This flag has no star. That’s because the star is you. You are the person who’s hard work, toil, and love for this nation completes our flag.
That’s what I’d like to say. The truth is this flag remains unfinished because I was arguing.
“Make a flag with 13 stars,” said my husband.
“I don’t want to make a flag with thirteen stars,” I said. I was crafting a country flag with a few big stars in rows representing the fifty states. If you’ve ever tried to paint fifty stars with craft paint on a pallet, you know what I’m talking about. Not fun. I quickly rejected the idea of thirteen in a circle, because the cracks in the wood make it impossible to paint it right. I’d paint eight, tops. A row of three, two, then three. Done!
“Really, you should make thirteen,” he said again.
“I’m not painting thirteen stars in a circle. I’m not. It’s my project.” I was getting annoyed. I smudged star number one, and had to paint over it and wait for the paint to dry.
The art mood was leaving me. When I’m creating, I’m creating. I never know exactly what’s going to come out–only that I’ll hate it while I’m building then love it in the end. I don’t want to be directed when I’m creating–it needs to flow or I stop and walk away.
And that is what became of this poor flag.
But then something happened…
Instead of being annoyed, I began to like the unfinished flag until one day I decided I no longer intend to paint the stars at all. The lack of stars reminds me of how much work there is to be done and how every little contribution means something big in the end.
As the election spiraled out of control, I stopped by the flag from time to time thinking about how much work I have ahead of me to perfect even my corner of the universe, let alone the space from sea to shining sea.
I realized I could do better, do more–as an American and as a human being.
Today, this unfinished flag is our nation.
Every single person in the United States is part of a star–millions of photons making up each of the fifty states, shining, bringing something to the fabric that makes America strong.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
I expect Lincoln’s speech to be quoted ad nauseam today, as well it should. I hope everyone will listen, shake hands, and move on.
I don’t usually write about politics, and I never throw pie on social media, but two days before the election I posted an interview my husband and I did on NPR. It was about how couples supporting opposite candidates survived at home. I talked about my concerns, stated why I’d be voting Democrat instead of independent in this election, and my husband expressed his support for the Republican candidate.
Meanwhile, our nine-year-old jumped up and down in the background hoping for his fifteen minutes of fame. “Vote for Trump!” he said into the microphone.
He loves Mr. Trump. “He said the ‘f’ word….that’s cool.” The boy is angry because I didn’t buy him a Trump bobblehead when he found one in the store this weekend. It was expensive. “I need it!” he said. I wonder if the price will be higher today.
I’m not writing about bobbleheads and botched crafts. I’m writing about where we fell short as a nation this election cycle.
A lot of ugly came out of the woodwork disguised as ideology, political opinion, and a better way to fix what ails America.
On election morning, I read the comments under the NPR article–the article about getting along. Name calling. N words, F words, B words… Arguments and fights. Direct insults to me.
I’m public, I can take an insult, but intolerance is my line in the sand. I couldn’t let an “n” word stand, could I?
“Should I delete this?” I asked around.
“Yes, leave it up.” Both sides agreed. After all, free speech is free speech. I don’t have to like an opinion in order to respect a person’s right to it.
I left the comments alone. I voted. I did some sewing and cooking, some homesteady things. I read. I took a few calls. I had a fabulous lunch with an inspiring woman. I enjoyed the day thinking about the things that makes America unlike any other place on the planet.
By bedtime, I had a million notifiers, most from that post. And it was ugly–personal attacks, mudslinging, vitriol.
That’s not the nation I want to build. It’s not the star I’m painting on my flag.
I took the post down, and for a moment, put this up instead:
“I deleted the post with the NPR interview we did.
“The article was about getting along across political lines. I woke up this morning to insults and strong opinions, including the “N” “F” and “B” words.
“I let the discussion go in the spirit of the freedoms our nation represents, but it got too ugly, and for me, that wasn’t okay.
“I work hard to bring joy to people every day. I get out of my car and smile and try to make someone’s day a little better. That’s my personal mission. It’s what I consciously think of every time I leave the house.
“So, I took down the article. I was hoping such a piece would bring people together but I failed in my objective.
“I’ll be going to bed before the election’s called. The results really don’t matter–either way I’ll be getting up early trying to do something good for the people I serve.”
I didn’t want to lecture people–it’s a charged time–so I took that post down, too.
Today, I’m doing this:
I’m going to shake hands with the other team. My President is my President whether I like the politics or not. I will continue to do what I do–fight for social justice, speak out in the face of inequality, work for the underdog, and fix what is broken.
That’s just me. That’s the star I choose to sew or paint in our flag, no matter what party wins in any election from now until the day I’m too old to pick up my needle, thread, or brush.
Then, it will be up to someone else.
A boy I hope I’ve raised well, a generation I’ve shown my best example, someone I’ve impacted without ever knowing… I give them my best, so they can give their best to our cities, states, nation, and world.
If we all do that–no less and no more…be just one photon of light in one our fifty stars, we will have our flag, complete.
We will shine for the world.