Dear God, what has happened to my country, to this sweet land of liberty? When my father taught my Cuban mother and me the words of “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee),” we placed our hands over our hearts. He also patiently coached us to memorize the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Pledge of Allegiance. “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Those words indicate America’s promise to my parents, to me and to my children.
Dear God, one of my father’s heroes, Abraham Lincoln, declared that, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” In this dark, fretful moment, it feels like we are in a de facto civil war with other Americans that I cannot comprehend. We cannot hear each other across the great chasm between us.
Dear God, you surely remember when a teacher at my Jewish day school impressed and scared me in equal measure with this image: When we die, our lives are played out like a movie, which God watches with us. Who will view the movie of the insurrection at the Capitol with God? Will it be the man wearing the Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt with the grinning skull and the awkward translation of the Nazi motto “work brings freedom”? Will it be the man sitting with his feet up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk? Will it be the man carrying the speaker’s lectern that he ripped out of the House chamber? Will your heart break, in whatever form that may be, like mine did when I glimpsed the brave, resolute bald eagle engraved on the House of Representative’s seal?
Dear God, in the wildest nightmares I conjured during this presidency, I never thought I would see a marauding mob so deliberately assault our democracy. We cannot undo those images of that terrifying breaking and entering into the “House of the People.” Windows smashed and blood splattered on busts. Lives lost and lives upended. Is this my United States of America? I cannot stop thinking that this breach happened during the certification of a presidential election—a crucial part of the regular, peaceful transition of power.
I’m trying to understand that these domestic terrorists are your children too. The election was won fairly; it was an election that reflected the will of the people. I’m repeating what you know. Vulnerable flesh and bone that I am, I can’t stop from looking again and again at the images of people desecrating the House chamber by looting and occupying the sacred spaces of our republic. Those images shock me. They aggrieve me. They terrify me.
Dear God, my love for America, my red, white and blue patriotism runs deeply through my DNA. My father, a veteran of World War II, loved this country with ferocity. His dedication to America was akin to a religious experience. These songs formed his patriotism; they comprised his liturgy. When we review the movie of my life together, you will see me and my sister and my brother marching around our childhood home waving small American flags on the Fourth of July with Dad in the lead. You will see me stand with my father in our den when the national anthem comes on over the television. You will see us once again place our hands over our hearts. As Dad and I sing together, he will cry.
My father was a student of history. A much-older dad, he entered college during the Great Depression; he was an officer on a supply ship during World War II. He revered the secret ballot and never revealed for whom he voted. And I remember how very proud he was of our country for the way we peacefully transitioned power from one president to the next. He proclaimed that we were the United States of America, and there was no country on earth greater or more moral than ours. There was an innocence to my father’s patriotism. It’s an innocence that I will always cherish. I love that this is the unique optimism of a man who lived through a world war. I like to think that I carry that optimism too.
Dear God, it is unthinkable not to stand up and fight for our democracy. I therefore ask you to help me to be calm, to steady my voice so that I will effectively protect this land that my father cherished. I ask you to allow me to sit with my grief until it becomes action. And I plead with you to help me to forgive. Allow me to take to heart the words of the psalmist: “For God’s wrath lasts but a moment; life results from God’s favor; in the evening, weeping may tarry, but in the morning there is joyful singing.”
It will take time for the shock, the anger, to begin to lift. I am not ready to sing yet. But I am my father’s daughter, and I believe that joy is coming. “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”