07/04/2006 03:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Patriotism Revisited

It is our business to become courageous enough to face the radical depth of our freedom, to accept it and to live with it creatively. Beatrice Bruteau

Happy 4th of July.

This is a flag-waving holiday. It's the one and only national holiday that celebrates the United States as a whole. You can tell it by the patriotic displays everywhere, the preponderance of politicians at public events, the small town parades and parks full of picnickers. The people dressed in red, white and blue. And the fireworks to top it all off. This is our day to be proud of our country. And so many of us really WANT to be, but there's a struggle there inside. There's shame, anger, disillusion in so many great American hearts--a desperate longing for this war to end, for our enchantment with this beautiful country to be revived, for some kind of social transformation to occur that will relieve us of our sorrows over the growing numbers of us, all believers in that great American dream, who are hungry in our neighborhoods, jobless and uninsured in our families, and fighting on non-American soil for freedoms many of them will never benefit from. While I hear fireworks from my window, in my heart I hear "the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air" over Iraq, over the Middle East, over Africa, and I am not soothed by patriotism, but I AM moved by it, challenged by it, and my call to action is to reframe this holiday and bring you the good news of that effort.

So here it is: This is your chance to see if you're really a genius or not. Forget the Mensa tests and those old IQ scores. The French philosopher poet Baudelaire wrote this: "True genius is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts simultaneously without losing your mind." So if you're one of those Americans struggling with the concept of patriotism, wishing you could actually flesh it out or reinvent it so that it actually related to you in some meaningful way, I have three concrete suggestions for actions you might take. This will allow you to merge those contradictory thoughts you have, to connect your shame or anger at this country's policies with an action that is as American as apple pie, thereby creating a higher synthesis of consciousness that will bring you closer to enlightenment and place you in the category of genius with hardly an effort. And in the event that you have no shame or anger and are actually proud already of everything America stands for, it's your chance to further the greatness that we are as a people taking care of our own and the world at large.

Here are your genius opportunities:

1. Go to this website and listen to this American vet/paraplegic who is about to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He lost the use of his legs in service to our country and you can now support him in his very important cause by donating a dollar (or more) You can pay by credit card or paypal and where it says payment for, just write in HELP US CLIMB.

2. There is a very strong and fast growing movement in this country lobbying for the development of a Department of Peace in the U.S. This is not a pipe dream. It's a very real happening thing and if you could use some inpsiration, go to to see what it's all about. If you're in California, go to

Just imagine... a U.S. Peace Academy, acting as a sister organization to the U.S. Military Academy. It's an incredible idea, but we're so close to making it happen. How patriotic of you to help materialize it!

3. If you're aware of the power of the arts in social transformation and would like to support a poet who's doing a fabulous job of lifting the spirit of American (and other) souls, buy a chapbook from Judi Beach who has just compiled some poetry that makes me shudder with delight at its elegance and relevance. I'll leave you with one of her poems, but you'll need to order her book to get the rest: email

Granger's Index to Poetry, 7th Edition
(for Pat Fowler)

God and Jesus Christ together do not
equal the number of poems in Death.

Throw in Saints and saviors, Curses and
Blessings, Sacraments, even Religion,
all things Sacred and Profane and still
Death is longer than Life and every poem
written on Love and Lust and Passion.

Death outlives Mother and Father,
Grandparents, eachand every Ancestor.
It survives Son and Daughter, continues
when Heart stops and Spirit expires.

There is more to Death than Prayer and Grief,
more than Loss, more than Heaven or Hell.
It's greater than History, Music and Art,
the Foods we eat, Animals and plants,
everything in Nature and all Creation.

This poem could find its place in Granger's and
come to rest in Death, though I think it's Love
because I love Granger's Index with its singular
reminder of death but so many more indices of life.

Judi K. Beach (from her chapbook Wild)

Yes, it's life we want to celebrate on this holiday, and it's war we want to forget and forsake. Let's make it obsolete. Let's refuse to collude. Let's support these heroes, these veterans of war, these warriors for peace, these poets and artists at life who remind us at every turn that all we have is now, all we are is what we do. Wherever you are tonight, under these star-spangled skies, remember this is our country, our dream, our chance to make it great. That social transformation we hunger for...we are the ones bringing it to life, one patriotic gesture at a time.