Today I realized that I don’t love the United States of America. My childhood years growing up as an American expatriate in Asia laid a shaky foundation for patriotism, propelling me to consider becoming an ex-patriot by choice. Living abroad has formed in me a disdain for our greed-driven foreign policy, reproachful treatment of visitors and recent immigrants to our Nation, and the ethnocentrism pervading our internal media and foreign relations. Sometimes I have wished for the more benign reputation of a Caucasian-Canadian and have considered adding “eh’s” to my speech in order to be mistaken as such (no, I haven’t really, but it would seem funny to do so!).
Moving to the United States for college, I have been challenged to experience up close and personal, the racial conflicts woven into our fragile social fabric. I have not wanted to own the power and privilege that comes with my white skin. I have desired for internationals and recent immigrants to be encouraged at their attempts to attain English fluency rather than feeling the all-to prevalent scorn for thick accents or grammar mix-ups. I have laughed at the 5 minutes given to “World News” by our national media outlets which spend 80% of this skimpy airtime covering scandals at Washington D.C.
Some close friends have even heard me say I would gladly renounce my citizenship and link myself to another nation state. While spoken honestly, I regret saying this. These words were voiced out of a deep sadness, and perhaps a woundedness I feel in relation to my Nation of origin. Preoccupied with the grave failings of the US, I myself have failed to see and acknowledge her beauty. Embarrassed by my inevitable ties to her, I have not wanted to celebrate her birthday.
July 4, 2014 I had my own kind of “independence day” as I flew with two large suitcases stuffed to the gills to make my new home in the Hawaiian Kingdom. Living abroad again, and in a disputed territory, I have felt liberated, and also challenged once more by my own hardened heart toward the US. Certainly, my anger is only reinforced by the grave injustice of the 1893 illegal seizure and occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Yet, I have experienced something profoundly disconcerting in the strong patriotism of the melting pot peoples that have migrated to call Hawai’i home and are strong patriots of the United States.
Even if she has done them wrong by stealing land and imposing systems that feel like a violation to inherent rights to self-governance, they see her beauty and love her. Though their own rights to citizenship may have been threatened by immigration acts and internment camps in various eras of the last century, they have chosen to lift her up and see her greatness. In spite of her questionable treatment of their own nations of origin, they have sacrificed life and loved ones to go to war and fight for her preservation. This love and allegiance confuses and convicts me and today I hear an invitation to be healed and to learn to love again…
Lord, give me a holy and redeemed perspective of the United States government, her agencies, and her citizens. I admit that I look upon her with hopelessness and futility and lack love and creative imagination to see her rise up and take her place. I admit that I have felt hurt and angry because of her brutal history of domination of people groups–Native Americans, African Americans, waves of immigrants, foreign countries (through foreign wars)–and I have numbed my heart and refused to see her beauty amidst her brokenness.
How can I claim to love individuals, seeking to see beyond their brokenness in order to exalt their beauty but refuse to do the same for the nation of my birth? There has been no love in me for my country, rather, I have wanted to disown her like one who seeks to deny the mother who birthed her because she is is ashamed of her reputation.
It is easier for a broken heart to choose rejection over reconciliation… it is a slippery slope from which one can so easily tumble downward. In this, I have not acted courageously but cowardly. My own hurt and despising of my nation may have poisoned other’s love for her and for this I am deeply sorry.
So today, I choose to repent. I surrender my broken and hardened heart and ask that it be washed and remade in hope infused with love. May I one day be able to genuinely celebrate her from the bottom of my heart. Amen.
I am grateful for the help of Author, Neurosurgen, and Presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s words of hope and healing. I believe this read of “One Nation” (2014) will aid me on my journey as he testifies an unashamed love for Christ and country and commits to stand courageously for truth. In his own observations of the effect of his Nation-shaking Speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, “One of the better outcomes was achieved, because I have encountered thousands of Americans who had given up on our country, and now are reinvigorated and ready to stand up for the freedoms that are guaranteed in our Constitution” (page 206).
Thank you, Dr. Ben Carson. Your words of truth spoken in love and your bold leadership can heal a Nation, and your words have already begun to heal me. Now I am one of those reinvigorated Americans.
O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife,
When once or twice, for man’s avail,
Men lavished precious life!
God shed His grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain,
The banner of the free!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed His grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!
-Poem by by Katharine Lee Bates circa 1893, later revised and put to music in what is now known as “America the Beautiful”.