Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Small Town America Does the 4th of July

For the second year in a row I've spent the 4th in my husbands home town with his family. Though it is not far from the Twin Cities it is a definately MN small town in look and feel. All the small town-ness that occurs there that just seems foreign to me, although it is not unwelcome. I'm getting used to the fact that everyone knows my husband's family, and that they probably know a lot about me too. I've long lost track of how they all know Chris...whether it be "I was his day care provider" or "I lived in X house before the X's did" or whatever. I've gotten used to my mother in law saying "You'll never guess who..." and then offering clues so that everyone knows who they are talking about except me.

I suppose that it is not really different from the average people you meet but it is condensed by the size of the town. I'm getting used to it, and it does have its charm. And I'm even slowly starting to recognize more of the many people that I've met over the years since I started coming to this particular small town America. (Which really isn't all that small and a city, but much different from what I grew up with).

Thankfully said small town is also a college town, which ups the political spectrum from much of small town America. I have been feeling particularly grouchy about the 4th of July this year, especially after Sunday. At church we closed worship with My Country Tis of Thee. As patriotic hymns go I suppose it wasn't the worst, but I was so annoyed by the liberal use of the term 'freedom' in the hymn. "Let freedom ring..." and all of that. With the country at a war in Iraq we started for dubious reasons, fighting a war against terror (which much of the country thinks is synonmous for a war against Islam *grrrrr*), going deeper in debt, ignoring the UN, ignoring health care, education and economics, in favor of more "moral" debates such as marriage amendments, patriot acts, and abortion, I have little positive to say about our freedoms. The freedoms that we were founded with (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly) are deminishing while we have soliders fighting and dying in Iraq in the name of our *freedom*

Faced with my already negative attitude I wasn't sure I had the energy for the pomp of the 4th. So at said small town we began the morning with the parade which lasted for two hours. I saw more obscure beauty queen winners and fire trucks to last me until at least next 4th of July. And being an election year the local candidates were out in force. The republicans came first complete with a fellow in an elephant costume. After a good distance came the DFLers, and I was pleased to see that their numbers were larger! It offered a little hope that as a nation we can have the good sense to turn the country around after the 8 years of "W."

What was particularly cool was that marching with the DFLers, offering his support for the candidates of this town and county, was Al Franken. Chris and I got to shake his hand though he had to move on before my mother in law thought to get the camera out. It made me happy to see that a nationally known name took the time to come out and do the work of supporting a local candidate. It was not like the president flying in and backing up traffic to do a brief PR appearance, it was him walking and being present and supportive and welcoming. I knew I liked him! Anyway it was a cool thing to see, and did manage to remind me that the democracy can still be a powerful force and that things can change from their current state.

The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully and we had to drive home before the fireworks, but small town America had given me a renewal of hope for the 4th of July. The history of our nation is one that moves towards equality and freedom, even when we are stuck in the rhetoric that causes us to believe that limiting freedoms and equalities is a moral necessity. I have to have hope that it will succeed in standing for equality and freedom for all once more.


Rebecca said...

Hi Liz,

Rebecca Miller here...I'll have to differ with you on Al Franken fandom...but one thing I do stand in praise of is your writing skill! I really enjoyed reading your blog. It's better written than a lot of them out there! And I can totally relate to marrying a man who comes from the small town where everybody knows everybody...:-) It does take some getting used to.

Have a great day...


LutherLiz said...

Hi Rebecca! Welcome to the blog! Isn't small town MN interesting? It definately has given me a new perspective on some things.

And it is fine with me if you disagree with Al Franken or the politics in general. I *hope* that I can be a critical eye of the democrats as well as republicans because they both can fall under the same traps of political power struggles.

Hi to Chris! And I'll be sure to stop by your blog too!

Emilie said...

Wow, Al Franken - that's pretty cool you got to see him, Liz!

Your vent about "My country 'tis of thee" made me want to share that at the Basilica this weekend, they did one of my very favorite hymns, which I'm sure you've heard (sung to the tune of "Finlandia"):

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

I think it has another verse, but that's what I could find doing a quick Google search. They played it the weekend after 9-11, too. It always makes me cry. :)

LutherLiz said...

That's a beautiful hymn Emilie. I don't know if I've heard it before. Maybe I'll talk to them about using that next year, although my congregation is not typically comfortable with *new*

Emilie said...

Liz, it might already be in your hymn books. It's called "A Song of Peace." I was looking for a link that might play the music for you, but it seems my computer doesn't have a music player at the moment. Here's a link with all the verses, though:

Nomi said...

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO JEALOUS!!! Al Franken!!! In Chris' little town! That is not fair, but it's awesome. We (A and I) were studying for a final so there were NO fourth activities. Church on Sunday was good, surprisingly. I am with you that these hymns seem inappropriate at this time, and when they make me play them every President's Day AND Memorial Day AND Fourth of July I start thinking evil thoughts about how church and state should not mix, etc... It was compounded this Memorial Day when I found out that Pastor L, the most wonderful pastor I have ever known and the pastor at my church, feels the same way. He was fuming about how they wanted to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the service!

But then on the Fourth of July we had something which I would not have thought was cool, but ended up being really awesome. Two older members of the congregation read the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, a middle aged member read memoirs of a church members' thoughts about his D-day experience and one of the teens read "I Have a Dream". I totally cried during "I Have a Dream", and experienced the same thoughts that you did: how can we say these things when his dream has NOT come true, when people are STILL judged by the color of their skin... But also I was glad that in my super-conservative RED church this was read, and that in some part of all their conservative souls they heard it and believed it, and then the fact that MLKjr existed and said all these things just made me hopeful that another MLKjr will come around someday soon. Perhaps he's already here... perhaps it's Obama. Have you heard Obama's comments recently that Dems need to reclaim God as their own? A and I really liked that (and A is not religious per se).

ok this is a really long comment but I felt really moved by your Fourth story. I totally feel all those things too. About God, country and the Dems....

oh btw I totally know that song set to Finlandia. It's really cool. Try it in the contemporary service if the old fogies can't handle it, but it's likely they all know Finlandia since that was a famous classical piece in their day.


Garrett said...

Hi Liz,

Sorry I missed you and Chris on the 4th. I was slowly ascending the side of Cheat Mountain in West Virginia on an old logging train driven by a beautiful 1923 Shay. But the ambiguity of the day was there too.

I had been in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond (Viriginia) a few days earlier, and Appomatox Court House just the day before. At the latter they have the table on which Lee signed the instrument of surrender, so now I have seen that and the table on which the Japanese foreign minister signed the instrument of surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri.

The Confederate Museum is the most shameless shrine to the Lost Cause I have ever seen; it makes the Confederate flag over the Atlanta Capitol seem trifling by comparison. All this is simply to indicate the rapidly shifting perspectives I had been subjected to before that day. (If this weren't enough cognitive dissonance, I passed by Grant's house in Galena a couple of days later.)

But back to the 4th. The car I was in was occupied by a sharp-looking young man just back from Iraq possessed of a real interest in steam. As soon as his identity was discovered, a Nam veteran came forward to shake his hand and call him a "hero." Later there was another conversation between a man who grew up with the railroad and went to Nam after H.S. graduation and a Gulf (I think) vet. The Gulf vet said, "You guys weren't welcomed back like we were, were you?" but the Nam vet said, "Here in West Virginia we were."

So I was firmly convicted in my resolve to say nothing about my role in resisting the Vietnam war, or my opposition to both the Gulf and Iraq wars. It is hard to honor the honorable warrior and repudiate the dishonorable war; but harder still to talk publically about it in such a venue. Besides, I wasn't asked.

That is what I find hardest about the 4th.

(P.S. This town is NOT small. The town where I grew up--THAT was small!)