Fourth of July

Something I’ve been thinking about: my friend’s mother’s baptismal certificate. She showed it to me recently, it’s a beautiful document, covered with hand-painted artwork in bright colors. It was executed in the U.P. (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) and is written entirely in Finnish.

Another thing I’m thinking about: the trip Sally and I took with friends last February, to Washington D.C. Specifically I’m thinking of the Vietnam Memorial, how reading so many names on that wall affected me. I saw every kind of name, from Native American (Two Crow) to Hispanic (Lopez, Rodriguez) to a name I thought of as Southern Biblical, probably Afro-American (Ezekiel Paige). After a while, I began to notice the names shared by, if not my own relatives, people I knew growing up, kids I went to high school with: Atkinson, Cleary, Shapiro, Voorhees. Some of us may still have a lot of questions about what we were even doing, in Vietnam, but the Wall reminded me that the Americans that fought and died there came from all over.

Today, Independence Day, I am thinking this: The United States was not founded to be an exclusive place. Whatever else you can say about our country (and there is a lot, both good and bad), there is no denying that we are a diverse nation. It is our legacy, our strength, and our challenge. We stumble on, and sometimes, move forward.