Friday, July 4, 2008
Happy 232nd birthday, America!
Well, folks, after getting roughly 4 ½ hours of sleep last night and then working a 6-hour early morning shift, I am here at home, with a terrible case of insomnia. In the AFTERNOON. Normally, my inability to nap wouldn’t be such a problem, but I don’t want to go to bed early or even on time tonight, it being 4th of July and all.
Not that I have any big plans.
It’s silly, and it’s nobody’s fault, but this is the second year in a row that circumstances alone have dictated my having a semi-lame Independence Day. I woke up this morning with an awful case of pink-eye, and spent the day at work constantly washing my hands and feeling self-conscious about being a conjunctivitis…monster. Most of my friends here are up in West Yellowstone together, which I had to forgo because of work. My other plans to go to Idaho Falls with other friends fell through, because Nathan’s in Utah and the others changed their minds. Shaun is in Utah as well, and I don’t know what the Thorsons are doing. So I’ve got a 500-piece puzzle, a load of laundry, a frozen pizza, and most likely a ticket to the movies. I’ll go out on my own and watch the fireworks from the park later tonight.
But I’m not really complaining. Just venting for a moment. I’ve never been one to turn down solitude, so I shall embrace this opportunity to spend the day doing my own thing.
This morning, Mallori sent me a text to reminisce about Independence Days of summers past; the last two years, she and I (along with others) have spent 4th of July morning in West Yellowstone. We began a tradition together of going out to breakfast at Running Bear Pancake House, and taking turns talking about what we love about America, and what about this country we’re grateful for.
I thought of that this morning as I was packaging about 250 million donuts (well, more like 250 dozen, but that’s still like 3,000 donuts). I’ve decided that since I couldn’t go to Running Bear for my yearly patriotic celebration, I would blog my yearly patriotic celebration!
This last February, my family spent a week together in Washington, D.C. Dad was there for training in the Foreign Services, and Beckah, Isha, and I all came out for the Flag Day Ceremony (him getting his first post assignment--Viva Honduras!). Of course, we spent a few days sight-seeing. One of the coolest experiences was visiting the Library of Congress. It was incredible to see the documents and records that formed this country so many years ago. Isha had a funny, albeit slightly disturbing experience that she told me about later. She said she was standing and looking at the very very faded, slightly tattered original copy of The Bill of Rights.
A large group from a middle school or high school was also there, and as she was looking at that incredible document, a couple of young girls elbowed their way through. She overheard one of the girls saying “You can’t even read that! What is this stupid piece of paper, anyway?” Isha thought for a moment, and wanted to say “That ‘stupid piece of paper’ right there is what gave you the right to say that just now.”
I’m so incredibly grateful for my right of freedom of speech. I’ve said this for the last 2 Independence Days, and I’m going to say it again. (Because I CAN.)
As human beings, we use 2 tools to communicate our ideas and feelings to one another. One is the arts; through performing and visual arts, we can convey our thoughts and feelings. But the other tool, the written and spoken word, is our ONLY form of SPECIFIC communication. Without the agency to speak and write freely, I can’t imagine that we (as a society and as individuals) would ever have progressed to the level that we have. This blog entry itself is a testimony to the First Amendment.
It seems that for lots of people, the process of “growing up” includes an enormous disillusionment regarding politics and government. I see a lot of people who have allowed this confusion and disappointment to lead them to apathy. It’s almost as if it hurts too much to care about government…you are constantly being disappointed. But even a genuine interest in politics aside, I simply cannot bring myself to NOT CARE about my government. I think of the thousands upon thousands who have died so that I can express myself freely. I think of the millions more in other countries around the world who have been fighting for generations for the right to vote. I feel like far too many Americans don’t realize what a precious rarity our democracy is. We take for granted the rights we have. Even the right to be apathetic about our country is an unusual and incredible blessing.
I’ve carried my own share of bitterness towards the government. But in spite of all of its flaws, I can’t deny that we’ve got a pretty damn good democracy set up. It’s lasted us a good couple of centuries, and although we’re still learning to iron out the kinks we entangle ourselves in, it’s still serving us well. Them founding fathers sure knew what they were doing. (Or at least they were in tune with someone else who know what He was doing…) The handfuls of paper that were written on the East Coast in the 1700’s have withstood 2 World Wars and a dozen others, several revolutions of various size, type and impact, a handful of assassinations, and a population that has gone from several thousand to several million. I say that’s got to mean something.
I’m so grateful to have been born into this country. In spite of what we tend to think about ourselves, we Americans are very human, and we’ve been screwing up for, well, since there were Americans. But in spite of all our efforts to destroy the Constitution and Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, they manage to remain fairly unshakable. Man, do I owe thanks to the powers that be for my citizenship in the U.S.
A friend and I were talking about this last night, and we were talking about the need to allow our feelings to lead us to ACTION. Whether we be angry at our government, or grateful for it, none of those feelings really matter unless we DO something to demonstrate them. Unless we exercise our sacred right to vote, unless we write our Congressmen about the things that need changing and the things that are working, unless we are informed, active participants in our communities, we are not taking full advantage of the government that has been set up for us. When we American Citizens are sitting at home instead of voting, when we’re griping about our leaders and not electing new ones, when we’re asking “what that stupid piece of paper is” and not sincerely seeking an answer, I’m sure the founding father’s are tearing their hair out in frustration.
So I challenge readers to DO something! When you are given the freedom to act, don’t just sit and be acted upon! We can’t all be politicians, or be on City Council, or know the minutes every time Congress convenes. We can’t all join the Peace Corps or the Army or whatever other organization we feel brings freedom and knowledge to others. We can’t all teach history classes, or watch the news every single day. But this government was designed to be run by the PEOPLE. And that’s YOU!
So pick up the newspaper today. Research the candidates and laws on the ballots this November. Find out who your Congressmen are. Register to vote. You have the power to affect CHANGE. Of all of the billions of people that have lived, currently live, and will live on this earth, very very very very few of them have the power to govern themselves. Do something with that power. Make changes while you’re here, because in the grand scheme of things, most of the time you’re dead. But John Hancock and Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson each only had a couple of decades on earth, out of the thousands of years man has called it home. And look at how much they CHANGED THE WORLD.
You have the same power. Vote. Inform yourself. CHANGE THE WORLD.