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Reflections Post July 4th

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

I was watching the fireworks over St. Augustine last night standing next to my older son. We were located on a rooftop of a local business which afforded a decent view of the display. Many others were present with their friends and family. Music could be heard above the sounds booming and crackling in the distance.

As we watched this truly beautiful light show, I shared with my son how I would feel upon returning to this country as a child. Due to my father’s profession, we - my siblings and I - lived much of our childhood overseas; mainly in Latin America. Every few years, we would return from these foreign assignments. And upon our return, a sense of appreciation would arise anew for this country and what it represents. Of course, when I was very young, I could maybe not express this so much in words. It was a feeling for sure; an appreciation for home and all that this entailed.

It need be said, this was certainly not at the expense of the country we had just left. I always had a strong appreciation for each of these countries, unique in their cultural and historical regalia, as well. They each welcomed us and provided wonderful experiences.

Travel does so broaden the heart and mind. It can remove complacency and restore appreciation for that which exists elsewhere, as well as at home. And, most significantly and powerfully, it reveals our common humanity.

As I was speaking to my son about these feelings of my youth (and I am now 66, and soon 67!) toward this country, he acknowledged this but offered a rejoinder; that things aren’t so great right now here. It was said simply and gently but revealed much.

As a young person, I felt the uniqueness of this American experiment in democracy. But, I didn’t idealize it. For instance, I marched against the Vietnam War as a teenager. I had an awareness of the folly and insanity that can inhabit some of our policies, both foreign and domestic. (My father also felt the Vietnam War was awful, and didn’t want his sons to be a part of that in any way. I recall him saying war was hell and that he had fought enough for the entire family. I also recollect him saying that, if his sons were drafted, he wanted them to leave for Canada. He, who had part of the 442 Infantry unit during the Second World War - the courageous Japanese-American purple heart battalion - felt this way. He was nobody’s fool.)

Still, the enlightened principles and high mindedness at the heart of our system of governance, the uniqueness of these, cannot be denied. This was the sense of “home” that I felt and appreciated so, as a youth.

And, yes, my older son is right. Things aren’t so great here right now. We are in a dark time where these principles, the vision for this country, is being sorely tested.

Everything has its shadow side. And, America’s shadow has been increasingly showing itself, a shadow greatly exacerbated by the recent Trump era; an influence which continues today. This shadow is rife with racism, fear of change, and fear, period. This fear leads to, for one, material accumulation for its own sake and a growing and more dramatic gulf between the haves and have-nots.

Another area that needs immediate attention: The enormous prevalence of guns and concomitant violence in the American culture is so obvious and so sad. Hugely impactful regulation and reform in this area of gun ownership through legislation is necessary and has been for a very long time.

The ascendency of the Trump factor in our country, to me, seems fueled largely by a fear of the eventual loss of dominance and power by the white populace, in particular. We are a melting pot country - a great strength and beauty - but this signature reality is not readily accepted by those who have largely held power since this country’s inception.

Loosening the reins on power and acceding to the progress that needs to happen where more inclusivity and equality occurs is not taking place gracefully.

Additionally, our country’s past which includes the awful violence and degradation of slavery, as well as abhorrent treatment of the native populations needs to be fully acknowledged. No white-washing history allowed.

This is part of the healing.

And when will we see a woman president? Truly amazing that this hadn’t happened yet.

Oh, but most importantly, have we - as a country - been good stewards of the earth? Or, have we allowed capitalism, who’s greatest amoral priority is the bottom line, to rule the day here? Capitalism, unto itself, is not bad, but allow entrance of human greed and short-sightedness, and there you have a problem.

Our poor earth. She does the best she can as we humans plunder and selfishly use.

Why have we, as a country, not led on this front globally? If we are truly the shining city on the hill, why have we not done this? History will not treat us kindly for our negligence and ignorance.

And yet, with this shadow seemingly more evident each day, I had another feeling last night. I had this sense, that somehow - we as a country will somehow - squeak by this one. Somehow, the resiliency and light enshrined in our governing principles will see us through. I don’t say this blithely. This is not an easy time for this country. Far from it.

But nothing can impede the march of progress. This is the way of our evolution as a species. We learn. We grow. We accept and embrace change. We (eventually) take that higher ground.

So, America, are you going to do this? Are you going to choose love over fear? And I am not talking about love in it’s more superficial, tones. I am referring to that love which is our very essence; which readily shines forth when we don’t allow the clouds of fear to obscure it.

I sense, in the final analysis, love will have the upper hand. As I felt last night, during those Fourth of July fireworks, we will not be dominated by this shadow that has been looming.

We will meet it and ascend to our better angels.

As I felt during that marvelous firework display yesterday evening, we will, by grace, squeak by. And, in so doing, our country will garner a marvelous strength and light as she proceeds.

Annie Kiyonaga, M.A. RYT200

July 5, 2022

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