I have often mentioned that two of the most important skills we need to cultivate to live more fully in a life-enhancing paradigm are noticing and participating.
Recently, I noticed how deeply disturbed and embarrassed I was with the way MY President of MY United States, treated the Prime Minister of Montenegro. Trump showed no graciousness, no respect, or even human kindness as he rudely pushed the Prime Minister aside, then adjusted his clothing like a demented peacock and pushed to the head of the line. I felt sad and angry with his behavior. I did not want anybody to think that he represented me or MY United States. Hopefully, if a child in one of our schools (private or public) had acted that way in the lunch line, she/he would have been reprimanded and sent to the back of the line. The lesson that “good people just do not behave that way” would have been taught early on. Don’t they teach common manners in military school?
- For me, his behavior was personal because he is supposed to represent me. And his behavior does not represent me or my values.
It is the responsibilities of the citizens to notice what our elected/paid representatives (I’m paying for his trips on Air Force One) do and how they behave. He is not “serving the people” well.
All the above is to say that if I want to be a citizen of this great country – and I am and I do – I need to notice, participate, and remember. Sometimes these three responsibilities are time-consuming, risky and a bit scary AND they are part of being a citizen in a country that allows and demands them all.
- My citizenship is a gift of my birth that I need to keep earning on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis. And, I take that gift seriously.
There are many other images from Trump’s trip I could mention and that image of the treatment of the Prime Minister of Montenegro haunts me as a symbol of “How NOT TO TREAT OTHERS.”
- “Good people never need to bully to make their point.”
- So, I notice and I Participate. That’s my job as a citizen.
Then, this weekend also is a time of remembering and I combine remembering with noticing and participating.
I notice that this weekend is Memorial Day weekend. There are so many reasons that, as I grew up, I loved this weekend and always looked forward to it – 1) it was the unofficial beginning of summer, 2) it was a family time and 3) it was a time of honoring and remembering those who had gone before and had given us life – all of them.
I have noticed that we used to have three national holidays during which we “remembered” and each was good and served its purpose.
I. Memorial Day was a national day of remembering all those who had gone before and honoring them. We honored friends and family who had contributed to our lives who had left us during the last year. We honored the lives of ancestors whose genetic make-up ran in our veins and who, literally, had given us life. We honored the four-leggeds who had taught us so much about how to be better human beings (humans can be slow learners and need all the help they can get).
Memorial Day was a time of honoring and remembering all who had touched our lives, especially our relatives. Stories were told. Pictures were shared. Tears were shared and we remembered and celebrated the lives that had participated in ours.
Memorial Day was a time when we experienced the ongoingness of our times with those who had gone before, paved the way and contributed to our lives in the many ways too numerous to count.
Memorial Day was a good time to remember who I was and the many people who had contributed to who I was as family, teachers, models, and accidental happenings along the way. Memorial Day was a day of remembering and savoring. It was bittersweet and more sweet than bitter.
I just lost a dear friend this last week. Tears fill my eyes as I write this and I am grateful for this day to “remember” her and so many like her who made my life all the more richer for her presence there.
We also honored the war dead and they were not the focus on this day. That day was on November 11th when we as a nation honored all those who had served in the military. They, of course, were included and they were not the focus on Memorial Day.
II. July 4 – Independence Day – What a wonderful day this was when I was growing up. Again, it was a day when family came together and spent the whole day – usually down by the river. It was a day “we” were together.
Mother and Grandma made sure we had a feast. There was homemade potato salad, steaks or ribs on the grill, corn-on-the cob, salad and the pinnacle of the day – Grandpa’s cooked homemade custard ice cream carefully turned and frozen by him (the expert!) in our big old five-gallon ice cream freezer. Oh my goodness! was that wonderful! (Now, I see a flotilla out on the lake in expensive boats – as I look out my window while I’m writing this) Mother, the self-appointed historian of the family, always made sure that we knew what this day was about and quizzed us on the history of the meaning of the 4th of July. We spoke about equality, freedom of choice, the necessity for participation, being educated so we could be responsible citizens and what voting meant. It was and is a day to be proud of our country.
As we talked, I could see the beautiful land the Native People had shared all around us. I marveled at the thirst that those who came from other countries had for freedom, independence, being citizens of their land and also what that meant to those here. I felt what it meant to have personal freedom of choice and share the vision of something different from a monarchy, oligarchy or dictatorship.
On July 4th, I knew that this day was about how wonderful my country was and that it would only stay that way if I noticed any form of tyranny that threatened those freedoms and participated and stood up against that tyranny in any form.
- This standing up for freedom could only happen and be perpetuated if I REMEMBERED, NOTICED, AND PARTICIPATED. These were my responsibilities and I tried to carry them out.
I loved the 4th of July. It was fun, rousing and exciting.
I will never forget the times watching the fireworks from our balcony in Butte, Montana. From our balcony we had a 360-degree view of the city. Butte is big on fireworks. Each little subdivision – the Irish, the Chinese, the Polish (the town used to be divided by ethnicity – not so much now) – has its individual fireworks starting just about sundown and finishing just before the city fireworks display takes off.
It is beautiful! I love the colors and varieties of the displays. When I was a child, my family owned the country grocery in a little town in Oklahoma. My family always had the 4th of July fireworks display in our backyard. Daddy, who was the oldest brother and a genius at such things, would, with the help of his younger brothers, set up the displays and designs. It was always so beautiful and a work of art. I was so proud that our family did this for the community. There was always a community potluck afterward. Those were good times.
It seems to me as I get older, that there is more and more emphasis on the banging and booming of the fireworks and less on the beauty than there used to be. Personally, I like the beauty better.
The 4th of July was always about freedom and independence from colonizers and monarchies. It was about Democracy.
III. Veterans Day – This was the day when the whole country focused on our troops and the sacrifice they had made in our history so we have the choice of the freedom to remember, notice, and participate. It was a day of parades, ceremonies, honoring and remembering.
Our freedoms in this country are the freedoms of a participatory, democratic government. The freedom of choice about the way we worship, what and how we think, the freedom to gather peacefully and protest. It is the freedom to vote, the freedom to be educated so we can vote wisely, the freedom to be who we are and make the contribution only we can make, the freedom and responsibility of the press to give us information we might not otherwise get and the freedom of the richness of differing opinions which embrace all our rights.
When these freedoms are threatened, we have a military to protect these freedoms. We do not have a military to impose a certain way of thinking or being on anyone – ourselves or others. Our military exists to protect the sacredness of differences in this country. And, when asked, it will help others protect their freedoms from dictators, monarchies, oligarchies and other tyrants.
We honor and respect those who serve in that military. And, that military is only a part of who we are. It is not all of who we are as a nation.
IV. In Summary – There are signs that we are beginning to function as a nation which is run by an industrial/military complex. The truth is, we are a nation based on laws and principles that support a democracy.
- Our nation was not conceived as a nation where the military or economics are our founding principles. They, the military and businesses, need to exist in the service of our principles and laws. Otherwise they contribute to the source of our problems not the solutions. The military and economics do not exist to support dictators, monarchies or oligarchies. Those who came here came to leave all that behind and build a nation “with liberty and justice for all.”
On this Memorial Day, it behooves all of us to Notice, Remember, and Participate.
I have noticed in the last few years all of these three supposedly different national holidays have, it seems to me, been pushed into days that focus on the military to the exclusion of others in the society such as ancestors and family who need to be Remembered and honored.
In the process of worshipping the military/industrial complex, we have forgotten who we are as a nation and moved more in the direction of becoming a monarchy, oligarchy, or dictatorship.
- We have lost our way as a Democracy and what we are doing with these holidays is a symptom of something much larger than these holidays themselves. AND, it is a signal flare shot up into the darkness of our slippage that needs to be noticed and attended to.
- We need to Remember our roots – the Vision of our Ancestors – Where we came from and What They Gave to Us.
- We need to Notice subtle and not-so-subtle changes in our country which are pushing us into retreat and not progress. We do not need or want monarchies, authorities, oligarchies or “rulers” to tell us what to do.
- We need to remember that it is our differences that are our strength.
- We need to listen to, honor, and respect ourselves and one another. We do not push others – the weaker or frailer out of line – everyone matters. Each viewpoint has something to offer a Democracy.
- We need to demilitarize our holidays and our society and remember what is important for everyone.
If we forget to Remember, Notice, and Participate our country – and the world – can only get worse.