“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”Benjamin Franklin
By: Gabriela Yareliz
It’s Independence Day. A day that reminds us that a ragtag bunch with a burning passion and insatiable desire for liberty can prevail.
We have grown in this country to value duty, courage and sacrifice. This moving WW2 veteran has gone viral. His emotion and words touched me. It is this same sentiment that has driven me to write about this country.
Is our country flawless? No, by no means. But as someone who has criticized this country’s flaws, I recognize that criticism should be accompanied by the love you feel for country. It’s like a parent when they communicate to correct a child. You criticize to improve things, to show a lesson, not to destroy the very values that have given you the opportunity to criticize it. Our country is steeped in a deep dissatisfaction that leads me to believe we really don’t understand what we have and what it has cost. It has cost the lives of others. Entire lives and families’ lives have been shaped by the sacrifice that has preserved this country’s greatness.
There are people and entire political parties that have this sense of entitlement, these days. We want what we want, when we want it. We want to eliminate the Supreme Court (like petulant children). People want to preserve abortion for rape cases (they argue), and these same people have pushed the legislation that makes it so that the rapist walks out free that same day and can do it again and again. This is not caring for true victims (if it were, we would have different policies), but simply a desire to protect self-interest. Once that self-interest is touched negatively, people flee. Politicians who once pushed to defund police have moved out of their cities (that they destroyed) because they have become unlivable and pure anarchy. This is where we are now. This is not where we have always been. Before parents were taking their children to drag shows and tucking dollar bills in thongs, we had an order and value system in this country. I remember it. I miss it.
This country was built on the dignity of human life. Some in recent time have trashed the Constitution, not realizing that this document gives them the ability and freedom to live unlike others around the world. Every time I read it, I get chills. It was written by slave owners, they say. While the human beings were flawed and didn’t execute on these principles in the way that they should have, the principles were correct. These were the same principles those who fought for civil rights hung onto–
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)
Nationalism has been argued to be the great sin of our day. Nathan Finochio has some interesting thoughts on this:
“Nationalism has been blamed for Empire, but as Chesterton once noted, no man committed adultery because he loved his wife too much. Nationalism is not about exclusivity, but rather priority. And if a man cannot love his country well, he will never love another country properly. And this is the root of all the failure of modern international politics: men do not rule and love their own house well, therefore, they treat other countries as mere mistresses. And that is exactly what Empire is.”Nathan Finochio
How do we return to loving our “wife,” our dear country and all that has been fought for? There is a story (short film) in the film Paris, Je t’aime. It is about this man who is having an affair and decides to let his wife know finally, that he is leaving her and does not love her. (All morality thrown out the window). They arrive to the eatery where he has invited her to, and she breaks some news to him first. She is sick– terminally ill.
When he hears this, he decides to not leave her. Instead, he takes care of her and ends his affair. He starts studying her again and paying attention to the little quirks she had that annoyed him. He begins to fall in love with her all over again. She wears this loud red jacket, and when she passes, he sees this jacket everywhere. The red jacket, a symbol of love and his beloved.
It is a fact that we “fall out of love” with that which we have made judgments about so that we stop looking closely at it. We are annoyed, and we create a distance with its perceived flaws. What if we took the time to take a closer look again?
What if we took the time to read the Declaration of Independence one more time. Let’s study the men who wrote it, recognizing that they aren’t deities but have the same flesh and blood as you and me. Let’s read the Constitution and reflect on every sentence and what the implications are of that sentence to each life within its reach.
What if we spent more time speaking to veterans like the ones in the video above, and we ask them why they fought for us and what else they fought for? What if we studied the lives of American heroes like Abraham Lincoln (a man who stood against half of his country to free a part of it and unite it), George Washington (a man humble enough to let democracy thrive; he would not be king), Frederick Douglas (a man who rebelled righteously and fought the man who would whip him. A man who knew education and knowledge set you free), General Douglas MacArthur (a brilliant strategist whose audacity and love for freedom made others shake in their boots), and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a man who believed in character above all else and in fighting for dignity).
If we took a closer look at these people and what they stood for, despite all their flaws– we would see people who deeply cared. People who had the courage to believe in not only a better tomorrow but a different tomorrow. They ventured out to do what no man had done before.
Just like the husband in the short film saw his wife’s red jacket as a symbol, maybe we could relearn to see the stripes on our flag as a symbol of love, sacrifice, honor, duty, responsibility and freedom.
Bari Weiss published a beautiful piece where immigrants discussed what they love about America. She started the piece by writing the very same things I discussed in the first post of this series:
“There’s lots of talk of privilege these days, and we are privileged here. I don’t mean white or cishet or able-bodied. I mean privileged by being in this country.
Even with all the intrusions on our freedom that we regularly document here—intrusions from government, from tech, from the hall monitors of elite culture—we still know that we are the freest citizens of any country on Earth.
We are all familiar with the complaints and critiques of America. We lodge many of them ourselves. But there’s always still that fundamental truth: Every single person in this country is lucky. Not by a little—lucky by a lot.”Bari Weiss (Source)
These are some of the things her sources mentioned:
“I read the Constitution for the first time when I finally made it from North Korea to South Korea. I was studying English, and collecting letters of recommendation in the hopes that I would win a visa and be able to travel across the ocean to America. Even with my broken English, I teared up reading the sentences. I didn’t know then what the word dignity meant, but that was what I felt for the first time in my life.
My mother and I didn’t risk our lives trekking across the Gobi Desert so we could buy a nice car or live in a nice home. We did it to get an I.D. from a government that recognized us as human beings—not as slaves. To us, to become American was like winning a thousand lotteries.” Yeonmi Park (Source)
“So forget the whiners and the shouters, the hysterics and the cynics and those who count the seconds to midnight. Now and forever, it’s morning in America. Thank God.” Liel Leibovitz (Source)
“Over the years, I’ve met people from small conservative towns in Eastern India to liberal neighborhoods on the outskirts of Vienna to religious communities in rural Mississippi who have almost nothing in common except the audacity of their dreams, their willingness to sacrifice for them, and America’s role in fulfilling them. In one generation, whether you are an immigrant from Asia or a sharecropper’s grandson, America is a place where you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.” Roland Fryer (Source)
I encourage you to read more here. Immigrants have a lot to say about our country because they know what life is like without the principles, laws and ideals we hold dear (or at least used to hold dear).
I pray we can keep fighting for the dignity of every human life and liberty.
“France was a land, England was a people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter— it was the graves at Shiloh and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of heart.”F. Scott Fitzgerald
America– a willingness of heart.
We often just sing or read the first stanza of America the Beautiful, but if we read it in its fullness, it remains a timely gem.
I hope each of us gets closer, and begins to re-examine our history, the beautiful and the ugly. May we above all look at the character of men and the ideals they dreamed of. May we work for a better and different tomorrow, one that reflects the classic and timeless ideals the country was founded on. May we execute these principles with honor and integrity. May we raise a better generation.
The American Creed:
“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon. I seek opportunity to develop whatever talents God gave me- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any earthly master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say -This, with God’s help, I have done.”The American Creed
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!