On Our Democracy, Paternity, and The Future (draft)
Originally posted 4 July 2022
A few days ago, my twelve-year-old daughter told me she doesn’t want to celebrate the 4th of July. The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade is still a shocking weight our souls are trying to balance under.
I feel you, I told her.
But I also know nothing is [cut/dry][black/white].
I’m thankful I was born in the United States of America. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given through no merit of my own. For so many reasons, this truly is a remarkable land of bounty. And yet, it is and has always been, a fabric woven of deep darkness too.
Ecclesiastes says that to everything, there is a season. A time to mourn, a time to dance, a time to sow, a time to harvest. Patriotic Americans have always been quick to celebrate the shining light represented in our nation. But to acknowledge the darkness is not unpatriotic, it's honorable.
When my dad passed away last year, I had no regrets about not having spoken to him or seen him much in the years prior. I could make you gasp in horror with stories of things he did to me. In the last year or two of his life, I’d arrived at the conclusion that he would never respect me as I desired. Not because I was his child, but because I am a woman. I knew he would never understand or value the beliefs I’d worked diligently to clarify and establish as my foundation. I no longer felt a need to persuade him.
I also knew, his limitations were just that; limitations. I’m learning to refrain from judging others’ limitations. Their failure to demonstrate what I recognize as appreciation for me, my perspective, or my contributions, is not a situation I need to address. What matters is that I value my life, perspective, and contributions, and continue to cultivate them.
And I would not be here if it weren’t for my father. I learned to question the status quo from him. I developed the ability to strike out on my own from his example. Through him, I was exposed to countless complexities that gave me the experience necessary to navigate the murky realities of life.
As citizens, this nation is like a parent who has lavished us with prosperity and tortured us with dysfunction. The parent that is may never understand. But that parent is always in the process of passing on and passing away. What we inherit is our choice.
When I realized that every time I shared pieces of my life with my dad, it lead to pain or disappointment, I stopped. Not in anger, but in self-respect. And in doing so, I came to be able to appreciate him for who he was, and accept who he was unable to be because of his own challenges.
There are national institutions, and individuals who currently lead them, that cannot see the harm that they are wrecking. They cannot value the lives, perspectives, and contributions of those they are not inclined to see as equal members of our society. That’s tragic. But what’s worse is to lose dignity by refusing to accept their limitations and wasting our own energy trying to correct them.
They are in the process of passing on and passing away. And we are the ones who will inherit what we choose from our national lineage. Will I inherit the light while acknowledging the darkness? Or will I inherit the darkness and defame the light? That’s the choice I see on days like today.
Today, I’m going to enjoy what we do have, with my children. I won’t withhold joy from myself or them, because there is grief.
There are some who have more than us. There are many who have less. It isn’t what we have that gives us joy though, it’s how we perceive ourselves and our ability to choose.
Today I celebrate the Independence that our early founders wished to achieve. And I celebrate the future that we can still build with the same courage and commitment.