Let Freedom Ring

IN CONGRESS, July 4 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States

(an excerpt)

…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government…

…We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;

that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;

and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

May your Independence Day be full of blessings, family, friends and hot dogs.  God Bless this great country.

To read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, visit my friend Angie’s website, Celebrating Holidays.  On it you will be find a jackpot of information and history to share with your children on why we celebrate this holiday, where our national symbols originated and what they mean, and creative things you can do with your kids to celebrate.  Her website is a gold mine.

May Day

On Saturday, Lee and I took the kids to a 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Nazi Invasion of the Soviet Union.

Try saying that five times fast.

For an hour and a half, we heard stories from local veterans about their experiences during World War II.  Most of them were Jewish and experienced the effects of the Nazi hatred as well as the Soviet hatred.  It was emotional and poignant and beautiful and sad.

The kids didn’t appreciate it at all.

“When can we go,” they whined over and over.  And like any good Mom, I shushed them and shot them daggar eyes, melting them from the inside out.

At then end of each testimony, each speaker (most of whose stories were read by younger family members while they stood up front), made very similar statements.  They lauded freedom.  Freedom to practice religion, freedom from oppression, freedom to survive, freedom to love.  Those men and women are deeply loyal to the lands of their birth.  But they are also deeply loyal to their adopted land.

Attending this ceremony cemented my desire to bring the history of the former Soviet Union alive.  It reignited my passion for the people of Ukraine, in particular, as several of the speakers were from Ukraine, from towns and cities I have visited.

We Americans have no idea the depth of suffering other parts of the world have experienced.  That’s not to say we can’t sympathize, of course.  I feel deep pain for the suffering around the world.  But I don’t truly understand it because I haven’t lived it.  My pain at the suffering we endured on 9/11 is even different from my fellow countrymen who were directly affected by the loss of loved ones.  But think of this perspective:

It’s estimated that Ukraine lost up to 10 million people during World War II.  That’s half of the population of the entire Soviet Union and twenty percent of the entire world’s death total.

I know my children are young and I don’t expect them to appreciate or even understand why I continue to expose them and push them toward the language and history of that part of the world, but I hope to the depth of my soul that someday, as they grow in maturity and understanding, they will develop not only a love for Ukraine and the russian language, but also for all the different cultures of this world.

I also hope that they will grow with the understanding that they have been privileged to be born in the most amazing country in the world.  It is a flawed nation, to be sure.  But America is a land to be loved, a loved to be applauded and a land that deserves our deepest appreciation.

That’s the lesson I’m hoping to teach my children as they grow.  One of them, anyway.

The problem, you see…

Like everyone else in the country, my heart breaks at Saturday’s horrific shooting in Arizona.  There is no sense to be made of six deaths.  There is no sense to be made of the gunman’s frame of mind.  There is, of course, plenty to debate, but in the end, no sense can be made of it.

I understand the need for dialogue.  It is only natural to want to disect and pull apart the layers of what happened Saturday to find a reason.  Seeking blame gives momentary solace, I suppose.  But it doesn’t change that fact that there are parents in Arizona whose arms now ache with longing to feel the weight of their child.  There is a spouse whose ears strain for a sound of her husband’s voice.  There are children who watch the door that their father will no longer walk through.  Blame only gets us so far, you see.

There are families walking through fires that most of us will never know.  There are tears being shed that are more bitter than the majority of us will ever understand.  There is a depth of sorrow more harsh than most of us could possibly imagine.  There is anger and pain and heartache and yes, fury.  Answers are longed for, many of which will likely never be found.  We can point fingers and accuse this person of saying this and that person of saying that, but is it truly productive?

I vowed awhile back that I wouldn’t delve into politics on this blog again and, for the most part, I haven’t.  I don’t think one can avoid politics altogether, particularly as a parent.  Parenting is political.  Politics matter because they determine the forecast of the world laid before our little ones.  So politics is not to be ignored.

However, I’m not a political writer and I don’t like confrontation (makes my stomach get all fluttery) and politics are confrontational.  So I steer clear when I can and today is going to be no exception.  This post isn’t about politics.  It’s about respect.  The way I see it, our country doesn’t have a problem with political philosophies that are “hateful” so much as a problem with respect.

There’s a word we don’t hear enough, right?

There are crazy people in this world.  People who think it’s okay to buy a gun and open fire in a crowd.  People who think it’s okay to hurt another in the name of a cause – any cause.  People who think it’s okay to fly planes into buildings.  The list could go on and on.  You can’t characterize evil and hate by any one group, any one religion or any one political party.  And no religion, no political party, no one place or vicinity should be tainted as a whole because of a crazy person.  Evil is evil.  Hatred is hatred.  Trying to pass it off as anything else misses the mark.

Instead of pointing fingers at each other, slinging accusations and political barbs, perhaps we could instead examine the need for respectful dialogue.  You know, the kind without name calling and back-handed jabs.  And it would do us all good to remember the families in Arizona whose lives will never again be the same.  Is jaded arguing and combing through each political figures’ every word with a fine tooth comb getting us anywhere but further steeped in the same back and forth jabbering?

Joe stated it well when he wrote, “When an event like this happens, our natural instinct is to reach for labels that allow us to separate ourselves from the ones who committed the evil. At this moment it may be liberals blaming conservatives, but in other instances it’s Christians blaming Muslims, whites blaming blacks, the poor blaming the rich, etc. (or the other way around). If instead, our first instinct is to see the evil that lives inside ourselves we will recognize that our lines of demarcation collapse and the ones we seek to marginalize are actually our own flesh and blood.”

It’s not that I’m not angry.  I am.  I hate what happened in Arizona.  Every time I see a picture of Christina Green my heart breaks.  And it’s not that I don’t want answers.  I want to understand what would make someone do something so horrible.  I want a reason as much as anyone else for what he did.

But I’m not going to find it in a political ad from two years ago.  And I’m not going to find a reason for it by slinging accusations into the great, wide nothing using words like vitriol and rhetoric.  All I can do is control my emotions and my anger.  And I would like to see others do the same.  It’s okay to disagree.  It’s okay to dialogue.

I do think a lot of people are dialoguing well on this topic.  There are many healthy discussions going on.  Unfortunately, the conversations getting the most attention are the sensational dialogues.  I’m glad we’re talking.  I’m glad people are examining motives.  I just hope that we can be productive in doing so.