A Privileged Nation

I am an American and I have always been proud to be. These last years have been challenging for our republic. I cannot say what our forefathers intended nor can anyone else. We must rely on their words and a myriad of interpretations of their written words.

What I can say is more obvious to anyone honest enough to see what lies before them. We have lost our desire to be one nation. Our acceptance (some say tolerance) of our neighbors and fellow Americans is the lowest I can recall in a long time. We each seem to view ‘our’ country through our individual biased lens. We do not accept that our neighbor’s view of this country can possibly be right because it does not mirror our own.

I always held dear to these words by Emma Lazarus:

The New Colossus
BY Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

She spoke of my earliest ancestors, none of whom were born here. This country belonged to those who wanted freedom enough to risk everything.

Today I celebrate the Independence of a nation that loved and protected all of her citizens, regardless of the private beliefs they held so dear. I will do what I can to fulfill my obligation to my children and my children’s children and to my neighbors, no matter how distinctly different we may be.

I leave you with these words by American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti written in 2007. It is a cautionary tale to which I hope we will take heed. We can be better.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (After Khalil Gibran) 2007

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them

Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves

Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture

Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own

Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed

Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away

My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!

copyright Lawrence Ferlinghetti