LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”
As a child, I recall hearing and saying this many times: “I can do what I want. It’s a free country.” It was typically in response to some perceived offense, and when confronted, the offending party would often respond with that phrase.
I don’t hear kids—or adults—saying that much anymore. But we should never forget the meaning behind it.
“And I won’t forget the men (and women) who died, who gave that right to me.”
On Saturday of this week, my husband’s family celebrated his father’s 80th birthday with a large gathering of 50-plus family members. The host led grace just before the meal, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, then “Happy Birthday” sung to the birthday boy from the crowd. This trifecta was the perfect display of gratitude first for the food, then for the freedom, followed by a family honoring a strong and deserving patriarch.
“And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.”
After the singing, my father-in-law and the uncles who served our country were asked to stand to be recognized and honored. There were seven . We applauded with our hands and with our hearts.
This will never be enough to let them know how much we appreciate their service, but they don’t expect any more than that. They simply served; they were honored to give.
Our dad didn’t serve in the military. He was deemed not fit enough due to flat feet. Now, most of his seven children have flat feet, but we might not be here otherwise.
Memorial Day is a wonderful bonus Monday off for many people, myself included. But, as this Facebook post so painfully illustrates, it goes so much deeper than that. Deeper than the vast majority of us will ever know. Deeper than our worst nightmares can conjure, to a depth that that should always be seared upon our minds, hearts and souls how supremely fortunate we are to live in a free country.
OUR FREEDOM ISN’T FREE.
Gail, Suzanne and I got to spend the weekend together. Gail traveled the 230 miles to our small city, and we savored this gift of time together in the sisterhood. We are supremely fortunate to have each other, and we know it.
We are celebrating our parents this weekend too, as we do every time we are together. None of us felt the need to visit their graves; we know they are not there. Mom made it clear before they died that we were welcome to visit her plot when she was gone, but we wouldn’t find her there.
And we don’t.
We find both of them in our togetherness, wherever we go.
Our brothers and their families who live on their farms close to our hometown take tender, loving care of their graves there, and for that, we are so grateful. We visit when we are there at other times throughout the year.
I was a kid during Vietnam. I watched news coverage of the Gulf War and the other foreign conflicts that took place as I grew up, and unfortunately, continue to take place around the world. Often, I simply turn off the news when more coverage is aired. I simply cannot take more bad news of war. I didn’t fully realize the depth of our freedom NOT being free until I watched the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, unfold on live television.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix, a famous 1960’s rock musician, is credited with this statement. Online sources list other similar quotes, which may have inspired him. It summarizes what I feel is the answer as well. Ironically, Jimi Hendrix enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained as a paratrooper, and was granted an honorable discharge.
But how to find this peace? What can each of us do, as Average Jane and Joe Citizen, to bring this about? What on earth—literally-can we do to stop the fighting across the world? We all think that, as just one person, our actions–good or bad–cannot possibly make a difference.
These hundreds (thousands?) of years, these scores of generations of violence toward our fellow man in the name of one’s god, one’s country, one’s pain, scorn and oppression cannot easily be turned around. This is the way of life for so many, so many fellow humans who have never known a day of peace. So many who don’t even know there is a better way.
So many, just like ourselves, who think there is nothing, as an individual, that can be done.
Oh, but there is.
There is one beacon, one guiding principle that each of us can put to work every day. The key word is work, because it takes a lot of that. If you have even one iota of self-induced strife in your heart, it has the potential to create a negative ripple, and it can be worked upon. If you think there is nothing you can do to bring peace to the world, think again.
I have written about it before, and I will write about it again. I offer no apologies to anyone who doesn’t want to hear anything remotely related to religion, because this only has to relate to humanity. It comes to you and me as fellow humans, breathing the same air, co-existing on the same earth, from another human being. A man who walked this same earth, breathed this same air from 1181-1226. A man who gave up riches to pursue a life of humility and peace: Saint Francis of Assisi. He is venerated worldwide as the original Instrument of Peace, the man who wrote the prayer.
He is the saint my parents modeled their lives after, leaving us a tremendous legacy, as well as a tough act to follow. Specifically, our mother wrote a letter to be read at her funeral asking us to live our lives by this prayer.
So, we try. For myself, I stumble and fall, get up and keep trying to try. Some days, that’s the most I can do. Some days I do a little better. But I never stop trying. I can’t. Mom saw to it that we were handed those marching orders, and we saw to it that it was written in stone on the back of their tombstone in their honor.
I did something recently that didn’t make me feel very good about myself. Something that, in the parlance of my Catholic upbringing was very likely very venial, was still very wrong. And my hyper-developed conscience wouldn’t let me rest until I did something about it. It was more than a white lie, perhaps a shade of light gray. Nothing damning, nothing that would incite violence or crush someone’s soul, but wrong, nonetheless. At the time, it felt like an eye for an eye, but in hindsight, it really was something more like an eye for a toenail clipping.
So, I came clean. I went to the person who would be affected by this transgression, even though it was known only to me. I confessed. I owned up to the infraction, made reparations as best I could, and they forgave with open arms. They asked only to allow them the chance in the future to help to prevent it from happening again. In a turn I wouldn’t have imagined, they were an Instrument of Peace to me.
So, if an offense is committed deep in a forest and no one hears or sees it, did it really happen? Is it really wrong?
Undeniably, unequivocally, YES and YES.
If your little voice tells you that you can make peace by righting a wrong, or even creating a right where no wrong existed, then you’d better listen. That voice is not only your conscience and your voice of reason, it is a much wiser, deeper part of your soul speaking. It is your opportunity be an Instrument of Peace.
“Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,”
I do love this land. I love the open fields and rolling hills of my home state, and there are so many other parts of this land I want to explore. My away-from-home favorites are the mountains of Colorado and the beaches of Florida, but there are so many more places in these great States I want to visit. I don’t even have a strong desire to travel abroad because there is so much in America I haven’t seen yet. Places open to me and you and everyone else to visit because this is indeed a free country. We are at liberty to travel where we want to go.
For that, and for every other liberty small and large, our military is to thank. The brave men and women who served and those in active duty as well. Those who may never know the liberty they deserve. Those who gave up their liberties so that we may have ours. Words will never be enough to express our gratitude, but it is a start. God bless them, and…
“God Bless the USA.”
Please observe Memorial Day with gratitude for all the liberties you possess. Please thank any active or former military service man or woman. And, because I know it never goes away, I extend my sympathy to you for anyone you are mourning.
Thank you for your continued support. My sisters and I are grateful for the opportunity to reach out to each of you through this blog. We want to take our mother’s dying wish and make it work not just for us, but for the world. In the face of conflict, in what appear to be war-torn families and relationships, we are often asked what we do to make it work and to keep it all together. So many people, we have learned, don’t have even a taste of what we have. If we can help you in any way to find it, please let us know. Send an email through the blog, or message any of us privately on Facebook. Please reach out.