I wanted to post an essay I wrote about this country and my feelings for it. I do this because today is Memorial Day and my family has made a point of taking time on this holiday to talk about what Memorial Day really means– and should mean– to us.
So here’s the essay. Some of you may have seen it before.
It’s been many years since I last set my eyes upon those amber waves of grain in the heartland of our nation. Years made of days that have left their indelible mark on my face and my heart. Some of those days were, as with so many other Americans, filled with great joy. Others with stunning heartbreak. Some American days passed in the quiet majesty of a baby’s first breath. Other American days tore deeply into the fabric of my soul, changing me in ways both grand and tiny.
What do they mean to me today? Do these American days mean anything to anyone beyond me, here at this dinner table? I don’t hear echoes of my family’s last dinner, but I do see the final, fading shadows of my daughter’s perfect joy as she pushes her chair out, eager for the busy playing. My cherub-son’s rosy cheeked shadow joins her in noisy life.
Her hug, tight and fragile. She had a bad dream.
My privilege, precious and divine. A father. Living these American days.
What do these American days mean? A president both worshipped and despised. Movements growing; fading. Anger, rapture, tears of fear and joy. All of these happen each day—and these American days continue. No war; no secession. Those American days have passed.
So what does America’s today mean?
American days mean nurtured potential. They mean love of God, country and family. They mean strength, moral authority, the holding up of a light. American days mean duty, honor, and the capacity to choose a prosperous, righteous destiny.
To me, American days do not represent a shifting of values to match modern attitudes.
I have had the remarkable privilege of residing in twelve of the fifty states in the United States of America. I have been exposed to countless religions, philosophies and moralities. I have had the opportunity to spend significant time immersed in the language and culture of Brazil, England, Japan and Taiwan. Throughout these journeys, I still lived American days, because I was and am American.
I now believe that every country is filled with potential, based entirely on the good people of the individual nation. But I refuse to fight the feeling that the United States of America is closer to fulfilling the measure of its potential than any other country. Even in our modern American days, this nation seems better equipped to reach that ultimate potential as well.
I feel like American days plead with me to become more than myself, to seek the good for shining seas and a banner that yet waves.
I think about early American days—those of John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and their colleagues. What did those days mean to those men whom I see as great Americans? I have read about them and seen their flawed humanity. I have felt their fear but also their courage. I have watered pages as I walked with them down the road of righteous treason for the love of their God, family and country.
I have felt to raise the torch of independence and freedom, to join with these men in revolution against injustice and tyranny. Sometimes I wish my American days were theirs.
What of good have I done with my American days? I have loved my God, my family and my nation. I have read declaration and highest law. I have shaken with simmering anger at American days that seem determined to become—other days.
I do not accept a fundamental shift in my American days. The bedrock of my nation is faith founded in firm principle, morality and hope. Hope for better. Hope for solutions. Hope for American days that stretch forward into prosperity.
I plead with my keyboard that this nation not abandon its American days and turn to convenient philosophies that will not save our future. I shake myself from a stupor, determined to not blindly follow partisan days or special interest days.
I follow American days and I am not alone. Though I felt alone as a child, I am not alone in America’s today. When I was young I lived without a family or love, but I lived American days, like millions of others. When older, I lived American days teaching in foreign lands, fighting against the entropy of laziness. Now I sit at my family table, basking in the joy of blessings and peace, worried about bills and accounts, wishing I could make my voice louder. I love today. I want to love tomorrow.
Now I see American days where a president went from beloved to hated in short years, yet I love these days.
Now I see American days where a man can become not himself, yet still somewhere inside, himself—and become outside a president. I still love these days.
Now I see American days filled with media misrepresentations on all sides, and I love these days.
Now I see American days where money like sand is spent on entertainment and filming anteaters in Borneo, while people suffer from hunger and the miasma of entitlement. Yet I still love these days.
Now I see American days where highest law is forgotten by convenience, power and status quo. I fear for our days, but I still love them.
Now I see American days filled with people who cannot argue with respect, cannot see the other side, cannot get off their horse—and yet we are still here and so many still believe. And I love these days.
Now I see American days where the divide between people seems like an intractable ocean, but we are still here—we are still living American days in relative peace. I love these days.
Now I see American days where I can sit in a bus station, watching people of all sizes, shapes and colors—and I have no reason to think any of them are not living American days. Lord, how I love these days.
I love an American day that, when parades are done, hot band uniforms removed, and charcoal is cooling, allow for reflection. I celebrate my American day.
I love these American days. I admit that I fear for future American days.
But my hope is stronger than my fear.