On 9/11 I think about those who lost someone they loved. And those who had to witness or experience death and chaos. People’s bodies falling through the air. Life, short, fragile, and so sweet I feel it on my teeth, says, “I’m yours forever. I am. Believe me.” Not quite true. If today the collective focus of so many has an impact, if our hopes, for those who hope, and prayers, for those who pray, have import, I hope most of all that peace has come to anyone with personal experience of 9/11.
A liberal who votes as a Democrat, I haven’t had much of a relationship with the American flag. Not since I wore it printed on a cotton t-shirt in 1968. As a pre-teen engaged in standard pre-teen attempts at cool. Our flag has come to mean either god-fearing and conservative, or, when posted in miniature in a bank window, dollars exchanged here. After 9/11 I went to the local nursery and bought 30 seedlings in little green plastic pots. I planted a garden in my front yard. Red, white, and blue flowers. In those days following it seemed for the first time in my adult life that we all belonged to America and America belonged to all of us.
We’ve since reverted. Political fighting divvies up the country. People shout at each other, on television, in forums that are supposed to be about health or law or even college admissions. I’m not a political person. I hate arguing, and I do not intend now or ever to start stating any of my few opinions here. I understand I don’t have enough information to tell anyone else what to do or how to think.
I am, however, clear that we all have the right to be proud of our country. I’ve been a lot of places, and I’ve never found anywhere else in the world that does it better for more people than we do. Despite disagreements. Despite ways in which I might want America to do better, and you might want America to do better, and the fact that our ideas of what “better” means might be completely different.
If I can hope one more thing? That the concept of patriotism be left large, not small. I’d like for everyone to be able to fly a flag, because I hope there are more of us who love America than not. I hope that America, if we are to honor the good we can all agree on, remains a large idea. Not to abuse cheap sentiment or anything, but I’ve got kids out there.
Image: Jim Frazier’s Photostream on Flickr