Over the past week, I’ve spruced up my porch, painting things, planting flowers, etc. and in the process, I took down the American flag that’s been hanging there for the past ten years, because it doesn’t match the new decor. Today, I picked it up off the picnic table where I’d rolled it up and laid it down, intending to dispose of it in the proper way with the proper respect. But I stopped in my tracks, noticing how faded it really was, how frail, thin and torn. I noticed how it was so stained and that the red had turned rust and the white had turned gray. Suddenly, there was a pain in my spirit and tears in my eyes, because I was no longer looking at a symbol of America. I was looking at America herself.
America: Stained. Torn. Tattered. Faded.
America: Land of the free.
America: Home of the Brave.
I cried, realizing that I love America, even when she’s stained, torn and faded. I’m an idealist. I know that. Some might call it a weakness, if so, then let me be weak, because I dream of a land where all life is respected from the unborn to the ancient, where there are no color lines and the only hue is humanity and the only responses humane. I straightened the flag as best as I could and hung her back on my porch, where she waved in the southern breeze that blew up from the cow pasture. She may be tattered, worn and faded, but she’s still beautiful to me.
I’m from a multi-racial family in a small town in Southern Appalachia. We have a modge-podge of ethnicities: White, Black, Latina/o and Native American. I don’t think we have any Asians—yet, but my CRI Genetics test says I have Asian ancestry, so, it was there at one point in time (approximately 5 to 6 generations ago). I believe we are all human and that genetically, we are 99.5% the same (according to 23andMe), and what we do to one, affects us all.
Now before I make the next few statements, let me say that my little spill here will likely not change the minds of most people. I’m not speaking to minds now anyway. I’m speaking what’s in my heart, because I need to speak it. So, this blog post is a selfish one. I’m doing it for me, not you! But hopefully, someone will find something worthwhile within it.
That broken flag is a sign of blatant symbolism to me. You see, I’ve caught myself praying a lot these past few days. I was walking through the Dollar Store and realized that I was praying, out loud, asking for America to be healed and then I realized that healing has to come one heart at a time and that the reason our country is broken is because our people are broken. If we want to fix our country, then we have to fix our people and we can’t fix people by killing them, robbing them, burning their homes, etc. We also can’t fix people by legislating morality to them. Politics can’t fix our country, because politics can’t mend human spirits or awaken the ones that are asleep. Only a spiritual awakening in human hearts can fix our country. Notice that I did not say a return to religion, by the way. I said a spiritual awakening.
I think about how Gandhi said that if we live by an eye for an eye then the whole world would be blind and how Jesus said that if the blind leads the blind then they would both fall in the ditch and Crazy Horse who said that a good leader was one who served others rather expecting others to serve him. Yet, I feel like so many people today are concerned only about serving themselves and they will blindly follow anyone who makes that a little more possible. That literally that they are lovers of themselves, angry, proud, arrogant, loud, aggressive and filled with hate and fear, while others are self-loathing, depressed (and some strangely proud to be that way). However, I know there are peace lovers out there who believe we evoke change in the world by being the change, that we can protest injustices without more murder and destruction. Jesus said that if you live by the sword you die by the sword. Or in other words, violence simply breeds more violence and it is never the answer. The only time it may be the answer is when someone invades your home and threatens your family. Then you fight for survival. A lack of the right tennis shoes or want of a better job is not survival.
I think about the man called John who wrote that if we say we love God and hate our brother (or our neighbor or our fellow human being) then we are lying to ourselves. How can we love God that we haven’t seen if we can’t love the human being that we do see? And what is love, anyway? Well, in this context, it simply means to treat others with decency. This is where healing begins, with brotherly love. And love has to come from a heart that’s been touched by love.
So, tonight, I pray for a healing in the hearts of Americans. I pray for Love’s light to over power the darkness that has settled upon our country and I employ every child of light to shine, shine and shine. Shine your light. Love, love and love radically because if ever there was a time when America needed the healing of radical love, it’s now.
So, my tattered flag waved in the afternoon breeze and I realized that through her thread-bare stripes, there were patches of sunlight.