Dangerous territory on the Fourth of July
I know I’m headed into dangerous territory… Using a person I love very much as a symbol in a little piece of writing. I hope she’ll understand.
My daughter Tida is so much more than a symbol to me… she’s given as much meaning and love to my life as anyone. I’m pretty sure she knows.
Still, she exists in the world -- beyond her place in our family. The world she lives in places real burdens on her because of the following:
She is brown skinned.
She is an immigrant who originally came to the US without legal documents.
She carries some real scars from the trauma of birth family separation and the foster care system.
She is a woman.
She is married to a woman.
Yes, I know she not only overcomes some of the challenges that come with these burdens—she celebrates almost all of them in many spaces in her life. Still, in the USA today, all of these make her a target. Target of abuse, discrimination, hatred and/or loss of rights that I enjoy as a white male born in the US to a stable family.
So I do feel some real despair about living in a country where this is her reality and our reality.
And, it’s the so-called “birthday” of this country. What to make of these feelings and what to do on the Fourth of July?
In the end, when I look at what’s going on for women and people of color and immigrants and LBGQT people, I see one area of hope. Progress has been made on these fronts at other times in our history. People fought and struggled and voted and organized to make that progress. Then some other people organized differently and set things back. So we can do it over again. It’s tiring (exhausting) and it seems so wrong that it must be done again. But it’s worth it. And one thing the USA still has, for all its flaws, is the capacity to change and improve through people choosing to make it change and improve. We’ve seen it before and we can see it again.
On July 4, let’s re-dedicate ourselves to doing that. It’s dangerous territory but we have no choice but to go…
And here are the lyrics to a new song by Lucy Kaplansky that inspired me to write this:
Mary’s looking out at the empty streets of her town
February morning, rain's falling down
She’s missing the greetings and small talk there
At the library, grocery store, village square
Has the baby started crawling, I like your hair that way
How’s your mother feeling, sure is cold out today
That quiet cadence, the refrain of a town
With the cashier, manager, librarian
The sound of goodwill, kindness and care And Mary knows she’ll always belong there
But now this country of hers has been ravaged and cleaved
By all this sickness and hatred and bigotry
Fueled by the lies of the fools who would lead
Lies told for power malice and greed
But this old woman's seen troubled times before
When the people rose up to shine a light once more
So in spite of her fears she’d play her part again
Band together with young and old, women and men
And on the third of November she stood in that line
With the manager, cashier, librarian beside
And their voices of good will a mighty sound made
And the cadence of towns was a nation’s refrain
And truth and hope drowned out lies and hate
From cities to farms, from oceans to lakes
And then from deepest Georgia that same refrain
And then a man of good will and kindness and care
Placed a hand on a bible and the other in the air
And that cadence infused every word he did say
And a nation heard and rejoiced that day
They'd put differences aside
Reach out to each other
Lend a hand when it’s needed
To their sisters and brothers
Return to the hard work of trying to be
The people and the nation they still could be
Still could be
Mary’s looking out at the rain coming down
But it’s a rain of renewal washing over them now
She’s knitting a hat for that baby in town
That pretty cashier’s baby, it won’t be long now
Till she can hand it to her mother over in town
Oh the goodness of people can’t be put down
It just keeps on,
The sound of kindness
It just keeps on
Can’t be silenced
It just keeps on
(written by Lucy Kaplansky and Rick Litvin)