Monday, August 20, 2012

At Odds With America

We have quite a story.  Quite a history.  Do you ever wonder how you are contributing to the history of the world?  I believe in a world of wonders, and I believe that all of our lives contribute to the world’s story one way or another.  Maybe it’s just naivety, but I like to think that my life makes a difference and that we truly can change the world for the better.  This doesn’t come from a lack of knowledge, experience, or insight.  I may be young, but I have seen a bit of mess and horror in the world.  I have seen poverty more closely than most of my neighbors, and I am humbled by it.  It plagues me and the land of luxury surrounding me. It is all too easy to sit in despair and judgment.  Knowledge of the world can be so real, so raw, you can hardly imagine beauty and goodness.  Reality is just that – real, tangible, experiential.  I want to experience the world in all its fullness. I am thankful for these raw and startling experiences of wretchedness. They keep me grounded, humbled, and simple.  But I am incredibly grateful for the interruptions of wonder, of being surprised by grace, and that hope makes its way into my spirit in some magical way.

I recently finished reading John Steinbeck’s account of travels across the country with his dog, Travels with Charley.  He embarks on an unusual journey of wandering intention, with an ambition to learn something about America and the nature of humanity, ultimately wondering, “What are Americans like today?”

I do not consider myself a patriot.  More often than not, I struggle with the elements of division, superiority, and blindness that have inundated America.  Most conversations surrounding politics or religion make me want to turn in my citizenship for all the misunderstanding, disrespect, and division.  I do not care to be grouped in that category of “American.”  You might think that the violence, oppression, and genocide we have witnessed around the world is reason to believe America is excluded from the “inhumane”...  

For the past few years, America and I have been at odds.  I have been trying to reconcile myself to her, much like Steinbeck.  Along the way, I have discovered hope, transformation, and humility.  I know that we’ve got a lot of work to do yet, but I also know that we’ve come a long way. Rather than gain pride, I am more humbled to be an American.  I have found a renewed sense of responsibility.  Rather than try to shrug off the smell of America when I am in another country, I am compelled to embrace who and what I am, sharing my resources, knowledge, and experience.

My question is, what kind of story are we living?  How do our lives factor in to the history of the world?  If someone like John Steinbeck were to travel across America with his dog now, what would he find Americans are like today?  Would he find that we’ve changed much in 50 years? I think it is the belief that we have changed that keeps me going. I believe that we have a responsibility to be the best possible representatives to the world of this little pocket of humanity.

These days I have more questions than answers.  

Perhaps if we consider ourselves ambassadors of peace, we might be able to share our dream with Rwanda, Sudan, Libya, and Haiti.  And if we come together with openness, in brotherhood, I believe they can teach us something great, too.  Let’s do away with the us and them.  We don’t need it. Because that’s not really us, and that’s probably not really them either.  When heaven crashes into earth and we all come around the table, I’m not so sure the passport, flag, or political position will matter so much.  I do not wish to sit at that table able to speak only of myself, nor do I wish to sit in shame.  I only hope that I already know my neighbors and that we have joy in being different, together.

No comments:

Post a Comment