On August 9th, Primary Election Day, I was aware of my significant internal distress. I needed to understand what was going on. I quieted myself and began to write. I write as a way to sort out my feelings which, in this case, were deeply entwined with a powerful symbol I have grown up with: the American flag. I posted my thoughts on Facebook. Several people responded with their own experiences related to “the flag.” I am grateful for the ensuing discussion.
This is a version of that posting:
I would like to know when the American flag was co-opted by the Republican party. I am a very proud American citizen. My father, uncles, cousins and husband served in various branches of the Armed services defending democracy and helping others fight for their freedom. As a girl, every Veterans Day and Memorial Day (and on other national holidays) my father proudly unfolded the American Flag and respectfully placed it into its flagpole next to our front door. As a family, we never missed a July 4th parade, lining the streets in our small town, cheering the veterans, firefighters, police, scouts, school marching bands, and the leaders of the local Democrat and Republican parties as we waved our hand-held flags. Each morning at summer camp, we lined up around the flagpole and pledged allegiance to the flag, as we did in school.
We were pledging allegiance to a symbol that stood for justice, equality, and the hopes and dreams of a country that was very much still evolving. We were aware of the significant injustices and inequalities and knew that it was up to us to work together to move toward a goal of creating a more equitable society.
Republicans, Democrats, and Independents argued and cooperated but there was nothing like the vitriol of what we are experiencing now. The partisanship was nowhere as divisive and hateful.
On this election day, I am stunned by the harshness of the rhetoric, and I notice that there is an assumption that if you fly the American flag that you are a Republican. Why is that? It is no one’s business with which party I affiliate. I want to fly the flag as support for the country I am trying very hard not to lose faith in; the country I was raised to love and respect. I want to fly the flag without concern about being perceived to be of one party or another, but rather, to be perceived as a concerned citizen of these United States, a country in which I am able to speak out without fear. The flag belongs to all of us.
I have spoken both in the Live Better Series and Nature Walk Talks video series about the importance of offering acts of kindness to others. When we stop what we are doing (including putting our phone in our pocket) to engage with someone, we are intentionally making a connection with people.
When we do this with someone who is a caregiver for another person, we may not be aware that we may be the only person they engage with (other than the person they care for) all day. Caregivers are often in situations where the only person they interact with for hours, days, weeks, or months at a time is the person for whom they care.
This situation became even more desperate during these times of COVID when people who normally would have had access to other people for socialization or for assistance were prevented from doing so because of the high risk of viral infection. Now, in many cases, having lost months and years of expanded interaction, these caregivers and the people for whom they care, are once again, joining their communities. They are taking walks in local parks, sipping a coffee at an outdoor café, grocery shopping, doing errands, attending events.
So, why does this matter?
The answer is simple. It offers the rest of us an opportunity to be kind.
At a minimum, offer a greeting—a simple but sincere “Hello.” More than that? Mention how good it is to see them. Inquire how the person is (or has been) and listen with patience and a desire to have them know that you are interested in what they say.
Remember, you may be the only person that caregiver is talking with today. And if the person “talks a lot,” take a breath and use this opportunity to practice patience and empathy. Follow up with a question that demonstrates your concern. Even if you do not know this person, you are talking to another human being who is interested in a human connection. Think of this opportunity as being chosen. You have been chosen to offer this person the chance to feel noticed, seen, heard, appreciated.
I hope your summer has been enjoyable so far, and you will continue to enjoy the last days of the season before we greet autumn. It’s important for our overall health to get at least an hour of movement per day; it can do wonders for our minds, bodies, and spirits. That movement can be as simple as a relaxing walk, or working in the garden. If you are near water, go for a swim. It doesn’t have to be “a difficult workout.” Simply getting outside and moving each day aids in maintaining our health.