Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking Our Country Back

"I wish that there were some wonderful place
  In the land of beginning again.
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
  And all of our poor selfish grief
Can be dropped like a shabby coat at the door
  and never put on again."
      --Louise Fletcher Tarkington

The Tea Partiers keep saying they want to take their country back. They are not the only ones. We would all like to be in a different place. I would love to be in a world where there were no foreclosures, no oil spills, and no subtle (and maybe even more dangerous) racist attitudes. I would certainly like to be in a place where I knew our Aunt, slowly drifting away with dementia, would have enough money to take her to the finish line. And even closer to home—I’d like some assurance that I would have enough, too. I would like to live in a time without an Iraq-Afghanistan war and scary spots around the world. I would like to live in a world without pay-day loans and in a state (Alabama) where we really could change our 1901 constitution—and a state where poor people did not have to pay sales tax on food or clothing. But there is more. Some days I wish my kids were little and we were in that little white house with the green shutters and our mean cat was still alive and Pooch thumped his tail on the kitchen floor. These longings are endless.

Someone has said that all those that are yelling about taking the country back—really have a lot of things is mind. Maybe even more than some of the things I have listed above. But when people say they want to take their country back—I want to know how far back they want to go? To those early days when we put “the wrong people” in stocks and poked sticks at them after divine worship on Sunday? Or maybe even that same time when we ran the Indians off the land they had lived on for generations. Do we really want to go back to the scourge of the Civil war when everything was broken or Reconstruction when all hell broke loose? Or the days before women could vote and black folk had to sit on the back of our buses if they had the change. Who wants to go back to the Depression, to those terrible days when we incarcerated the Japanese—when Joseph McCarthy ran wild and destroyed lives by the hundreds? Or a world of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Or even, maybe the good old days when Martin Luther King and the two Kennedy’s were gunned down or later when Ronald Reagan was king.

We can’t go back. The Genie is out of the bottle and we can’t put her back in. In my lectionary reading from Joshua I remembered the background. After 40 years of wandering in a wilderness they finally made it across the Jordan into a new land—the promised land. But taking the land was not easy. In fact it was so difficult that the leader, Joshua prayed to God: “Ah, Lord God! Why have you brought this people across the Jordan at all, to hand us over to the Amorites so as to destroy us?” (Joshua 7. 7) Long before in Egypt they had asked how long while they were in slavery. And on that long, winding march of years and years they muttered it over and over, “Why can’t we go back?”

None of us can go back. We are stuck in the present tense. Maybe every tribe that has ever lived has wistfully looked back and remembered the good old days. We have to live in this world, with limits and complications and the tightening of our belts and find some way to pay our bills not only individually but as a nation. In the fifth chapter of Joshua after cries and muttering, Joshua was told: “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” Maybe this is why Joshua finally was able to get back up and save the day.

If this is holy I would like to see un-holy. But this is all we have: the present tense. We are not given tomorrow and we surely can’t go back to yesterday. So we must wake up every morning pull the curtains back—shift gears into another day. It will not be easy—in fact in may be hard indeed. But who knows—maybe, just maybe this strange place may be the holiest place we ever know. And one day looking back we may say, misty-eyed: “My, my remember…”

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