Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pursuing Happiness

I entered my church on Sunday (I know reading this you are thinking ‘this heathen potty mouth woman attends church?’ – in fact I do) and it was decorated with bunting and a huge American flag – and the organist – who is freaking amazing by the way – was playing a medley of patriotic songs – you know the fare – Yankee Doodle Dandy, Grand Ole Flag, etc. – and doing a phenomenal job of it – I don’t know if most people even realized how amazing it was that he was playing these orchestrated arrangements on a pipe organ (a fast dying art from what I am able to witness in churches lately) – so immediately I was pumped up – I love great pipe organ music, my grandmother having been a virtuoso and I’m as a big a patriot as you will find anywhere. Then the service began, and it was a lovely tribute to certain aspects of being an American that most of us take for granted daily but given a reminder appreciate deeply – ‘Freedom’, ‘Diversity’, ‘Unity’, etc. – well being this insane patriot that I am – and because of personal experiences (that I plan to share in this blog) – I cried like a baby – my kids were stunned, the people seated behind us were quite taken aback as well – since the song that was being sung was celebrating freedom and was upbeat and nearly everyone was just joyous and happy and celebratory.

You see I have always been intensely patriotic, much more so than any of those people around me. Add to that, I spent a Fourth of July overseas. Now on the surface that doesn’t sound like much, and for many people probably wouldn’t be much – but my two favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Independence Day. I was in Portugal, not long after their revolution. (actually it was in 1974, but by recovery terms, it was still recent) which was largely orchestrated to end oppression and poverty – which in Portugal – at least during that time was enormously evident. I tell you spending a day when you ordinarily celebrate the glorious freedoms that we have here in a place where people are still afraid of the government, where poverty is so hideous that it makes strong people physically ill to witness the living conditions, where mothers will maim their children purposefully in order that their child will have better opportunities to beg more effectively later in life, because that is the best economic opportunity they can imagine, and where fascism had such a strong hold for such a long time that socialism seems like freedom – and then spend more of your summer witnessing the effects of Franco’s regime on Spain (ended 1975-1982) and the residual Franco-esque government that at that time still existed in the countryside. These men Salazar (Portugal) and Franco (Spain) took other people’s lives and imposed an absolute lack of freedom upon them – they used power and influence to oppress in some of the ugliest ways known to modern “civilizations” – not in the same huge numbers as others, or with ethnic ‘cleansing’, or with what would be deemed genocide – but they stole lives just the same – something that just does not happen here – not at the hands of our government – not during my lifetime.

So when those people stood up in my church and sang about freedom and about diversity and about unity – I cried, I couldn’t stop crying – and in fact I’m teary eyed now. I feel so tremendously lucky to live somewhere that I can attend ANY church I please, and listen to that church say ANY thing they please about the government, and I have work, and I can give my money to ANY cause or person I please, and I can say what I want about causes, or churches, or government, or business, and I can engage in business, or causes, or government – these doors are open to me and my children, and will be open to their children. Our government isn’t perfect, none are – but, ours is a far cry better than any other the world has to offer – and I wouldn’t live under any other flag willingly, EVER.

Happy Fourth of July everyone – don’t take any bit of your freedom for granted, at least not on that day – even if you aren’t a United States Citizen – gloriously celebrate any little freedom that you have – because…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Pursue happiness, and appreciate your freedom to do so.

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