This post is going to be vastly different than my normal posts, but I didn't have anywhere else to really delve into my own mind, so here we go.
Tonight as I was eating dinner with the kids, we got into a silly song time, which is not uncommon around here. We love singing goofy songs, or taking songs we know and putting silly words into it, and the kids laugh and laugh. As I was singing words about spaghetti-faced-Katie to the tune of Scooby Doo, Anna started singing one about broccoli set to the tune of the National Anthem. I laughed with her, but then decided to take a teaching moment about where that song really came from.
A few moments later, I found myself in tears as I told the kids about Francis Scott Key and how scared he must have been the night he waited and watched as the British bombarded Fort McHenry, but when he looked at dawn's first light--we had won! The flag still stood as a symbol of freedom and hope, and how inspired he was to write the Star Spangled Banner detailing that horrific night, and both the physical and spiritual light the next morning brought. Then I sang the song to my children, and amazingly they listened with eager ears.
When I reached the final line of the first verse, though, something struck me that I've never really thought about before. "Oh Say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?"
I'm such a big fan of the next three verses that are so rarely sung, that usually I glean over this very important line without much thought and say "Well, if you read on, you'll learn more..." But truly, the point is made here. What are we doing on a daily basis to secure our freedoms and bravery?
Recently I've been struck at the polarity of this country with the upcoming election. I'm not making a statement here over which candidate or political party I prefer. Neither are perfect, and neither should be hailed as such. Both should be respected, but more importantly, it is our job as citizens to respect our elected officials and to vote according to our conscience. It's not going to be the same as your neighbor because, let's face it, you are different people! You come from different backgrounds, and what your whole life is based off of may not have any significance to someone else. Your jobs are funded differently. You pay different amounts of taxes. You prefer different music. You want different lifestyles, so naturally you should vote differently. We do all have one important thing in common, though: where we live. We choose to live in this beautiful country, but it is our responsibility to make it great. If we want the freedom to raise our kids our way (or also, to not have children at all!) we must protect those rights by upholding them, and to me that means studying the viewpoints of political candidates and voting for what we as individuals deem the best fit for us.
I firmly believe that this right to choose our elected officials and also to vote for laws they pass is what makes our country the land of the free. It is our great constitution that originally granted us such rights, and since it was first written in 1787, it has only been changed a few times: changes that allow voting rights to extend to all US citizens of legal age. Otherwise, nothing has been changed that prevents us from exercising our sacred right to dictate the way this country is run.
I want to do everything in my power to uphold this right, and the other freedoms extended to us in the Constitution. Along with voting my mind, however, I also believe it is my duty to support everyone else in their rights. I don't mean that I agree with everything they say... in fact, at best we usually only like about half of each other's ideas... but it means that I acknowledge their right to their opinion and don't hate them, get angry with them, demean them, or hurt them for having it. Sometimes that is excruciatingly difficult--especially when their highest priority in life is perfectly contrary to mine. If they are law-abiding citizens, they have the Constitution-(and dare I say God)-given right to their own opinions and plans on how to run their life. That is not my choice to make or enforce.
It does not help us have a land of freedom and bravery to put down another's opinions. It does not help us uphold the constitution to call someone "The Devil Incarnate"--especially one who has been backed by the majority of citizens to represent us for a few years. It does not help us be a united, strengthened people if we are angry and vengeful because we happen to disagree. Extremism is not helpful in the quest for hope. It's time, at last, that we simply agree to disagree, to support our good choices and do our best to keep the laws.
I think we all have the same eternal goals in mind: to live in a country that is safe, secure, and strong; a country where we can live our dreams--whatever they may be; a country where we can raise our families in peace without fear of recrimination because of our differences; a country where we are free to choose who we want to be and will be supported by our neighbors, friends, and governement in that quest; a country that is free and brave. Shouldn't these universal goals be enough to unite us and stop this constant fighting between political parties? Just because we take parallel roads to get there doesn't mean we're not heading in the same direction. Oh, most certainly those roads twist and turn independently, but that's because they left from different locations. The important thing is that we keep blazing our own path to get to our destination, and that we pause as often as we can to help another along.
Politics will always be messy. It must always be messy. One government cannot be perfect for millions of citizens. But it is only as strong as those citizens. We must set aside our conflicts and buoy each other up in our differences. A flag pole cannot hold up our great flag. We must hold it up ourselves, in our hearts and actions. It is us and our unwavering tolerance and support for each other, our representatives, and our freedoms that releases the broad stripes and bright stars over our lands. It is us that makes it proudly wave. Every day that we work at this and try our hardest is another day that "The Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave--O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"