The Complicated Song of America

ImageLike most people, I find it very difficult to wrap my mind around senseless acts of violence like the bombing at the Boston Marathon yesterday. While I offer my deepest prayers and condolences, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough. That’s when I just have to dig in a little deeper and trust that even when I don’t understand, there is a peace far beyond me that only God can provide. 

But what really challenges me most during these moments are these over glorified sentiments of patriotism that only seem to arise during severe crises. Why does it take a national act of violence like Aurora or Newtown or Boston for all of us to realize that at the core of EVERY American we are all the same? While I appreciate the extra kindness and smiles on the Metro this morning, why weren’t these same smiles offered yesterday or any day for that matter?

One of my all-time favorite poems is “I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes. In this amazing piece, he brilliantly advocates for the Black man’s right to be an equal citizen of this country. While Hughes penned this work during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, I believe the hard work of including everyone in the complicated song of America continues. I think we all get so caught up in our own individual notes, verses, and lyrics that we forget that it takes EVERYONE to make the American symphony work. We fight so hard for a specific version of this song or the key that we believe it should be sung in, that we forget that John and Sally, Andre and Jackie, Luis and Maria, Yung and Seiko, and Michael and Richard, ALL want to join in the chorus, too. Instead, it unfortunately always takes a horrible moment like this to realize that EVERY person in this country wants the same thing – the right to work and earn an honest living; the right to worship (or not to worship) freely; the right to an affordable and safe place to lay our heads down at night; and the ability to create a greater future for our children.

As the optimistic diva that I am, I will not turn down those extra doses of friendliness that I’m sure will be present at least for the next few days. But when this moment of mourning passes, let us not forget to KEEP singing that same beautiful, complex, challenging, demanding and complicated song of America TOGETHER even when no one is watching.

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