Silent, solitary prayer
Isn't it easy to only talk to people you agree with? To only read the newspapers you like, the authors you admire? Isn't it easy to live in your own microcosm, never setting a foot out of the boundaries that define who you are, your own values? I am the first to say yes. My life is full. So full that I rarely spend time with anyone who is not deeply important to me. I work best alone. I write alone. I give the rest to my family. I have so much fullness. I must make a concentrated effort to step outside of my comfort zone, and I try to as frequently as I can fit it in. Who are we anyway, if not who we define ourselves as in respect to others, to our environment? That is a lesson I learned well after so many years of expat living.
In my attempts to wet my feet in the zones which are not so comfortable to me, I have encountered something I hardly expected. The God thing. It's incredibly ironic to me that the God thing would touch me personally in the US. Italy was awash with crucifixes... in nearly all of the public buildings, including the schools. I remember once someone commenting that children who were not baptized in the Catholic Church grew up as bestie (beasts), a comment that I thought rude at the time, and sadly, pitifully ironic now. I found the blending of organized religion and the state utterly offensive. I remember commenting to my husband that this was one piece of me that absolutely would not budge. I grew up with an American flag in the classroom. Shouldn't the Italian flag be the only symbol allowed in my children's schools? He could only agree and sigh... this was Italy, after all.
Oh, the irony of what is happening today in America, right in front of my nose. When did it become so easy and blasé to talk about God? How much you love God? Pray to God? Commune with God? When did that word become so easily to say, so easy to bend to anyone's will? I cannot think of anything more profoundly personal than one's spiritual beliefs. But the shouting out in America about God and country is so loud right now, that I can't help but feel like no one has any idea what they are really saying. The Bible banging is the drumbeat to the crescendo of a chorus of people claiming God as their champion and their own, glassy eyed and monotone and droning, an ever growing mass of voices all sounding alike, all without passion or reflection, all with a spark of righteous fervor in their cadence. These unwitting soldiers have usurped the church on the corner, the temple, the Flag, the Bible, the loudspeakers. Their volume makes it impossible for them to think or reflect, and the lines they march in, so scarily like those of an army, make it impossible for them to stop and ponder, or to turn. How startling to have come across the ocean back to the land of separation of church and state, only to be confronted with an army of automatons. How bleak.
In the end, we are all free, so thankfully free, to choose, change, renounce, convert, be born again, dead again, free again. The beating of a drum may be seductive, and make our quandaries dissipate, our decisions easier, our loneliness more bearable, but is it really worth it? Is it easier, less demanding, to ponder quietly or shout in chorus with a gang? Is it worth the trouble to attempt to understand your adversaries, to learn from them, or to claim that you have God on your side, therefore you need not bend. The God thing is a blaring loudspeaker, soothing and searing, drowning out room for discourse or debate. How I wish someone would unplug it.