Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Generous Patriotism

Mary Alice Klingensmith--a hopeful young citizen

This past Halloween we were blessed with an abundance of Trick-or-Treaters. Within thirty minutes, we knew we would have to increase provisions, so I made a run to the closest Kroger. This was on foot because the roads were clogged with happy young people and their families. Walking back, I passed through a narrow parking lot by apartments and I heard musical spoken language. This gave me a little thrill. How much my everyday world has changed! I can walk to the local store, walk in my neighborhood and hear languages from all over the world.
     When I got back home, I spelled David at the Treat-giving post. I was struck by the whole-ness and wholesomeness of the scene. There were girls with long thick braids and and girls with narrow braids. There were enthusiastic boys in all kinds of costumes. Interestingly, there were a lot of girls dressed as fairies. Most of the children were accompanied by what seemed to be the whole family. Happiness, politeness and a generous spirit filled the evening air. It was wonderful.
     When I was a Trick-or-Treater, it was a pretty different scene. We went out with friends for hours on end covering acres and acres of neighborhood. There was a lot of diversity in the costuming (as we were just as likely to have made our costumes ourselves) and not so much in the inhabitants of those costumes or the houses we visited. Our schools were pretty similar, mostly white, mostly middle-class (though class distinctions weren't all that obvious--so I'm guessing.)
      This homogenous quality did not have nearly the impact that Mrs. Preston's elementary school music  class had on me. We sang "Give me your tired, your poor" and "No man is an island" along with "Beyond the blue horizon." If I have been indoctrinated, it is here. I guess music has that effect on me. I was perfectly happy reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as well, but the idealism of a generous patriotism espoused by those songs is embedded in me.
     An incident that is ricocheting across the internet right now makes me think about my mother (whose birthday is today). My mother grew up in small-town West Virginia. It is true that is was a small college town (now University!).  My grandfather was principal of the high school, too. Perhaps it is obvious that education was important in the family. My mother studied very hard and received full scholarship to Radcliffe College from Pepsi Cola.  Studying anthropology was extremely eye-opening to MA. In her small hometown, she had faithfully (and with conviction) attended the Methodist church. Opening up to the world of faith and different cultures was an awesome experience for her. My father was similarly "opened-up" and my parents joined the Unitarian-Universalist church. I am certain that this experience allowed, and allows me to be less fearful of  the"other" and change, as the U-U church, along with a growing University of Kentucky attracted folks from around the world and of different faiths and cultures.
      I do not believe that everyone must hold my kind of patriotism.  I do believe that I come by my patriotism honestly and I remain enthusiastic about what my country means to me. I am grateful for this gift of generous patriotism.