Dear Military Mom,
You’ve been on my heart over the last few days. As I’ve seen the heated rhetoric about who stands for the flag and who doesn’t, I feel like your heart and mine have been trampled all over. Our private pain has become a public bargaining chip used to manipulate emotions and cast blame. People have made assumptions about what side of an issue we’d be on and have used our experiences to justify their opinions. It feels so raw and exposing.
I want you to know that in the midst of the debate about who stands and who kneels for the National Anthem, there is no debate in my heart about the sacrifices your family has made. I am nothing but thankful for your child’s work on behalf of those of us who haven’t had to deal with the realities of military life. I recognize that this flag feels less like a symbol that can be used in protests and more like a precious reminder of why your family does what it does. I have never sat at a military funeral. I haven’t watched with pride as my child moved through the military ranks. I know how much respect I have for you, but I know I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced.
While I haven’t been helping my child navigate the transition to military life, over the last few years I have been learning how to navigate a transition of my own. As a white parent to black and brown children, I have been listening and learning about living in a world that can feel much more hostile than the world I grew up experiencing. I have been realizing how much work we have to do as a country to create a climate of equality, respect and love for our fellow man. I have come to value means of peaceful protest that remind us there is still work to do, even when those reminders are uncomfortable for those who hoped we were past these things.
You and I love our kids. We value their life experiences and we are advocates for their good. And we can also be advocates for each other. We can link arms, we can stand, we can kneel, we can lovingly believe both that your child’s work on behalf of our country is incredibly important AND we can affirm that my child’s life has value. These things are not mutually exclusive. As mothers, we can treat each other with compassion and respect. When the rest of the world is screaming, we can choose to listen to each other. We can listen and treat each other’s stories and experiences with dignity. We can have a curiosity about why we each feel the way we do and seek understanding and common ground.
And there is so much common ground. We love our country. We want to see it defended from outside forces and see it be a place of beauty and freedom for its citizens. We know that to be engaged in democracy is to care about what happens in our country, to be passionately involved, to be wiling to work for improvement. To love our country does not mean we give passive approval to her problems. We are on the same team and however the shouting voices want to paint us into separate corners, we need to push back and remind them that to love our country is to be involved in speaking truth to power about what she still needs to do. We can do that TOGETHER in our own spheres of influence in spite of our different perspectives and experiences.
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