Chronicles in Ordinary Time 127: Brokenness Can Be the Beginning

Independence Day Holiday, 2017

It is when we are broken that we realize we cannot be what we want to be; we cannot accomplish the things we want to accomplish in our own strength. We see our faults for what they are, and we stop hiding from them. These broken places can become places of strength. The broken places are where the Light shines through.

America once had a standing in the world as the ‘home of democracy’; the place of freedom for anyone to be who we can become. Where every citizen can become President. In the words of Abraham Lincoln:
My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.

“Once again”—presumably a reference to the Civil War. Hopefully applicable to the less-than-civil ‘war’ that is happening in America today.

My maternal Grandparents and their family, at different times, came from Norway to America in the early 1920’s. I don’t know why, exactly. I realize now that I really didn’t care, all that much. One of my less-positive attributes, a problem of being ‘asocial’; perhaps a consequence of being an ‘Only’ raised by working parents. I’ve recently learned that there was a famine in Norway in the early 1920’s; my assumption is that this was a contributing factor to their emigration.
My conclusions, based on growing up in my family, is that when my Grandparents left Norway [which was referred to as ‘the Old country’], they decided to become Americans; rather than Norwegian-Americans. I’ve never bothered to find out much about their lives… I know that my Grandmother traveled by train with her three young daughters, across the US from New York. My Grandmother’s first experience of seeing people of Color. She was surprised by the dark brown skin, but found the porters on the train to be very nice. My Grandmother spoke no English at the time; my guess is that she learned a lot from her three daughters, as they learned to speak English. We had Norwegian cookies at Christmas; a small Norwegian flag sat on the mantle. Occasionally Norwegian relatives visited Portland. My Grandparent made at least one trip back to their Norwegian home.

I don’t know how they would feel about today…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…”
It doesn’t take long, if one reads stories from the International Press, that we aren’t there anymore. America is failing the world, in terms of our example. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is rightly being called the “Leader of the Free World.”

The Bible uses a word called, “repent” to symbolize this understanding of our own brokenness, our weakness, and our determination to move beyond our failures through the strength of a Higher Power. The Greek word, usually translated as “repent” actually means, ‘to see the world through new eyes’. Over the centuries, the word “repent” has taken on a moralistic tone regarding one’s behavior. This understanding is incorrect.

Four Presidents, I believe, found the strength to be dynamic leaders of our country, through having discovered their brokenness. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. The moment some people finish reading that sentence their minds race in rebellion. Do I believe that these are America’s Greatest Presidents? Probably not; I’m not a Presidential historian. There were a lot of Presidents before Lincoln; there have been a lot of Presidents after JFK, who, I believe, never had the opportunity to fully prove his Greatness.

All of these Presidents were flawed; which is part of my point.
Abraham Lincoln, clinically depressed, married to a bipolar wife, lost three children to death by illness; two before the Civil War.
Theodore Roosevelt lost his wife and mother on the same day, early in his political life. He chose to suffer hardship in the Dakotas, leaving his newborn daughter with his sister; possibly in some strange act of penance.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken with polio eleven years before he became President. He taught himself to ‘walk’ using iron leg braces and the assistance of a son.
John F. Kennedy severely injured his back in the Pacific, during World War II, and was in continual pain for the rest of his life, and addicted to pain killers while in office.

Four men, labeled by history as a “Leader of the Free World,” who inwardly realized they could not accomplish anything in their own strength and power, regardless of how the world might view them. Men who became broken by circumstances, and found the strength to overcome their brokenness. I am of the opinion that all these men came to rely on a Higher Power to enable them to do what they could not do on their own. Men who decided that they dare not fail.

Today our President is failing all over the world, and he seems to be oblivious to it. Some critics say that rather than ‘Making America Great Again’, he is making China great. Rather than encouraging the country to become more than it currently is, leading by example, he gets in ‘twitter wars’ with journalists and celebrities…To me, it seems he still thinks he’s on a ‘reality TV show’; rather than attempting to be the ‘Leader of the Free World’. A President who seems to mainly be interested in his own popularity rather than caring for the least of us. A President who supports a Tax Cut for the wealthy at the cost of health care for the poor.

From my reading of Facebook, some will think that I’m whining about the result of the 2016 Presidential Election; this isn’t true. I’m a ‘progressive centrist’. I voted for the Jewish Socialist who spoke the words of Jesus, the words of Torah, whether or not he realized it. I’m writing about character. ‘Leading by Example’; something any Senior Patrol Leader in the Boy Scouts will affirm; but something our President seems never to have learned…

 

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