Saturday night, we sat in soccer chairs at the foot of my driveway with 40 of our friends, heads craned to stare at the sky, as glorious colorful fireworks exploded and popped above us.
We truly have a front row seat for the annual Huntington Woods July 4th fireworks over Rackham Golf Course. And so we invite our nearest and dearest to barbecue, relax, talk and end the night with a flurry of art in the sky symbolizing our freedoms as Americans.
My youngest son sat beside me in the dark. “We are so lucky to be American,” I told him. “This day reminds us of our freedoms and how lucky we are. We live in the most powerful nation in the world. And we represent freedom.”
He hadn’t put July 4th and all its festivities together with the hallmarks of America. I was happy to connect the dots for him, to illuminate why our sky was aflame with 22 minutes of incredible decorative explosions, the pop and soar of our display echoing those from behind and beyond us, too.
I heard on the radio recently that President Obama opposes further ground involvement in the Middle East, by U.S. troops. Facing threats of extremism and ethnic cleansing, we as the world’s superpower must ask ourselves – should we get involved, or not?
I can’t help but reflect on the stance of the United States leading up to, and even during, World War II. My grandfather and great-uncles served in World War II, called to duty to defend our nation and all that it stands for.
There was no question about whether they would serve. They went. Proud to maintain our right to freedom – especially after their families fled pogroms and what would become my people’s greatest atrocity among atrocities – the Holocaust.
Throughout the history of humankind, we have done awful things to one another. Sometimes in the name of justice, sometimes in the name of greed, sometimes simply for ego or quizzical beliefs that one group is better than another.
We stumble all over ourselves trying to make sense of this world. Most people go about their days believing that people are created equally, that we have some divine connection to a source greater than us, that our job on earth is to do good and represent service.
And then there are the people who, for whatever reason, spin the other direction, toward greed and corruption and power-hunger and skewed beliefs of better and superiority.
Who knows what sends one person down that path and another down the path of peace. Who knows why we end up in these polar opposite stances, where we have to fight for what we believe is right.
And who knows who is really right after all.
Children should have shoes, schooling, food on their table and a roof over their heads. They should have parents or parental figures who give them love and support, guidance and protection.
Adults should work for a living, honestly and fairly, using their talents to better the world. We should live within our means (I’m working on that one!), and donate to the poor, and give of our time and from our hearts to help those who cannot help themselves.
We should not judge. Who are we to believe we are better than another? Who cares what someone else is wearing or driving, where they live or the way they speak. We should look beyond all of those surface qualities to the depths of the person and see each being as created in the image of the divine.
Should, should, should.
And then there are dictators and tyrants who say their way is the only way and mow down anyone in their path or who opposes them. That’s what we’re facing in many corners of the world. The Middle East with ISIS and the Syrian Civil War. Boko Haram. Factions of oppressors in other places, where girls and women are marginalized and beaten, denied education or freedom of movement or speech.
Are we really so fragile that we cannot allow others a voice in this world?
I’m not sure the President is wrong to not get involved in yet another conflict. Our prolonged stay in Afghanistan and Iraq really beat down the American spirit, and began to feel senseless.
I was born into a nation built on a sense of justice and freedom, of standing up for right and for the disadvantaged. I believe that fully. And yet, I’m not sure I want to get involved yet again, in another conflict, somewhere on this planet that doesn’t seem to involve me.
But that’s what so many Americans and others said about Hitler and the Nazis and getting involved to help save the Jews.
So where does that leave us?
We’ve come so far in many ways…and yet we are still stumbling over our own feet, trying to make sense of a world that does not make sense.