catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 17 :: 2004.10.22 — 2004.11.04


Star-spangled dreams

We sat around the family room after a delicious meal, glasses of
wine in our hands and political discussion flowing—a familiar scene,
no doubt, in an election year. What made this conversation unique,
however, was that we were two of three U.S. citizens in the room, in
addition to one dual citizen and two Canadians.

In my dreams, I romanticize Canada as the place to which I can
escape if this country proceeds to the level of power-abuse that I
fear. Canada becomes the land of no hypocrisy, no hatred, no sickness,
where everyone loves his or her neighbor, drives sensible cars, and
uses guns strictly for hunting (overpopulated) animals.

Fortunately, our conversation and our stay in the Vancouver
suburbs—where sprawl and SUV's are rampant—gave me a new perspective
and a deeper appreciation for the United States. Though I was falling
asleep after three full days of driving across the country, I was
cognizant enough to hear, repeated in various ways, the theme that the
U.S. has got some good things going for it. While the Canadians I spoke
with still wouldn't trade minimal national healthcare for
consumer-conscious privatized healthcare, they certainly wouldn't mind
having our high standards for new construction and more opportunities
to vote directly for the laws that will affect them most.

In day-to-day conversation, I complain a lot about the direction of
our country. Probably too much. However, one thing I have learned about
desiring change is that one has to have a deep love for the thing she
wishes to reform. In the beginning, my husband Rob and I had a bad attitude about
the church, but we soon realized that the most effective change would
emerge from a desire to make it better out of a love, because real love
produces a tenacious hope.

And hope is in direct opposition to despair. In an interview that appeared in Utne magazine, playwright Tony Kushner talks about our obligation to find hope in our current cultural context:

You can take a psychological view [of our tendency to despair] that
we're creations of trauma and we don't do loss very well and it deforms
us, it diminishes us. But when you get to the point that you can really
worry about that, you've created a society of immense luxury….You
look at [hope] as a feeling state; you look at it as an ethical
obligation. You look at it as a thing you generate in yourself by
recognizing that despair is a luxury….We have an ethical obligation
to look for hope and find it. It isn't easy, but that doesn't mean it
isn't there. In fact, if it were easy, it would be less valuable. It's
like the Jewish search for God. One of the Talmudic ideas for why it's
so hard is that you create its value by the difficulty of the search.
We all do it. That's what our struggle is. We wouldn't get out of bed

While Kushner does acknowledge that for some, despair is
an inevitable byproduct of a desperate situation or a chemical
imbalance, he calls those who don't suffer from those limitations to
quit whining and do something.


And so, in my effort to reject the luxury of despair and be more
hopeful about the United States of America, here is the beginning of a
list of things already in existence that, for me, make this country
worth loving and worth being hopeful about. I hope you'll hit the
discuss button and add your own ideas—and then join me in the effort
to propagate what we love.

  • The National Park system that preserves some of our most beautiful lands
  • The efficient network of highways that allow for inexpensive travel
  • The freedom to worship as we choose and the legal protection of that ability
  • The number and variety of small towns
  • The ability of dissenters to speak freely through a variety of outlets without fear
  • The diversity of cultures, land forms and climates contained within our borders
  • The desire of many, both inside and outside of government, to use
    our power as a world leader for positive change around the world
  • The ability to freely shape the lives of the various communities of which we are a part (church, family, neighborhood, etc.)


Discussion: I love the U.S.A.

A lot of us complain about the state of the union, especially around
election time. But the most effective change is motivated by love. What
do you love about the United States? What inspires you to work for
positive change?

your comments

comments powered by Disqus