In Order To Form A More Perfect Union

Listening to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing Battle Hymn, could not help but well up. It is an indescribable emotion: some parts pride, some parts humility, some parts inspiration, some parts trepidation… all the things that, after all, established this country in 1776.

This is not a day about American dominance. It is not a day about might making right. This is a day on which Americans remember with reverence and soul-stirring honor that we have so many more blessings than so many others, and that we had a hand in their benediction. That it is our privilege, our birthright, our hallmark and our obligation to carry forth those blessings to the generations who come after us in this land, and that we spread their promise to those who have not yet lived them.

So many thoughts flooded my mind… my grandparents – the first Americans of my family, who not long after their birth into citizenry joined the worldwide fight to preserve all of humanity from tyranny. My great-grandparents, who believed in the promise of the country enough to come here from their homelands and never go back. Of those who fought not because they liked war but because they loved peace, and who killed not because they held up death but because they believed so fervently in life.

I miss my grandparents today.

What I felt when I looked at that expansive sea of people who had gathered in the nation’s capital to witness a quadrennial history overcame me. In this nation where there is so much anger and spite, there were hundreds of thousands united not in violence and uproar, but in peace and hope. We are a people who remember always the strength of a union that so many presidents and citizens who came before us refused to allow to founder. It is not the hubris of living in the best of lands that fills me with such raw emotion. As tears rolled down my cheeks I knew, it is the blessing of having been born in a place that allows me to believe in something better because we have so many times seen something better dawn.

I was not raised to shout my patriotism from rooftops, though there is no one in my family who is not a patriot. I came from a long line of military servicemen and I have cousins who serve today, but we are not boisterous or staunch in military oaths. I believe there is danger in not only resting on, but shouting about the laurels of being an American, that we must ever be mindful of the need for striving toward a more perfect union. I do not know from where comes the feelings that swell within me today. I only know that I hope it never, ever fades.

In an age when we seem continually inspired more by horror than by hope, when fear seems to push us toward action more than understanding, today is a day when we are reminded that there is nothing so powerful as the promise of a free life in a free land, and that our task is not yet done, that our efforts are perpetual, that our delcaration was made in order to form a more perfect union, that those words invoke the unending walk with  steady hands on the plow.That as much as we honor those forefathers who established this country and struggled privately to keep it, those years and that union was, by definition, by the compulsion set forth on parchment, less perfect than now. That the truest way to honor them is not as omiscient gods but as great beginners.

That, with malice toward none and charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, we must strive together to finish the work we are in.

That that work is never finished.

That our truth is marching on.

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4 thoughts on “In Order To Form A More Perfect Union

  1. Barack Obama is not my president, but I stood and wept with pride while listening to his speech today. Black people living in North America are still struggling to overcome the self-limiting aftershocks of dislocation and oppression. This man, your president, sends the message loud and clear than any people, of any race, can accomplish any task and can overcome any obstacle, with love, with commitment, and with perseverance. He gives me hope.

  2. Good post! We sceptical optimists (realists hoping against all odds that things will turn out OK) get all choked up over stuff that should be routine but that taps into some deeper personal pain and joy. I held my breath during the entire inauguration and parade down Pennsylvania Ave, Abe Lincoln’s image kept popping into my mind, and I found myself praying that Obama would be protected. “Please protect him. Don’t let any sniper atop some building zero in on him. Please keep him safe.” I was just relieved when it was over.
    I remember choking up like that many years ago, while I was on sabbatical in Switzerland with my children. The younger one came home from her international school and said that they all needed to memorize their own country’s national anthem. She said she didn’t understand the words, so I sat down with her and went over it, line by line, and word by word, explaining words like “ramparts,” and the context of a flag still flying in battle, and what it signified. I began to openly weep as we got to “…the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
    This is a great country, but we have such a history of individual violence. So many Americans have a cowboy mentality that gives them an excuse for vigilante behavior.

    • Your last point is interesting and very true; we are the land of the original cowboy, at least the Marlboro man idea of a cowboy. And that comes with the shootouts and everything else. Humans can be violent by nature and prideful by fault. All we can do is our best to overcome that.

      And I was the same way throughout the inaugural. Frankly, I am that way every time. I just want the day to end safely.

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