One of my daughters was given a scholarship to help fund her education in Art (medical illustration) by the art community of Spicewood, Texas. Spicewood is a small town southwest of Austin’s southwestern suburbs, so definitely out in the country. They asked her to join in their 4th of July celebration, so our entire family went. We cheered for the parade and then went to the community grounds where ~300 of us enjoyed hot dogs and cokes and a local band performing old favorites intermixed with short speeches. Near the start, a young woman tried to sing the national anthem. It did not start well.
Our national anthem is notoriously hard to sing, and about halfway through she began to struggle. She was missing notes, her voice was cracking, and she started pausing as she lost her confidence.
The community did what communities do. We came together with no prompting or guidance, and we started to sing along with her. As our voices got louder, she regained her confidence and joined us in finishing it.
I don’t wear my patriotism on my sleeve and rarely talk about my military service. I served proudly and would do it again in a heartbeat. But my patriotism is to the idea of America, not so much our daily strife and confusion, parties arguing about inane, passing concerns.
And I don’t see “service” to America as limited to those who wear a uniform. Service to America is living the ideal of America every day.
I find it hard to explain, but within 30 seconds this morning, I went from wandering the community grounds with a hot dog in one hand and a coke in the other, laughing and making new friends to standing there with tears in my eyes because of a little girl who got help from her community. Everyone pitched in when their help was needed.
It’s a silly cliche to say that “real” America is embodied only in these little communities. It is not. Real America is 300+ million people in all walks of life who are all living and working in the context of a bigger ideal of freedom and human rights even though still imperfectly realized.
Real America manifests itself in many ways over and over. Today, I was part of it in a little town called Spicewood, Texas, singing the national anthem and watching one of my daughters paint children’s faces.
This notion, the importance of this ideal, is a key component of my upcoming novels. For one character, Kira in Lonely Hunter, this ideal is not an intellectual construct she can explain. For Kira, it is simply about being fair, not taking another person’s property.
For IrSaa, it is a very intellectual construct that she can eloquently explain and defend both with words and weapons.
Nowhere in the novels do I present these arguments or concepts, but they are one component that underpins these characters’ behaviors.
And, no, neither Kira nor IrSaa can sing worth a damn. It does not matter. They know what they are about, and they both have a community to help them.