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Happy Independence Day?

Conflict + Uncertainty + Fear + Hope

I woke up this morning, feeling uneasy. That is nothing new. For most of my life, I have awakened on the morning of the 4th of July feeling unsure about exactly what I am expected to celebrate on this date. Of course I know about the Declaration of Independence and freedom from tyranny and all of the things I was taught in school. And of course, it has always been fun to “take off” work and school on the 4th of July. Through the years, it’s been pretty easy to conform to the expectations of others, wish everyone a “happy 4th of July,” host a barbecue, throw back a few cold ones, and call it a day.

This year is different. I feel the need to dive deeper, and grapple with some of the emotions that have been previously marginalized.

I am feeling some kind of way this year. In the best way I know how to articulate it, this is what I mean.

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I am feeling conflicted …

I love America. I love being American. When I travel abroad, I am always excited to return to America.

Many years ago, I lived in Africa for almost a year. Returning home, the moment the aircraft doors opened, I took a deep breath … and I smelled America. There was a very distinct odor that I had never noticed before. The moment I sensed it, I knew it was home. It’s hard to describe, but it was very real in that moment. I began to cry right there as I deplaned. I enjoyed great adventures throughout all of Africa, but when I was home, I knew I was home. And we all know that there is no place like home.

That memory is one of the things that anchors me to this nation.

Yet, as I begin to fully appreciate the story of how that memory became mine to claim, I am conflicted. Why do I love America? Is it because of the smell? Is it because I was taught to? Is it because my parents do? It is because I have a good life here?

Why do I have a good life here? Couldn’t I have a good life in other countries? If so, why do I love America so much? Moreover, why do I have a good life here when others do not?

Does loving America mean also loving the systematic racism and unfairness upon which so much of it is built?

Can you separate the hatred for the systems from the love of the nation? Or are they inextricably bound together in a messy marriage of epic and never-ending conflict?

Short of death, is there an end to that conflict?

I don’t know the answers, but as you can see, I have all the questions.

I am happy in America. I am happy to be an American. I am taking advantage of every opportunity America is providing for me, and for my children.

I love America as a whole, but I don’t love some of the particulars of America. I liken it to loving your spouse. You love them on the whole, but there are some things about them that you do not love.

Notwithstanding the conflict, the abiding love is there. Is that a good analogy?

All of this conflictedness …

I am feeling uncertain …

When I woke up this morning, I did something I hardly ever do. I listened to a morning news show for 30 whole minutes.

By the time I turned it off, I felt a heightened sense of uncertainty about the principles we stand on as a nation. I felt like the country was on fire, burning up from the inside.

The major political parties are picking at each other, re-injuring old scars and initiating new ones. No one can agree on anything, and so little progress is being made that you wonder if everyone in leadership has thrown their hands in the air and intentionally decided to say and do whatever they feel like saying and doing, and letting the chips fall where they may.

As an entrepreneur, I know that’s no way to run a business. Doing what you feel like doing, and hoping something works is not a success strategy. I’m not a political leader, but I’m sure the same principle applies to governmental affairs and public policy. Our leaders cannot just do and say what they feel like doing and saying in any given moment, and not accepting responsibility for the fallout because someone else will clean up the mess later.

Yet, it seems like that’s what is happening. The bigger the mess becomes, the harder it will be to clean up. And who will even know how to clean it up? Will be even be “clean-up-able?”

All of this uncertainty …

I am feeling fearful …

I am fearful that my reluctance to “celebrate” today could be misconstrued by some as unpatriotic or un-American. Rather than resist that fear, or try to pretend it’s not there, I have decided stand in it.

I am also fearful that the divisive nature of conversation surrounding some of the issues mentioned here will tear our country apart, and with it, the way of life that I have come to enjoy and benefit from.

It’s scary to think that, as a people, we cannot appreciate each other’s differences and love each other anyway. We do it all the time in our marriages and with our children and people we work with. Why can’t we agree to put in the effort to do it as a country?

All of this fear …

I am feeling hopeful …

While I feel conflicted, uncertain, and fearful, I also feel hopeful.

I feel hopeful that enough people will realize that the only way to create prosperity for everyone is to collectively find and leverage the places where there is common ground.

I am hopeful that this country is big enough to accommodate all of our dreams. I hope this not only for myself and for the people I serve over at the Indie Business Network, but also for my children and your children, and for their children and theirs.

All of this hope …

What do you think?

Are you ever conflicted about the 4th of July? Uncertain? Fearful?

I’d love to hear from you.

Comment below!

I invite you to continue the discussion by leaving a comment below. I look forward to coming back to see what you have to say!

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Comments

  1. Rolande Sumner says

    I feel the same way. My patriotism has been called into question from some of the men and women I served with. They don’t understand how the racial climate truly affects my family. Thank you for voicing your concerns and hope. It helped to have my feelings acknowledged and validated.

    • Donna Maria says

      Rolande, thanks for your authentic comment. I can see how people would question your patriotism, but they have no right to do so as you put your life on the line for us all. Unless they have lived it, they cannot understand it without great effort, and most people do not have the resources to make that effort. I think that’s the bottom line. It’s too much work to understand it, so they just deny it exists. Hang tough, you know who you are and what you stand for. No one can take that away from you.

  2. Shanon says

    Excellent post dM! This is exactly how I’ve been feeling the past few years, especially this year. I’m an African American woman. America is a great country, we’ve come far yet still have so far to go. I’m hopeful that one day soon Dr. King’s dream will become a reality.

    • Donna Maria says

      America is a great country indeed, and that’s why I love. Like you, despite all of its flaws and black eyes, it is a beautiful country with beautiful people from all different backgrounds. Like you, I am hopeful that it will only get better from here on out. Thank you for sharing your input, Shanon!

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