Honoring Those Who Served

Another Memorial Day, another opportunity to honor those who have served in our armed services, those who have lost their dreams and sacrificed their desires in battles that I can’t begin to fully understand. I absolutely am thankful for the men and women who have fought those wars and left us early and I am grateful even for those who served and lived and then returned to work and build families and communities. My battle is deeper, or bigger, with the concepts of fighting and killing and the senseless wars that we engage in around the world and the ways in which young poor people are given little option but the military as a means out of poverty. Always somewhat of a rebel, I have not been a flag waver just because we have one, I ask more questions. The current most distressing condition of our country begs for more questions, it seems our most patriotic duty, to really honor those who have fallen, is to ask the really hard questions right now.

I wonder at the label “Patriot” and how that has been so perverted to include those who spread hate and divisions and allow our country, our America!, to be infiltrated by the Russians. More and more evidence is surfacing that the elections were rigged, that the administration has been working back channels, that many of the GOP are in the pocket of Putin. I am no history major but I have read and watched a good deal about the McCarthy era and just cannot figure out how we have swung so far. During that time, the mere hint, a whisper, of being Communist got people blacklisted, changed the course of their lives. Now hearings are being convened again, subpoenas are issued, alarms are going off and excuses are made, flags are waved. Some people do not even want to look closer, to ask any questions, they are so filled with hate for Hillary that they cannot fathom anything said about their candidate is true. Tuned out, backs to the screen, fingers in their ears. How is that patriotic?

As the wreaths are laid today and the old pictures are posted on social media and families gather to remember grandpas and uncles who fought in wars long ago and aunts who have served more recently, I just have to ask what those who have fought would have us do? Blindly trust, shut down journalists, allow unskilled family members to take over in the West Wing, watch as Foreign Governments sound alarms? What did our fallen brothers and sisters give up their lives for? Wasn’t it that we would live free? Free to follow our Constitution, free to allow all the branches to work effectively in checks and balances? Free to worship? Free to serve each other and grow in our diversity and welcome those who are tired and hungry? Anyone who has served overseas has witnessed the ravages of war and understands the wealth we have here and the duty of our land to share and welcome those who are escaping tyranny. We grow stronger as a nation by listening to each other and to smart people in true journalistic endeavors who show us not only what is happening on battlefields but behind closed doors and during election nights and within the Oval office.

This Memorial Day, may we truly honor those who have given all by giving our all to keeping this land free. May we ask those tough questions of ourselves that may force us to admit we got duped. May we open our doors to those who are needing refuge from mass incarceration or the new war on “different.” Our grandpas and uncles and aunts and mothers will thank us for making their sacrifice worth it.

No one’s as tough and strong as He

Reading to Plum is one of my most treasured rituals. Every evening we select books, curl up on the couch and begin the winding down process. The number and style of books depend on his mood, energy level, activities of the day. We may focus on our nature magazines that come monthly if we have been especially vested in outdoor exploring that day. Maybe a book on sharing or waiting or manners if we need a bit of back up in those areas. Books that garner laughs are always read first as we ease into his own awareness that, yes he actually is tired. We have upstairs books, next to his bed for the serious sleepy portion of reading, books that reinforce my love for him and God’s even bigger love. Those are the books he drifts off to, our love books we call them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 brought a change to our routine. We had the television on. I was hyped, preparing for celebration, lamenting that I hadn’t bought any champagne. Plum asked many “what if’s” but I assured him that all was well. His kindergarten classroom held their own elections, choosing either cats, dogs or spiders. He proudly wore a sticker home that showed he voted. I knew this sticker would go in his forever box, one that holds all his baby stuff and memorabilia. He would want that someday, the day the first woman was elected president. He told me which real candidate all his friends were voting for, said with pride that he has talked some who were unsure into picking “Hillary Quinton”. He explained his reasoning, he was afraid of Trump, thought he would tear up peoples houses and take their money. I did some fact-checking on that but knew he had been exposed to ideas out-side of my control now that he attends school and plays with children at his apartment with mama. He rides buses, he hears things. Still, I knew that his fears would be laid to rest this evening, he would wake up to history and the anxiety of a bully as the president would be over.

We read our books, upstairs and down, but still he was too full of questions to drift right off as usual. Certainly he was picking up on my excitement, I tried to breathe more evenly, focus more determinedly. Slowing my cadence with each page, I settled us back into the security of his bedroom, his blankets, his slumber. I then raced downstairs to begin the celebration that turned to utter devastation, a heartache that just felt too unbelievable to absorb. With our string of unimaginable losses I chided myself for not expecting this, bitterness rising up with the bile in my stomach. I couldn’t imagine how I would explain to this child in the morning what I didn’t understand myself. How could I express confidence when I couldn’t stop crying?

Morning came, I waited for his questions. They didn’t come. He had trusted me that much.  I woke Chef to help me find the words. I avoided my Plum, drive by breakfast drop, tossing school clothes into the bathroom as he prepared for his shower, constant motion so that my eyes never met his. Finally the moment arrived, the talk happened. I delivered news and made it light, easy, no worries. I feigned confidence I didn’t feel. He asked why? Why did Trump win? Why didn’t people vote for Hillary? What happens if Trump tries to hurt kids? We talked about how he has parents and grandparents and teachers and if anyone tried to hurt him has lots of people he could tell.  Our government is the same. No one person is in charge, there are others around who will make sure that the rules are fair. Using his Pokemon cards as an example, I said what if grandma decided you could no longer have those? You would tell mom, right? She would overrule me and say yes he most certainly can have his cards.  And gran would have to listen to mom. He got the lesson. Then my sweetest Plum in the voice of an angel told me, “Anyway, God is the most powerful.”

We read “Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site” by Sherri Duskey Rinker on the nights we really need help slowing down, we need the gentle cadence of the story that reminds us to put each “toy” away. The story really is like child relaxation, one construction vehicle at a time. I confess to a story edit each time we come to the bulldozer. This piece of machinery is described as such, “No one’s as strong and tough as he.” I always remind Plum that of course God is stronger. He probably thinks it is part of the book. Those words spoken as he relaxes into me, resting on my lap, allowing the day to slide into night, have taken hold in his mind and heart. He knows who is the most powerful. Not the steamroller, not the bulldozer, not even the president.

I will continue educating this child, he will continue reminding me of truths. The most Powerful is still our leader. I know this and rest in this.  We are going to keep working on making sure God’s work is done, regardless of who sits in the Oval office. The One who died on the cross doesn’t change every 4 years, knows no political party, doesn’t need to reach 270 electoral votes. We are Christians and we will keep reading our books to the children and serving God’s people and feeding the hungry and giving refuge to persecuted.   Our work may have just gotten harder but we were never promised an easy walk.  If someone tries to take your “Pokemon” cards, let me know. I am ready for the fight.