Posts Tagged American

Independence Day 2016

12989702-waving-usa-flagEvery day of my life I give thanks for being an American. I had nothing to do with where I was born, but I am grateful for this accident of birth. I mean no disrespect for any other country. I was born into a working class family in upstate South Carolina. My parents were the salt of the earth. They worked hard to earn a living and to make a home for my sister and me. They were the kind of people who made this the great country that it is. They believed in the American dream and they instilled that belief in the two of us. They taught us that all honest work is honorable. They taught us to respect ourselves and that all people are God’s children.

My wife was born into poverty in West Virginia. Most would have said that she had no chance for a successful life. A caring public school teacher saw her potential and inspired her to want more for herself. Both of us received good public school educations. Both of us enjoyed wonderful, successful careers and after different paths we found each other later in life. Neither of us could have had the lives we have enjoyed any place else in the world.

I am proud that my country is still striving for that more perfect union. I am proud that we elected an African/American as president, but I will be just as happy when we elect a woman or a Hispanic. I will be even happier when those qualifiers are not even mentioned. Freedom and opportunity still ring from every hilltop and valley

I am thankful that we are free to worship or not to worship as we choose. I salute the flag. I proudly recite The Pledge of Allegiance and my spine tingles with the sounds of our national anthem, America the Beautiful and God Bless America. In the words of the country song, “I am proud to be an American.” My heart aches when our government abandons our time honored values of just treatment of our enemies. I do not deny that there are those who intend to do us harm and who strive to defeat our way of life; however, if we stoop to adopt their practices, the battle is already lost.

I pray without shame, God bless America. I pray for our leaders and for those who protect us at home and abroad. I pray that we will always be that land that proudly proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a nation of immigrants and our society has profited from the contributions of all those who came.

As we celebrate Independence Day, give thanks for all of those who gave their lives that you and I could enjoy this great land of freedom. Give thanks for those who strive every day to make this a more perfect union. Give thanks for those whose political opinions are different from yours because that means that we are still free to disagree and to express those disagreements. I did not ask anyone’s permission to write or publish this article and there are no guards outside my door. I can read whatever I choose to read and I can travel whenever and wherever I choose without interference. I will spend the day celebrating with my family the blessings we enjoy but too often take for granted. We will bow our heads and thank God for our blessings. We must learn over and over again it seems that freedom isn’t really free.

On this Independence Day and every day of my life, I am blessed to be an American and I am grateful for the privileges and responsibilities that go with being a good citizen.

Tags: , , ,

As American as Apple Pie? – Reverend Susan Sparks

What a perfectly baked dessert can teach us about race in America

Last week, the New York Times published an article that noted the irony of identifying apple pie as a uniquely American symbol. In fact, most of the key ingredients in an apple pie are from far-off, exotic places. For example, apple seeds came to the US via European travelers who acquired them from Kazakhstan – the fruit’s genetic birthplace. Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, and nutmeg, brought to Europe by the Dutch around 1600, comes from Indonesia.

The article suggests that Americans should use the phrase, “as American as pumpkin pie,” instead of, “as American as apple pie,” as pumpkins are actually native to North America. But I’m not willing to go that far.

When you think about the nature of America as a melting pot of peoples from all over the world, an apple pie is really the perfect metaphor for this country, or at least the country as it should be: a finely-tuned balance of ingredients and flavors that all come together to make a thing of beauty.

Sadly today, however, this balance is off; much like the apple pie I once made, which, due to the top to the cinnamon shaker falling off, was overly full with cinnamon. I was left with a cinnamon pie that included a few apples.

Today, America is like a pie in which one ingredient overpowers the other, where the balance is off, and where the thing of beauty is ruined. This is true in relation to a wide array of issues in our country from immigration to domestic violence, yet given the news this week from Ferguson, Missouri, I want to talk about imbalance in terms of race.

Like the cinnamon in my pie, the privilege of white citizens in the US overpowers all others, especially those of color.

The statistics are nothing but tragic:

In 2011, the median white household income was 72% higher than the median black household income. Black citizens also have a significantlyhigher poverty rate than whites and are incarcerated nearly six times the rate of whites. In fact, studies of New York City show that in 2013, 86% of the people pulled over due to the stop-and-frisk law were black and Latino, whereas 11% of whites were stopped.

The balance is off. And when one ingredient overpowers the others, a thing of beauty is ruined.

When you marginalize an entire sector of the population — when you take away access to opportunity and the means to build a better life, then things start to unravel. Unemployment and crime begin to rise and we start to see what some have termed “the criminalization of race.”

And this takes a toll on all of us. When people are excluded from opportunity, we all lose that opportunity. Our society loses individuals who are posed to grow into our artists, our scientists, our poets, our painters, our thinkers and our builders. A thing of beauty is ruined.

If only we would follow the recipe; a simple recipe of just five words: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

But don’t let the simplicity of these words fool you. While this is a short commandment that demands justice and equal sharing of privilege and power, it is one that we mess up every day. For you can’t love your neighbor if you constantly hold them in fear and suspicion; you can’t love your neighbor if you pretend to respect them, but in your heart revile them; you can’t love your neighbor if you take away his or her access toeducation, opportunity, and freedom.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “It is cruel to say to a bootless man that he should pull himself up by the bootstraps. It is even worse to tell him to lift himself up by his bootstraps while someone is standing on his boot.”

Racism is an ugly reality in our country, but luckily we have a recipe to make a difference. True, we’ve messed it up: one ingredient overpowers the others. But I say, let’s start again. Let’s bake a new pie. Let’s create in ourselves a new heart and then, over time, a new world.

As the writer and priest Tom Ehrich wrote, “We must stand on the battlefield itself — the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, the hiring line when a job opens, a health clinic when battered and raped women show up for help, a voting station when the brown and black are turned away by clever stratagems – [we must stand] on that battlefield to see the wounded.”  Amen to that.

 

Tags: , , ,

Independence Day 2013

 

12989702-waving-usa-flagEvery day of my life I give thanks for being an American. I had nothing to do with where I was born, but I am grateful for this accident of birth. I mean no disrespect for any other country. I was born into a working class family in upstate South Carolina. My parents were the salt of the earth. They worked hard to earn a living and to make a home for my sister and me. They were the kind of people who made this the great country that it is. They believed in the American dream and they instilled that belief in the two of us. They taught us that all honest work is honorable. They taught us to respect ourselves and that all people are God’s children.

My wife was born into poverty in West Virginia. Most would have said that she had no chance for a successful life. A caring public school teacher saw her potential and inspired her to want more for herself. Both of us received good public school educations. Both of us enjoyed wonderful, successful careers and after different paths we found each other later in life. Neither of us could have had the lives we have enjoyed any place else in the world.

I am proud that my country is still striving for that more perfect union. I am proud that we elected an African/American as president, but I will be just as happy when we elect a woman or a Hispanic. I will be even happier when those qualifiers are not even mentioned. Freedom and opportunity still ring from every hilltop and valley

I am thankful that we are free to worship or not to worship as we choose. I salute the flag. I proudly recite The Pledge of Allegiance and my spine tingles with the sounds of our national anthem, America the Beautiful and God Bless America. In the words of the country song, “I am proud to be an American.” My heart aches when our government abandons out time honored values of just treatment of our enemies.

I pray without shame, God bless America. I pray for our leaders and for those who protect us at home and abroad. I pray that we will always be that land that proudly proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a nation of immigrants and our society has profited from the contributions of all those who came.

As we celebrate Independence Day, give thanks for all of those who gave their lives that you and I could enjoy this great land of freedom. Give thanks for those who strive every day to make this a more perfect union. Give thanks for those whose political opinions are different from yours because that means that we are still free to disagree and to express those disagreements. I did not ask anyone’s permission to write or publish this article and there are no guards outside my door. I can read whatever I choose to read and I can travel whenever and wherever I choose without interference. I will spend the day celebrating with my family the blessings we enjoy but too often take for granted. We must learn over and over again it seems that freedom isn’t really free.

On this Independence Day and every day of my life, I am blessed to be an American and I am grateful for the privileges and responsibilities that go with being a good citizen.

Tags: , , ,

Thankful Thursday – The United States

Every day of my life I give thanks for being an American. I had nothing to do with where I was born, but I am grateful for this accident of birth. I mean no disrespect for any other country. I was born into a working class family in upstate South Carolina. My parents were the salt of the earth. They were the kind of people who made this the great country that it is.

My wife was born into poverty in West Virginia. Most would have said that she had no chance for a successful life. Both of us received good educations. Both of us enjoyed great, successful careers and after different paths we found each other. Neither of us could have had the lives we have enjoyed any place else in the world.

I am proud that my country is still striving for that more perfect union. I am proud that we elected an African/American as president, but I will be just as happy when we elect a woman or a Hispanic. I will be even happier when those qualifiers are not even mentioned.

I am thankful that we are free to worship or not worship as we please. I salute the flag. I proudly recite The Pledge of Allegiance and my spine tingles with the sounds of our national anthem. In the words of the country song, “I am proud to be an American.”

I pray without shame, God bless America.

As we celebrate Independence Day, give thanks for all of those who gave their lives that you and I could enjoy this great land of freedom. Give thanks for those who strive every day to make this a more perfect union. Give thanks for those whose political opinions are different from yours because that means that we are still free to disagree and to express those disagreements.

On this Thankful Thursday and every day of my life, I am blessed to be an American and I am grateful for it.

Tags: , , ,