Jul '10

Left Wondering….(a continuation of what needs to be said)

I have written two different posts in the past few days–both of which, I was too afraid to post.  It seems Lisa may not be as “unmasked” as she believed.  My new #bff, Peggie, has (ahem) suggested that perhaps I write a series of blog posts to help me with this story that has decided it must be told.

I go back to the post, “What Needed to be Said” as the title of the emerging series.  I hope you’ll stay with me to see where it goes.  And most of all, please share what is coming up for you. If we are going to heal our deepest wounds, we must give light to our stories.  Share them in whatever way(s) we can and know that in doing so, we are helping each other.

And that is the real reason we are here anyway.

This post I wrote about the July 4th holiday in the US:


Proud to be an American.


The lyrics to this song bounced around Facebook today in recognition of the US Holiday.

I always feel like I’m going to vomit when I hear those words.

Not sure if it’s the fact that I hate the song.  Or that it’s a country song (sorry, Susan!)

Or maybe it’s the fact that I can’t say that I…American.

I thought it about it long and hard today, and didn’t come up with any easy answers.

I tried to look back in my life to see if there was a time in my life that I was actually proud and after hours of contemplation, I remembered how cool it was to be part of the bi-centennial celebration in 1976.   Yeah…then I guess I could actually feel pride in being American.

I remembered that feeling again during the Iranian hostage crisis.

I may have had it when I was in college, since I was attending school on a ROTC scholarship.  But, I found the Army to be a whole lot of bullshit most of the time and there was going to come a time when I said as much to the wrong person.  I lost my scholarship for medical reasons (more Army BS–it was for a condition they KNEW I had when they awarded me the scholarship) and I was bitter for a long time. (a whole ‘nother story)

The truth is I can’t remember ever having that sense of pride that makes people wrap themselves up in the flag.

But I do remember the moment that I began to see the country differently.

It was my senior year of college during a class called Political Economy.  We were studying  Third World debt and I would come to see how beneficial it was to America (and others) to keep the Third World..well, the Third World.  This along with the Iran-Contra scandal was enough to permanently alter my view of the country I was born in.

And “pride” in it was something I have never experienced it again.

That doesn’t mean I am not grateful for the opportunity to live here.  While I am clearly not of the crowd that this is “the greatest country on earth,” I am well aware that are worse places to live.  And there are better.  And in either case, it’s a matter of perspective.

But today, I was especially disturbed because I really could not find the words to really explain (to myself) why I can’t seem to stomach hearing, that song.

And the Universe delivered this to me.  It is a portion of a speech given by Frederick Douglass at Rochester, NY on July 5, 1852 entitled:  What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? As I got to this portion of the speech, some of my feelings began to make sense to me.

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

I am wondering if these powerful words are just as relative in our times…

But I know the answer to that.  And that’s why, at least for me, “Proud to be an American” is not a song I can sing…yet.

I have hope, that just like me, this country will someday live up to its loftiest ideals.

Maybe we begin by asking the question, “how can we be better?”

That’s what I will be committing to for myself.

If I want this country to be better, to do better, it starts with me.

How can I be better today? (By not hiding my scariest thoughts and blog posts!)

How about you?


11 Responses to “Left Wondering….(a continuation of what needs to be said)”

  1. Peggie Says:

    oh wow #bff. Even though I have to work during the day and cannot talk for hours…good.

  2. LaVonne Ellis Says:

    p.p.s. I hate that song too. Always have.

  3. Peggie Says:

    I am proud of you Lisa – this is definitely a topic that will bring attention to you. And I’m aware that not all of it will be fun or easy to deal with, but if we, as Americans, do not allow free speech and discussion we will never, ever grow to be the “best” anything and we will be mocking what so many have fought long and hard for – a country of equality and freedom. Initiating change in the world ain’t for sissies – it’s kick-ass hard, but nothing good and worthwhile ever came from sitting back and hoping someone else would do it. as you know, I believe in you.

  4. LaVonne Ellis Says:

    You’ve said what I keep to myself every day. I love my country but I am not proud of what we do. I’ve already told you I avoid arguments, and Frederick Douglass’s quote is the crux of it. I remember thinking after 9/11 that it would change, but it just got a hundred times worse — the xenophobia, the questioning of your loyalty if you aren’t in lockstep — and Obama’s election accelerated it even more. I fear for where this is heading.

  5. LaVonne Ellis Says:

    p.s. Forgot to complete my thought about avoiding arguments. Here’s why: I have short-term memory loss and simply cannot remember my points to get them across — and these people aren’t going to listen anyway. At the same time, I realize very well how critical it is not to back down. That’s what the ‘good’ people of Germany did, and look what happened. I know I need to do something but I’m not sure what.

    Thank you for having the courage to say what needs to be said, Lisa. It’s contagious. 🙂

  6. Dr Stuart Jeanne Bra Says:

    Iran-Contra permanently altered my life, as well, especially when I (as the mother of a six year old child) learned of the extensive involvement of the Contras (and their CIA backers) in cocaine trafficking. I am almost ashamed to admit what a Polyanna I was prior to 1987, believing everything I was taught in high school civics. As I began to engage in serious grassroots activism that year, some very strange things started happening (things witnesses talked about in the Iran Contra hearings – my phone was tapped and my home and office were broken into. I write about my experiences in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (I currently live in exile in New Zealand).

  7. Susan Johnson Says:

    For starters, i admire (as always) your courage. Thank you for stepping up and showing the rest of us that it’s ok to voice our scariest thoughts.

    I also happen to agree with you on the idea that it begins (and hopefully ends) with each of us making conscious choices about who and how we want to be, what we speak up for, and what this country (via its people) represents.

  8. TexInTheCity Says:

    Hate the song. Hate The Tea Party Movement. Plan on being an expat once I am done with my film degree.But I looooooooooove YOU! So there!

  9. Bonnie Says:

    Wow Lisa – your post leaves me thoughtful. On the 4th, I had a discussion with my husband about the celebration. There was something on TV about this day being the day of Independence for all Americans – all I could say was "bullshit!" At best, January 1 would be a day that freed "all Americans" but even this is not really true considering the incarceration (removal to reservations) of Native Americans that followed.

    This blue-eyed blond-haired "American" (another politically incorrect label) doesn't believe the 4th of July should be celebrated as a day of independence for all – it was a day of independence for those that were not indentured servants or slaves or women – for white landowning males.

    I don't like the song either – I don't know that our actions towards others are a matter of pride. I am grateful to live in this country, although, and I love the potential it has….

    Quote that I love – "I love my country but I think we should start seeing others."

  10. Valena Hunley Says:

    Lisa you are an inspiration to the essence of my Spirit. To remind me that we are on a mission here in this lifetime. And for the sheer fact that we are living in this embodiment we must have agreed to executing the mission. What you have stepped up and shared, as Peggy also said, is a testiment to the fact that not everything that we are here to say and do will make "everyone" happy. Nor will "everyone" agree with us. Sometimes that is the hardest part of my journey and mission, is not being able to please all the people all the time. But as Julia Stege, our class instructor, has said, "In order to attract those you are meant to know or work with or to help awaken (my words), you must put yourself out there Authentically! Well girl, you have and it's because you have that you have attracted me to you. I AM so blessed to know you. Namaste'

  11. Looking in the Mirror | Lisa Unmasked Says:

    […] Yes.  I can finally look in the mirror and say, “I am proud to be an American.” […]