A Day at the Beach

In our cynical time when it’s fashionable to bash the establishment whether it’s the church or state, I found this 2011 interview refreshing. In it, Scott Simon talks with Alexendra Pelosi about her documentary chronicling the lives of new citizens. It’s called Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip.

Nearly a million people become US citizens each year and for many of them, it’s the path to a better life. But surprisingly a better life often is defined by the little things– walking down safe streets, available, inexpensive food, and the ability to work hard to build a better future for your family. The very things we take for granted. Here are a couple quotes:

For me, it’s, you know, I can take my family around the block for a walk with a stroller and I don’t have to be worried about being hijacked. Sometimes you forget that every day’s a blessing. You wake up and it’s a gift.

I love it because you just dial the number [911] and then they come right away for your rescue.

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Ronald Reagan's 1986 Remarks at a Memorial Day Ceremony

President Reagan delivered the speech at Arlington National Cemetery after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Source: Heritage Foundation and The American Presidencey Project.

Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.

I was thinking this morning that across the country children and their parents will be going to the town parade and the young ones will sit on the sidewalks and wave their flags as the band goes by. Later, maybe, they’ll have a cookout or a day at the beach. And that’s good, because today is a day to be with the family and to remember.

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The Christian and Patriotism

At the risk of Bauder overload, we offer here two posts from the archive on the subject of patriotism—in honor of election day. (These posts appeared at SI on July 6 and 9 of 2005 but did not make it back into the article database after “the crash of 2006.”) The original discussion of part one may be read here. Part two here.

Part One

During late June or early July, American Christians bedeck their churches with red, white, and blue. They lift their voices in hymns of praise to their nation. They repeat a solemn, public vow, pledging their allegiance to the government represented by the flag of the United States. Their chests swell and their eyes moisten with thoughts of the greatness of their nation—for their nation is great. Gauged by the combination of military might, distributed wealth, and human political freedom, it is unparalleled in human history.

At such moments, we Americans need to remember two things. First, greatness is not identical with goodness. Second, if America is great, we are not the ones who made it great. We can take no credit. What we have received is given to us as a gift and a stewardship. It is up to us to do the right things with it.

The inclusion of patriotic exercises as part of American worship perplexes and even annoys Christians throughout the rest of the world (beginning with our immediate neighbors to the north and the south). Some question the value of patriotism in general; others simply object to expressions of nationalism in church. In turn, Americans often find these objections puzzling and sometimes off-putting.

Should Christians be patriotic at all? If so, then should they carry their patriotism into their churches? I would like to offer tentative answers to these questions—tentative because I am an American and I share most of the American sensibilities. Therefore, my answers will hardly qualify as impartial. The questions, however, are important and should not simply be dismissed.

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Wounded in Afghanistan

Reprinted with permission from Doug Kutilek’s As I See It, with some editing. AISI is sent free to all who request it

It was 4:00 AM on March 5, 2010. The ringing telephone startled us awake from deep sleep. A call at such an hour, while not common, is regularly someone from the dialysis clinic that my wife Naomi administrates, reporting a problem with equipment as they prepare to open the facility for the day.

But the voice was that of our Marine Captain son Matthew, who had been in Afghanistan since early last October. Seeming a bit groggy, or perhaps weary (we would soon be able to tell which), his first words were, “I’m okay. I just got out of surgery. I’ve been shot in the leg.” He had our full attention. He went on to say that he had been on a dismounted patrol in hot pursuit of Taliban fighters, and had taken a single rifle round in the right leg, in the shin. He passed the phone on to a nurse who briefly detailed his injuries and assured us that he would recover. He was soon to be flown out from Camp Dwyer, where he received the initial treatment, to a larger base for further care.

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