My sons are coming of age in a time when they perceive their country to be burning down. And that may not be a bad thing.
I have this aphorism: Nothing really changes. We just know more. A year or so ago we were happy in our content. Children murmured the 31 words of the Pledge of Allegiance half-asleep, still warm from their beds and Cheerio breakfast before a minivan dropped them off at school.
One Nation under God. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all.
We were all half-asleep thinking we were indivisible. Now we are the Divided States of America.
The day after the inauguration saw the largest protest march of the current century. My social media feeds are crazy with angry, bitter resentment from both sides. And the millennials are waking up from their long, happy childhood where everybody was a winner.
I know this because I brought two millennials into the world. They are bright, wonderful people who care about the environment and civil rights and changing things for the better. What you read about millennials is not always the whole story. There’s much more to this generation than just the entitled whiners you hear about from the helicopter parenting they had.
(To be clear, as the helicopter mom, I am the only one whining right now as my blades whir around an empty nest.)
I came of age in the Sixties and Seventies when America felt like it was burning down with women’s issues, racial prejudice, Vietnam and Watergate. One of the worst arguments I ever had with my father was at the dinner table. I was around 16 and I said, that even if women were allowed to serve in the armed forces, I would not go.
“I don’t want to defend this country. It’s not worth defending,” I told him, chin way out front (I have a big chin and often, an equally big chip on my shoulder.)
He was devastated. Like so many of his, the Greatest Generation, he served this country and he loves this country, for better or worse, through thick and thin.
I wish I could take back my adolescent defiant words for today, even in this mess, even in our divided state, I would defend this country. You see, nothing really changes. We have always been a “divided” nation, whether it was liberal and conservative, north versus south, bread basket or coastal regions, elites or working classes. America was created out of religious persecution for goodness sakes. We thrive on a diet of disagreement. I only wish we worked as hard to see the right in each other, as we do to see the wrong.
We are a nation founded on tolerance, and that’s never easy. Democracy is a scrappy, disorderly, chaotic mess compared to a totalitarian regime, but to my thinking, worth it. Humans naturally fear what they do not know or understand. But the work is to find common ground, to move past our fear and start to trust each other. Perhaps even to love each other. Certainly, we must honor each other. And until we fall back asleep again, life is going to be messy.
And that may not be a bad thing at all.
Michelle Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and c0-author of the upcoming book, “Fearless after Fifty: How to Thrive with Grace, Grit and Yoga.” You can find her at www.YogiMuse.com