Saturday, October 13, 2012

If I Were America's Mother, I'd Call a Family Meeting

If I were America’s mother, I’d call a family meeting.

There would be a chair at the kitchen table for everyone, pulled from all corners of our home. No one would be left out.

We’d gather round ­­– our table would be round, with no head, no left or right, no middle. It would be made of something sturdy like oak to represent our strength, yet soft enough to show the scars we’ve left behind.

We would join hands in prayer for the believers, in a moment of reflection for those who don’t, each summoning the faith to believe in one another. Then we would begin.

Like any family, the simple act of being together would stir memories of better times. Of the days starting out when uncertainty and fears of what might be pushed us onward, upward, toward resolve and self-determination. Back then, our forefathers expected the best of themselves and each other, and received it in return. It wasn’t easy. Their voices might have risen in frustration, but they never stopped talking, they never once stopped listening and looking toward that common goal of union.
No doubt we’ve had our differences, some far more harrowing than others. We’ve warred with each other, as if a state’s boundary were stronger than our blood. We’ve brought great shame upon ourselves, too, betraying members of our own family, as if they weren’t family at all, as if they weren’t human or only three-quarters such. Together, we persevered through the pains of depression and wars, some just, others not, a great virus that swept our home and killed too many. These are the scars that mar our table’s soft pulp. Yet it endures. We endure. Scars don’t break a spirit. Not ours.

But, I’d say, I’m more worried for us now. I’m afraid we’re facing the dissolution of what was once our great family. Today, we are battling another kind of civil war.
We don’t speak. Not really. We talk at each other, over each other, we scream and accuse and dismiss one another. No one listens. Compromise has somehow become the failure of one instead of victory for all. Our family’s debt has been carried one generation into the next and now we face losing much, if not everything. We face losing our home and with it our souls.

How it breaks your mother’s heart.

As a family, it’s our duty to take care of one another and we have not been doing much of that. When family is sick, we should want to heal them. When one has fallen low on hard times, another should rush to give a hand up to better days. When one of our own, through hard work and perseverance, succeeds, we should all stand to applaud the accomplishment with sincere pride, even if our own accomplishments fall short. That’s what families do. They support one another, they respect one another, they believe in sacrificing the self in support of the whole to the benefit of all. That is the foundation upon which a family builds its home.

Yet our house is in shambles, its base cracked, the walls splintered. It’s hardly worth calling a home anymore. We have mortgaged its future through greed and disregard. It’s falling down all around us because we have fallen down. No more.
We must resolve to talk less, listen more, and when we do have something to say, say it with dignity and respect for others and ourselves. Expect the same in return. When we disagree, vow to do so courteously. Know everyone at the table wants to find the way to a better life, and though we have different paths for getting there, we will do best by finding the middle ground. Most important, we must revere compromise.

There are dark days ahead, but we’ve endured far darker through the strength of our family bond. Only we have the ability to undo it. And when those dark days come, and they will, remember we’re a family. The only way out is together.
If I were America’s mother, I’d say all of this. Then I’d close the meeting the way I opened it. I’d ask that we join hands one last time before we decide our fate, bow our heads, and pray for our family. -- Amy MacKinnon

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