CUMBERLAND FORESIDE — The Fourth of July is a day traditionally set aside for parades, fireworks, barbecues and waving the American flag. I have always participated by engaging in one or more of those activities, although perhaps not with the same fervor as some.

This year I was in a quandary as to what to do, how to mark the occasion. I am well aware of what we have in our country. I can get up in the morning and shop at any grocery store, several within 10 or 15 minutes; I can attend any house of worship I choose; I can speak out against policies and practices with which I disagree without being threatened with imprisonment or death; I can vote and contact my local and national representatives to express my views.

So what is my quandary? I am saddened and, at times, downright frightened by some of the things this country is doing in the name of national security – treating those “not like us” as criminals, separating children from their parents, barring those “not like us” from entering the country based on what looks suspiciously like religious discrimination, and generally not exactly welcoming “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I was not in a mood for donning red, white and blue and humming along with “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

None of this is to say that I don’t love and appreciate this country. During the 1960s, those opposed to any form of protest would say “America, love it or leave it.” That is not, nor has it ever been, my choice. It is my home; it has always been my home and likely always will be.

A couple of quotes come to mind, one from the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, former chaplain of Yale and a social and political activist. He often referred to being in an ongoing “lover’s quarrel with (my) country.” The other is from an HBO series in which a news anchor was asked, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” His response: “It’s not, but it can be.” I choose to be here and participate in some of the ways “it can be.”

So how exactly am I doing that? I do all those things I mentioned earlier that I have the freedom to do because I live here. I vote, I participate in demonstrations when and where possible, I contact my elected representatives. I sometimes speak up in the face of bigotry and things I view as just plain wrong. I say “sometimes” because that is the truth. I acknowledge that I sometimes lack the courage, unwilling to face the consequences. Too often I play it safe. I don’t always reach out to feed and clothe “the least of these.”

State Sen. Shenna Bellows spoke at the rally I attended June 30 in protest of our government’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. She not only spoke eloquently, but also challenged us to do more than stand there in front of City Hall in the blazing sun carrying signs. She challenged us to engage in civil discourse with our friends and neighbors with whom we disagree. She asked if we were willing to speak truth to power and come up with specific ways in which we were willing to do that. She challenged us to support, both financially and with our time, organizations that are doing good work on behalf of immigrants. And above all, she urged us to go to the polls in November and vote.

So what does all that mean for me? I can rest on what I am already doing – volunteering at our local food pantry, which serves mostly immigrants, volunteering for hospice, working with folks recovering from addiction. I could also add something else, something new, something that catapults me out of my comfort zone.

Stay tuned; I will keep you posted on what is next.

In the meantime, here is what I did in lieu of ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the fireworks. I had a quiet dinner with my husband and watched another episode of “Cosmos,” narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This series provides me with a badly needed perspective on just who, what and where we are in the overall scheme of things. We are all made of stardust. That includes me, you, Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa and Donald J. Trump.


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