Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

My Photo
Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

If the rain holds off, we will go into Cambridge tonight and watch the fireworks. We will sit on Memorial Drive, listen to the Boston Pops concert on the speakers and then look across the Charles River at the fireworks with the buildings of Boston's Back Bay in the background. We get to see the light of the fireworks reflecting off of the glass of the Hancock and Prudential buildings. Fireworks are one of my guilty pleasures. I know that they are derived from military technology. But I enjoy the colors and the explosions. I like the scale of the displays. I like it that they take up so much of the sky. I like to be close enough to feel the thump of the explosions on my chest. I like the transitoriness of the experience. There is no going back to see it later. It is not something you can enjoy on television. You have to be there. And part of the enjoyment is sharing it with a large number of other people. I even enjoy sharing the subway ride home even though the trains are packed.

But I have a real ambivalence about the holiday that is the occasion for the fireworks. The ideals of freedom, equality and justice that we claim for the United States – as if we have a monopoly on them – are all to often used as a justification and motivation for wars that do not promote those ideals. More and more it seems that the laws of the United States are being written to favor the rich and the powerful over the poor or even the average. I don't know if this is a change in how things are or if I have just become more sensitive to it. I think the turning point in this regard happened a number of years ago when Lynn and I went to the lawyer to draw up our wills. What he said in effect was, these are the rules. And then, if you want to spend the money and the time, here are all of the ways you can get around the rules. In other words, one set of rules for most people and another set for those who can afford to hire lawyers and establish trusts.

The real issue is that my ultimate allegiance is not to the United States or to any country. My ultimate allegiance is to God. Now politicians like to invoke God to bless the country and to insinuate that we somehow have a favored spot in God's heart. Certainly the God of ancient Israel and Judah is portrayed like that. The infidelity of Judah and Israel to that God is also amply documented. But the aspect of God that speaks to me is the God of the prophets who remind the rich and the powerful to remember the poor and the needy, who advocate for widows and orphans, who condemn those who join house to house and field to field so that there is no room for the poor, and who call to account those who use false weights and measures in the marketplace.

There are people who equate patriotism with wearing a flag pin on your lapel. This is a patriotism of outward forms. It seems often to be used as a mask to cover up our own infidelity to our ideals. To me the ultimate patriots are people like Martin Luther King who challenged us to live up to our ideals, who said that if we want the blessings of God on us and our posterity, that we need to build a society that embodies God's justice and compassion. We need a patriotism that is based on something more than a celebration of our military power and economic might. At a time when we see economic and environmental dislocations in our immediate future, how do we respond with compassion. How do we build a society based on justice and sharing equitably when our natural response is to seek security by holding on to as much as we can for ourselves.

Happy Fourth of July.

Will T


Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Hi Will.
This is a good post, but my real reason for this comment, given that I don't know your e-mail address, is to let you know of a tribute I wrote to Mel Long, who I think you knew back in the day of New Swarthmoor.

Feel free to delete this comment, as it is really a personal message to you, but I hope you will check out the article about Mel.
- - Rich Accetta-Evans

July 09, 2008 9:18 AM  
Blogger Will T said...

Yes I remember Mel from New Swarthmoor. I also had not kept in touch. Thank you for the link to your tribute. I will leave this here so that more people may have a chance to find it.


Will T

July 14, 2008 9:06 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home