Freedom, Not Perfection

Reflections on Independence Day.

At every moment in time some things are not pleasing, wish they were better, or they are outright wrong. The motivation to change, fix, build, and mend is seeded in those moments. Celebrating the independence and freedom of a country is to acknowledge it’s past and present successes while, at the same time, asking how we can help and work toward bringing more freedom to more people.

It’s Complicated: Being in any relationship is complex, dynamic, and challenging. An individual’s relationship with a country is no different. We wish it was easy and that the country’s stated ideals were lived reality, but they are not. Ideals are theoretical points of perfection we aim toward. Reality, on the other hand, is living in the process–the messy process–which is definitely not orderly, static or perfect.

When our government shifts from right to left, and left to right, some of us are left out. Our government is a duopoly, which leaves us divided at every election. At every election a vicious cycle plays out, some of us are in favor when our chosen elected officials are in office, and some are the loser and out of favor.

As an analogy, we can think of the government as a parent who plays favoritism. But this parent is an inconsistent parent who changes their mind about which child is their favorite every few years. It’s confusing and inconsistent. It’s great when we are the favorite, but it hurts when we are out of favor. We feel abandoned, alone and scared. This bad parenting turns the children against one another and breaks up the family. No family is perfect and no country or government is immune to dysfunctional dynamics.

We are One Family. The nature of duopoly is to divide us, but we need to paddle against that force to keep the family together. We should stop and remember that we all want unconditional love and acceptance. We should celebrate freedom and independence today by remembering what is beautiful, good, human, just and kind, instead of focusing on the negative.

We all want to feel that we matter, are cared for, and are treated with justice and kindness. When we are divided, when any of us are treated without care, it hurts. It hurts not just individuals and groups, but all of us as a whole. When children were separated from parents at the border we all felt the pain as our human fabric was tearing. It is simply hard to imagine how a person could follow orders and take a child–any child–from their parents because of some administrative law. The image it conjures is that of separating families at concentration camps during the 2nd World War. Didn’t we say never again?

As people, we share land, air, water, humanity, love of our children, and love of each other. We are still a family. The ones who ordered the separation, those who separated the families at the border, and those who were separated, are all one family.  A dysfunctional family perhaps, but still a family. We must stay united in our love and be willing to help each other within our borders and beyond them. We must stay on the edge of mending and reach out to one another lest we fray our human fabric even farther.

Our Liberty Bell can still ring freedom, but it’s not perfect, it’s cracked.

Leonard Cohen sings: 

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in!

What is your imperfect offering? What can you do to make our great country better? For you and for all others? For those who are Born In The USA and those who are Coming to America.

Love and light, Rabbi Sigal

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