Sunday, July 5, 2020
“Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he,
meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem;
the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Happy 4th of July! I have fond memories of this holiday from my childhood. We celebrated it as a wider family with aunts and uncles and cousins running around everywhere. This included water balloon tosses, sack races, hot dogs and potato salad, lots of flags, sparklers, and, of course, fireworks that enthralled and tantalized with their beauty and the threat that they could blow off a finger. I have a vague recollection of the bicentennial celebrations of 1976 when I was five years old. I grew up with a love for my country mixed with the pride of my Catholic family that still had a portrait of JFK hanging in the basement. It was a naive patriotism, but patriotism nonetheless. In high school, I won a patriotic essay contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution and earned my Eagle Scout, where the first line of the scout oath stated, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country...” One of my (ambitious and unlikely) goals for my life was to become president of the United States. My grandfather had served in the Pacific during WWII, my dad served as a career officer in the Army, including a tour in Vietnam, and I would accept an appointment to the Air Force Academy and, in June of 1993, be commissioned a second lieutenant.
In some ways, my patriotism was both tempered and strengthened by my international experiences. I learned to talk while living in Germany where my dad was stationed with the Army. I spent a summer living with him in Taegu, Korea, after my freshman year in high school. We took a side trip to Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Macau (which was a fast hydrofoil ride from Hong Kong). During my junior year, I went to the 16th World Scout Jamboree with over 1,400 scouts from 84 countries outside of Sydney and we toured through Australia and New Zealand, which included sailing with my host family on a 12 foot boat in Sydney Harbor on Christmas Day. The summer after my senior year, I was a cultural exchange student in Japan living with my host family in a bend in a mountain road about an hour outside of Matsuyama and we took a side trip to the Peace Park in Hiroshima. I had a great appreciation for the diversity of cultures and commonality of the human family. Many of those cultures were homogeneous and I came to love more what, at the time, was called the “melting pot” of America.
As my sophistication grew, of course, I would come to recognize more of our imperfections and failures as a nation. As my faith grew, I would also come to understand my citizenship in the Kingdom of God and that heaven is my true home. I still, however, have a deep and abiding love for my country. It is a love that is grounded in history, but is ultimately based on the promise of America. From the Declaration of Independence, “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.” From the Gettysburg Address, “...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” From The New Colossus at the Statue of Liberty, “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!” And from the I Have a Dream speech, “...when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!“