It was military night at the Democratic Convention on Wednesday. A wonderful speech by the country's only female 3-star general, describing the pride and integrity of the vast majority of those enlisted and their leaders. Several Iraq vets with their intelligent pleas for national support. A poignant Steven Spielberg film of this generation of fighters, heartfelt interviews and Tom Hanks narration.
Honorable people, moving moments, deep compassion. Qualities and feelings that stir us collectively more deeply than just about anything else. These are the only meaningful, emotional stories that we seem to experience together as a whole nation, unified in our sorrows or our open hearts without the divides of politics, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture, socioeconomics age, race ... Families separated, loved ones doing something monumentally noble while in harm's way, courage under fire, the pinnacle of camaraderie - even if we can't all relate personally, we're all equally inspired and awed.
But there's a problem ... the context for those rare opportunities to share our collective humanity is actually the slaughter of other humans.
I know that's sacrilege, or treasonous, or proof that I'm just damn heartless. But while I'm moved to the same tears as my fellow countryfolk, I quietly wish we were all crying together about other things. Like the millions without healthcare, in poverty, or starving to death. Or better yet, I wish prime Steven Spielberg air time (and 60% of our national budget) was dedicated to millions of young Americans doing something even more noble, like hurricane relief or teaching, repairing homes or roads, building vast community gardens or windmill farms in low-income neighborhoods ... I wish those things sparked our shared inspiration and awe. We wouldn't even need the tears and unraveled heart strings.
When a friend's 21 year old son went to basic training, this lifelong pacifist suddenly understood the allure. "I've never seen him so committed and pumped up, so full of purpose." Every 21 year old deserves to feel that engaged, that connected & committed, that needed. And we all deserve to feel woven together through powerful emotions and magnificent stories. I just wish the tales were better.