She decided to leave for the Great White North, take a job in Edmonton, and announced it via Facebook, eliciting a ton of comments from friends. If Trump won, I wrote, she ought to keep her eye out for a place for us. In good humor. Sort of.
She replied that if Trump wins she and her husband really ought to keep an eye out for a whole housing complex, maybe even a suburb. In jest. Sort of.
We all hold some decided opinions. Most of our friends, maybe most of us, will find it difficult this Fourth of July to talk with their families about politics. It would be interesting to know how many families, today, will bring up Hillary and/or the Donald--and how many will avoid the entire subject as if it were mad cow disease.
Yesterday, in church, the final song was "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," an anthem I don't think I'd sung since fifth grade. It was a joy to go through that old patriotic hymn. Echoes of my childhood--sweet echoes--abound. The title itself puts me back in Oostburg Christian School, sitting right there in those old desks for early morning devotions and singing. Yesterday in church, I didn't need the book to know the words.
But it didn't take long to get to the word "liberty," and when we did I couldn't help think of the NRA fanatics who wave that battle flag as if the word was theirs alone. It isn't. Gay marriage advocates carry the very same banner. Most all of us do.
So who gets the right to that word when we honor this country as the "sweet land of liberty"? Who holds the copy-write? The right or the left? Donald or Hillary? Pro-life or pro-choice? Republicans or Democrats or socialists or Libertarians? Does anyone own the word liberty outright?
The last verse of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" uses the word again in a fashion that marries patriotism and faith:
Our fathers' God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!
It would be a gift to be able to return to fifth grade and feel my heart swell with the joy and pride those lines still evoke. But I can't go back. There's Dred Scott, "the Long Walk," Border Ruffians, the KKK, Manifest Destiny, wanton slaughter of the buffalo, long-haired hippies, "love it or leave it," "Burn, baby, burn," not to mention Black Liberation, Red Liberation, Women's Liberation. There's that word again, nominalized.
In fifth grade, when I sang "Protect us by thy might," I was thinking of the Blitzkrieg or so many Chinese communists that GI machine guns couldn't kill them fast enough. Back then, I don't believe I ever thought of asking God to "protect us by thy might" from each other.
It's Independence Day, the day the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, released a manifesto titled "The Declaration of Independence," which includes what may be the most famous line in all of American history: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Those memorable lines are worth inscribing deeply within our minds and hearts; but Lord a'mighty, they're not simple, not at all.
Eleven years after the first July Fourth, a woman asked Dr. Franklin what the Constitutional Convention had created when, in 1787, it met to determine what the form of government would be in this new land--"monarchy or republic?" she asked him. Franklin said, "A republic, ma'am, if you can keep it."
That answer is, 240 years later, wisdom we do well to keep in mind.