Letter From Claverack 07 04 2017 Thoughts from the creek on Independence Day…

It is as idyllic as it can be here at the cottage.  On an achingly clear day, the sun shines brightly through the green leaves of the trees.  A bee buzzes somewhere, the creek is so clear you can see its bed, the air is filled with the thrumming of insects and a soft wind moves the leaves gently.

My coffee is strong and I am slowly rising into the day, the Fourth of July, 2017.  My nephew, Kevin, is asleep in the guest room and it is so wonderful to be here, in this spot, enjoying the beginning of this day.

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Kevin prepping for a game of backgammon.

            It has been a blessing to have been here this spring and now summer, to see the earth return from winter’s sleep, bloom green and touch the peace of this spot.  Not far away, a deep throated frog croaks, signaling.

All of this is a treasure and a privilege and a boon to my sanity.

As I sat here, on this day which celebrates the birth of the United States of America, I was thinking what a messy birth and history it has been.  It means so much to, I think, all of us and yet those individual meanings are all mixed and jumbled, and so infused with anger.  The Week’s cover for June 30th had a “Blue” and a “Red” American glowering at each other, with a line asking whether “Are Red and Blue America headed for a divorce?”  The article is about a culture of rage.

And, as we live through this time in our country’s history, with the very real sense of rage on both sides of the political spectrum, I am doing my best to remember that the history of this country, for better or worse, has been driven by a sense of rage.  From the Boston Tea Party through our current Trumpian dystopia, there has been rage.

We didn’t part peacefully from England, we warred our way to independence.

We fought a Civil War from which, quite frankly, I don’t think we have ever recovered.

We have assassinated four presidents and there have been numerous other attempts which didn’t succeed.  Yes, violence is in our American DNA.

We ripped this land from Native Americans, dragged captives from Africa to work that land as slaves, built our version of the Athenian Empire and are now, and may always be, attempting to reconcile all the ugly facets of America with all the beautiful things it has been and can be.

Immigrants have flooded here from the beginning.  Each new wave was met with hostility by those who had come before.

It is ironic but not surprising that one of our current flashpoints is immigration.

An acquaintance of mine, a young Rabbi, recalled his immigrant grandmother hiding as a girl as mobs ran through New York’s streets, screaming, “Kill the Jews!”

America has been and is an experiment and other countries are experiencing our challenges.  The relative homogeneity of Europe is being challenged by the flood of migrants sweeping in, seeking a better life as did the millions who flocked to America, also seeking something better.

Change is hard and unwanted change is often met with rage.  We are a country constantly changing so it is not surprising we are raging.  Because of the acceleration of communication capabilities, we are more knitted together than with greater challenges in finding veracity.

I savor my idyllic spot and cling to the hope that reconciliation will come.  Not in my lifetime, I know, but at some point, America will hopefully become what so many politicians have called us, the bright and shining city upon the hill.

 

  • President-elect John F. Kennedy said, in an address to the Massachusetts Legislature on January 9, 1961, “During the last 60 days I have been engaged in the task of constructing an administration…. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella [sic] 331 years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a government on a new and perilous frontier. ‘We must always consider,’ he said, ‘that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.’ Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, State, and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities.”—Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169…”[4]

Let us remember this as we close out this year’s celebrations, let us face each other with the light and love Christ had when He, in the Sermon on the Mount, provided the base message for Winthrop, Kennedy, Reagan and others.

 

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