting rid of Brit rule. We thought we were free. By proxy right now, we are cleansing ourselves of other foreigners and strangers in our midst, especially those who might threaten our political and legal stability, deplete our resources, and present a moral and spiritual challenge we do not have the courage to confront. 

We are stuck, it seems to me, in a rigid habit of thought. We think in opposites, personally and globally. Our mentality, reflexively, is oppositional, frozen-in-place. Whoever we imagine to be our opposite has power over us. We could think appositely. We could ask: what stance, position, or way of thinking is apt in the realization of our vision of collective freedom?

Here’s a word I just ran across: misandry.  It means dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men (ie the male sex). It’s pronounced MISS-andree from the Greek miso- (hating) + aner,  andr man—on the pattern of misogyny.  Hey, there’s a word I bet we all recognize: misogyny, the opposite of misandry. Misogyny is recognizably popular right now in church and state.

I’ve been tempted at times to nurture a bitter misandry, especially in this patriarchal world and church. But I don’t hate men. I love them, well, most of them. And I need them to compliment and to enrich my femaleness. Some of Dick's and my best marital moments grow out of our spats, which, ironically, serve to boot us from opposition to apposition. Really!

Whenever I’ve expended too much energy on hating men, using patriarchy as my cover, I’m not free to be FOR much of anything, including my self. Still, I admit the men I know and love are apposite to my religion and politics, not opposite. I hang out with the proverbial “choir”—appositely aligned.  Am I too afraid to find real opposites? Sometimes. 

America does not feel free to me right now, fireworks aside. Americans are stuck in spat mode, either FOR or AGAINST our current president. That’s how we think. It’s how we talk. It’s in the air and on the air. People talk about how to “cope.” Many opt out of the fray. Others fight. Some pray. Some get lost in cotton candy positivity. But few honestly pretend this is not going on.

My Christian faith helps me. Christ’s compassion has no borders—no borders on the human heart. Divine generosity is limitless, its signature vast. The spirituality of freedom and true independence is scandalous open-heartedness.

Yes, I know this spiritual vision is extremely demanding. I also know that we have no right to give God a nationality—ours.  Nor do we have a right to give God a gender—anyone's.

What do we dare to want for our birthday, America? What will be apposite to freedom?  How can we soften our flag, our souls, and our borders? With what gift?

Today I saw a small boy with his pregnant mom and another woman perhaps a grandmother. He was restless, shifting his weight around and clutching a towel and a set of goggles. I smiled at him and said: "Hi, you ready to go swimming?" "Yes, I've been waiting to come to this pool for years. This is my big moment."