Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Veterans' Day!

This morning my husband and I attended a Veterans' Day celebration and program at my children's elementary school. I should preface this with the statement that I live in rural New Mexico, in one of the reddest parts of the state. This program included beautiful children singing patriotic songs about America, a nation of faith (giant gulp) and equality (when I whispered "unless you are gay" to my husband he became very afraid the old man behind me was going to hit me with his cane.) They had the obligatory song choreographed with sign language, " I love my country!" which looks a lot like "I love my elbow!"

A very long speech was given by an active duty Army Chaplain about how America has lost its values and encouraged young people to be selfish, as photos of old and dead heroes were shown next to keywords like Faith and Honor and Duty. He carefully couched his words as best he could, but his utter contempt for the state of the country, no doubt exacerbated by the events of the week, was radiating off of him.

Every veteran in the group was called upon to rise, along with the student that had invited them. We even had a surviving member of the crew of the Anola Gay, if you can believe any of those guys are still around. I have seen younger dirt. It was, to be blunt, a very long program, but not an entirely bad one. It occurred to me, however, that had the election gone any differently I may have been a very dangerous woman in that crowd this morning, especially with all the talk of faith. The election has worked like a very powerful antidepressant for me.

I have always considered myself to be patriotic, to love America, and to have pride in my nation and a willingness to defend what I perceived to be its core principles. I believe that America was founded by immigrants (never mind those pesky native Americans, they may have been here first, but we brought the whiskey and the muskets.) I believe that America is about equality, opportunity, and freedom. For the past six years, being so far removed from the dominant paradigm, though, I have come to question if America had left me or if I had just left America. After all, I have heard the president say that the constitution is "just a piece of paper" and many conservatives argue that the French should take back their damned statue and we should seal our borders. It is hard to reconcile inclusion in THAT group.

The election results of this week and the resulting cannibalism of the right wing have indeed restored my faith in democracy, my hope for the nation, and my sense of duty about participation. I have heard other liberals say, "It is, FINALLY morning in America again!" Yes, that feels right, but it also feels like spring to me. After a very long miserable winter the bare branches are sporting shiny, hard little buds. It looks hopeful. It feels like the end of a claustrophobic winter of deep snows and blinding winds and unshakable cold. I feel like I am shaking off the cabin fever and stepping out into the warm sunshine for the first time in a very long time.

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