Notes From Home: Overjoyed

We made it through the Fourth intact, or so it seems on this morning-after as I write this. Last night, the darkening skies sparkled with our gratitude for freedom and triumph over British dominance for the 245th time. The families gathered in lawn chairs at the ends of their driveways to watch the little kids wave red, white and green sparklers, while the dads lit cindercones in the streets, erupting bright stars and whistling screams, imagining incoming rockets that didn’t land. The good smells of barbecue smoke were replaced by the aroma of gun powder, and hazy halos ringed the street lights. I heard no fire trucks’ sirens pierce the noisy celebrations. The bombasts didn’t go on much past midnight. All in all, I’d say it was a really good Fourth.

“I didn’t even hang out my flag,” said my best friend from Oregon in a delicious phone call that afternoon. “No fireworks, either,” she said, mentioning the continuing impact on her psyche of the Jan. 6th invasion of the U.S. Capitol by some of our own flag-waving, patriot-claiming people. “I just didn’t want to risk any association with that element,” by which she meant the troops of Trump. She lives in Salem, the state capitol, where one of the elected representatives was just convicted of having opened its locked doors for the so-called protesters. I can’t think of them as protesters; I equate them with miscreants everywhere who fall under the influence of flame-eating tyrants in the name of righteousness. I think these Americans, our brothers and sisters, if they’re protesting anything, it’s the discipline of democracy.

Have they captured our flag? As Americans, it’s theirs to wave. As an American, it’s mine to refrain from waving. We are walking such an important balance beam right now, I think it helps to recognize the many ways we speak our minds about our country and our world.

I got to preach at Lindsay’s Methodist Church that morning, the pulpit temporarily vacant. The pews were mostly vacant, too, as half of the regular attenders found themselves otherwise occupied. The ones who came, I think, hoped to renew their hearts with the union of country and church, to be comforted that they’re one and the same. I found myself directed, however, to a different vision of faithful patriots: the rag-tag Israelites at the boundary of the promised land, waiting for Joshua to lead them across the Jordan and into battle, and the rag-tag American revolutionaries in 1776, crossing the Delaware under Washington, fighting for our independence from Britain.

In both cases, the hope—the driving need—was to create a nation where everyone had the possibility of having a little piece of land—a secure place to call home with food and shelter; a nation where those without those things would be cared for by those who had. A nation where equality wasn’t just a dream, but a goal, with rules to follow; a place to practice brotherhood. A nation of individual rights intended to create a commonwealth of prosperity and justice. God was (and is) on the side of that kind of nation in both cases. That’s why the walls of Jericho came a-tumblin’ down. That’s why the flag was still there after the bombing of Fort Sumter.

The song “The Battle of Jericho” is not in our hymnal, though it is a Negro spiritual like some of the others described by theologian Howard Thurman in his incredible little book called Deep River. Written in 1945, published in 1969, Thurman’s long essay describes some of the songs that carried the hopes and the faith of landless Black people struggling to reach the equal status of other Americans across the divide created by earlier white Americans’ enslavement of them. It is a wonderful testament to the power of music.

Another Negro spiritual, “We Shall Overcome,” is in our hymnal, however. I have been wanting to sing that hymn in church for the entire past year as a prayer for the whole country: that in our current struggle we might overcome this terrible, fearful bias against non-whites, that white supremacism will be defeated at last.

And since the pulpit was mine for a brief moment, that’s what we sang as our last hymn. I was overjoyed to hear our voices lift and ring in the rafters. I hope God was, too.

Trudy Wischemann is a non-flag-waving patriot and believer who writes in Lindsay. You can send her your faithful patriot dreams c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there. 

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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