Sunday, January 22, 2017

Making America Good Again: Patriotism, Prayers and Protests

My emotions have been all over the map these past few days.

This inaugural weekend I watched patriots gather to celebrate the peaceful transition of power between two very different men, with two very different visions for America.  I am grateful for the change and understand that others aren't.  I've been on the losing side a time or two.  I've done my protesting with signs, my voice and my pen. I get it.  This is how our constitutional republic works.

This year felt different.  I was anxious that there might be riots.  A number of groups had publicly announced their intention to destroy property and wreck havoc.  About 200 protestors were arrested but nothing disturbed the festivities. It was a bit freaky for me to see rioting in a part of DC where I've stayed, watching windows being broken out of the Starbucks I visited near my hotel. That, and the fact that some of our local police were there, brought that part of the story very close to home.  Thank God for the police!

Seeing things were under control, I took a deep breath and watch the swearing-in.  It happened.  No glitches. The new president's speech was realistic and optimistic.  When he ended, I felt proud of my country's leadership and hopeful that the blessings of liberty will be strengthened now and into the future. But then my heart sank when the commentators decried the speech as "dark" and "divisive."   Didn't they hear the same thing I did?

How can you not get excited when the President, echoing George Washington's distrust of political parties, points to the promise in Declaration of Independence that government derives its power from the consent of the governed.  He said:

"Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People."

Or how can you not be heartened when the new President reminds us that what unites us is more important than the identity politics that now divides us:

"It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator."

How could the pundits not feel hope and optimism - unless they were choosing not to?

So I took another deep breath and stayed glued to the TV to watch the speeches at the luncheon.  The new president was gracious to his political opponent.  The opposing party leadership was welcoming to the new president.  That was good.

I stayed on my love seat and cried with pride as military and high school bands marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.  I was moved when the President and First Lady, Vice-President and Second Lady danced with soldiers at the Salute to Our Armed Services Ball.

And then on Saturday morning, I watched the National Prayer Service.  The new President and Vice-President were led in prayer at the National Cathedral by 26 spiritual leaders representing 12 faith traditions including the Navajo Nation, Evangelical, Mainline and Catholic Christians, Mormons, the Greek Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Baha'i.  They prayed for our leaders, the military, the diplomatic corps, teachers, law enforcement, health care workers, working folks, the poor and neglected, the unemployed, the rejected and disempowered, widows and orphans, outcasts and refugees.  They prayed for our nation and our world.  They shared sacred texts and songs.  The music was glorious.  The recessional hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" had me in tears again.  What a great God we serve!

And then I caught glimpses of the "Women's March."  I lost interest in participating when they banned pro-life groups.  Abortion is one of those defining issues for me and if I could get to Washington for the March for Life next weekend I would.  But the so-called "Women's March" wasn't about issues important to all women, it was about issues important to some women.  Protest all you want, but don't say you are speaking for me especially when you express your disagreements with the new administration in such vulgar and repulsive ways.

I'll stick with patriotism and prayer over that kind of protest.

I try to understand "the other side."  I've gotten my news from sources all over the map. I kept all my Facebook friends even when some of the posts got ugly. I've tried to politely engage with folks to understand their positions and express my own.  It hasn't gotten me anywhere. I'm done. I need a rest from the folks who say I'm hateful because I'm not. I find myself wanting to hate them back and I don't like how that feels.

I just can't take it anymore!

So, it's time to disengage.   I'll spend my time cheering on those who think more like I do, including our new president and my legislators.  I'll get my news from primary sources - even if it's a tweet.

Sometimes just for a season, you need to walk away from conflict if you're going to stay sane.  For now I'll focus my time and energy on folks who love God and America - and keep praying for those who don't.  That's my part in Making America Good Again.

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