Home of the brave, land of the free?

I originally wrote and published this piece in January of this year. It was a bit “off brand” for me and I didn’t necessarily understand why I was writing it or why I felt compelled to share it. Sometimes things can only be understood in retrospect. I’m re-blogging this now as the relevance seems more clear. Thanks for reading!

Citizens of the United States have been indoctrinated by a collection of myths, one of which is the idea that we live in the ‘land of the free, home of the brave.’ Every country encourages cultural ethea, ideas to consolidate a shared identity. And we often accept these ideas as our lived experience until confronted with contrary evidence. Even then, we sometimes dismiss the dissonant notes, preferring to hold on to an ideal, sometimes framed as love of country. We are tempted by convenient untruths to avoid the discomfort of meaningful change.

Disparagement is not my goal here. I, too, am tempted by comfortable illusions. In particular, I want to avoid any hint of criticism towards our military troops, who stand honorably in their commitment to serve. I am grateful for the freedoms I enjoy, the relative privileges I have as a US citizen.

Even so, I think it’s time to have an honest conversation about whether we are actually living in the land of the free. We may indeed enjoy relative freedoms, but at what cost to ourselves and others with whom we share this planet?

On some level we’ve accepted our lot. We pay our taxes and take our shoes off at the airport. We go about our business without thinking too much about war. We are a nation protected from others. Except we don’t really feel safe when we allow ourselves to look beyond the barriers we’ve erected, when we truly absorb the state of our global and domestic fragility. 

What if we aimed for universal prosperity? What if instead of building walls, highlighting differences, and creating wars, we actualized our shared humanity? 

But this isn’t possible! Or is it?

Heck if I know! But I believe we need a new level of honesty about whether we are behaving in ways that are life-sustaining over the long term. This includes conversations about climate change, but much more. How can we move beyond conditioned fears, along with false notions about who we are? How can we do the right things, even if they are difficult and inconvenient? What are the right things? 

We live in an international world, more connected than ever. What happens in one area of the globe affects us, whether or not that is immediately apparent. I could be wrong, but it seems to me we will never be able to ‘Make America Great’ if we do not find solutions that benefit all who share this planet. Independent of politics, don’t we ultimately want the same things, chief among them safety and freedom?

I believe when some of us feel imperiled, none of us are truly safe. Or free. True freedom requires safety and prosperity for ALL, not only the people we like.

I don’t know how we’ll get there. But if we don’t look honestly at ourselves, I know we never will.

Can we be brave enough to begin?


6 thoughts on “Home of the brave, land of the free?

  1. it will be interesting to see if anyone disagrees with the lovely thesis put forth here. i wonder if anyone might want to quibble with ‘indoctrinated,’ which has a somewhat perjorative flavor to it. but i think the idea that our country could put more energy into setting the table for widespread abundance instead of resrouces into protecting what we have, hoarding our blessings as it were and keeping them from the ‘others,’ the diaspora of lazy have-nots that some believe populate the rest of the world seems like a sound idea to me. you wonder how we can move forward to construct the kind of world you are hoping for? i can think of at least two ways.

    first, each of us could commit to a core of personal ethics including not harming another being, not using harmful speech, not taking what has not been freely offered, being clear headed by not taking mind altering substances, and not misusing our sexual energy. if we were each to adhere to these core values, our basic friendly nature would be more likely to emerge when interacting with others. we would be more likely to rejoice in the successes of others and compassionately respond to their suffering. the second thing we can do is follow (elect, in our country) leaders who inspire us to be our best selves. remember in the movie as good as it gets, when jack nicholson tells helen hunt: “you make me a better man”? that’s what i’m talking about. every one of us can tap into our fears of insufficiency, inadequacy, scarcity. if that’s where we go, we put energy into getting there faster and deeper. if instead we see the place of light and keep our focus trained on it, we small selves can become increasingly illuminated. and the light will reveal that the ‘other’ is not so different from ‘me.’

    that’s my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely vision, Amanda, added to by esayer. I think there is a portion of US society that is susceptible to fear. Fear manifests in myriad ways (voter suppression, bigotry, misogyny, racism, blaming of those without power, hoarding, economic disparity, incarceration). Fear is easily manipulated, and it entrenches in the face of a challenge. So how do we challenge fears in such a way that it opens minds instead of digs in the heels? I don’t know. Perhaps a pandemic will change the country because there won’t be a choice but to reshape our nation. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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