it’s complicated

Happy Fourth.

I’ve been struggling with this day for quite a while. I wanted to paint my nails red and blue, while painting my middle fingernail gold, but I didn’t. We were going to attend a cookout with friends, but a dog anxious in the middle of a thunderstorm kept us home. For the past few years, I’ve stayed home with said dog because he also hates fireworks, and I don’t want him to be alone. My husband gigs, so he has to be gone, but I don’t, and since fireworks are not actually my most favorite thing ever either, it’s not bothersome to stay put.

I was in high school and college when George W. Bush was president. September 11. War in Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction. Illegal detention. Discrimination against people of color. Abuses at prisons. For these reasons, I struggled with what being an American means. I stood for the national anthem, but I didn’t sing it or put my hand on my heart. Had it been a thing then, I’d have knelt.

To be honest, I’ve never really liked our anthem. One reason for this is that it’s a song about war. And I have a hard time glorifying rockets glaring and bombs bursting. I think it was one of the Indigo Girls who said something about this, and it completely changed how I view the anthem. What would happen if it celebrated the beauty of creation in this country, the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, or the variety of cultures and experiences that have melted into this American pot? That would be a much different framework for us.

Today in particular I’m struggling with what the Fourth is, should be, might become. We have a president holding some spectacle in DC as I type this. No doubt the crowds will be the biggest ever. But there are kids in cages. Kids. in. cages. I am calling my representative almost daily yet again about this issue. I can’t read too many stories about it. I can’t look at photos. I simply can’t believe we are doing this to children, to parents, to human beings. The irony of celebrating freedom when we have children in cages is just too much. I can’t.

I’ve tried today to shift my focus, to think of the things I love about being American. They exist. But it feels like so many of those things are threatened: freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, of the right to peaceful protest, of the right to vote. We are seeing over and over that states are viewing women as less than capable of making decisions about their own bodies and health. This borders on seeing them as less than human. We are in dangerous territory.

Maybe shifting my focus isn’t necessary. Maybe this is a good day for lament. I keep returning to this word “lament” and to the psalms today. One of the things I love about the psalms is that they cover every emotion. The Israelites weren’t afraid to yell at God, to say their situation sucked, to ask for help in the midst of extreme pain. They threw it all at God, knowing that God is big enough to handle it. I sure as hell don’t know how to handle kids in cages, and I don’t think God does either. But I do know that she’s working through a lot of people to make this different. And it will be different. I just wish it didn’t involve so much trauma in the process.

And so today I lament. I join my voice with the Israelites crying out for justice. I join my cries with those children and their parents. I kneel and bow my head, hoping someday to stand again.