Miguel was born on the 4th of July which was not especially good news to me given that I have such complicated feelings about the ol' US of A. As I wrote before, however, his birth redeemed the day for me. The downside of being born on the 4th of July is the patriotically themed gifts we had to endure in his early years. Miguel received a number of red, white and blue outfits...he got a pair of swimming trunks covered in American flags... and, last but certainly not least, he received several books about America that were nothing more than propaganda with colorful illustrations. When Miguel was two, he received the board book version of "God Bless America" and, much to my dismay, this book became his absolute favorite because somebody mentioned to him that it was actually a song and that boy has always loved a good tune. So, I found myself singing "God Bless America" to my son every single night before bed. The things we do for our children! Then, one night, Miguel surprised me by singing the book to me. I sat next to his squirmy little body as he sang:
From the mountains, to the prairies, To the oceans white with foam, God bless America, My home, sweet home. God bless America, My home, sweet home.
And I cried. I cried because I wanted so badly to feel pride in this country. I cried because, in his sweet little voice, Miguel helped me believe in that which millions of people before me believed - the promise of this country.
Yesterday, nearly six years after that moment with my son, I cried as Aretha Franklin sang "My Country "Tis of Thee" because, once again, I was filled with hope. I am laying down my cynicism and am choosing to believe that someday this country may, indeed, become the "sweet land of liberty" idealized in song. I am choosing to believe that the promises made will be promises kept. It has been a long time since I believed anything a US President has said and never imagined that I would hear a President speak of humility...
"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." - President Barack Obama 1/20/09
I found the following recordings last night...
Yes, that's Miguel singing at two, making his cynical old mother believe in possibility.