red, blue and a bright, shining white

by rebecca on July 5, 2010

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       Today my altared space is the unity that comes from celebrating birthdays; public and private. I have thrown a few big birthday parties, the kind where all the disparate groups in one individual’s life converge for a few hours and share icy drinks and warm bread straight out of the oven.

       I’m always nervous before these parties. How are our climbing friends going to get along with those accompanying us to the Shakespeare festival? How will the carpenters mix with the yoginis? What about my nutty family members? Will all these different people have anything in common? But they are our dear ones. I’m throwing one birthday party. I don’t want to leave anyone out.

       And in these moments when I’m kneading the bread, readying the party, with flour on my cheek, I worry that the air will be still with silence and no one will have fun. I fill the room with balloons and candy dishes hoping to avoid the empty places.

       People arrive and I pass out goofy party horns and put sparkly wands into hands that clutch at them happily waving. Children gather the balloons into their hands and put candy into their mouths. They begin to run around, filling the space with laughter and their sugar.

       Shakespeare makes his way onto mountainsides of conversation. Individuals stretch and are nailed together by their commonalities like children playing chase. Warm bread fills everyone with equanimity. And I overflow with gratitude that the wide net we cast is able to capture such fun for everyone, even if it’s only for one evening.

       It is a similar feeling I have on the Fourth of July. I like for people to get along, a natural peace-keeper, I guess. Our country is full of polarizations when things are divided along so many lines. There’s the abortion debate, or the question to drill or build wind turbines? What about guns? As a nation we are facing the issues of same-sex couples every day.

       These debates often turn violent and the lines get drawn deeply, making enemies out of neighbors. Blue and red get held up like the ultimate question of patriotism: which color papers your home?

       But when I go to my small town Fourth of July parade I notice the party hats and the streamers and how we all are colorful together. People peppered in differences join hands to walk down a tiny main street and celebrate how being different from one another makes a nation strong. Our debate hones each of us as we further identify what we believe.

       This is a day when all the debates fade away. Red and blue intertwine and burst into a celebration of stars.

       Whether we’re singing Happy Birthday or The Star Spangled Banner, lifting our voices to sing one song in unity is the point. We come together to celebrate a birth, an individual or a nation. Birth fills us with hope for what a lifetime might bring.

       When I celebrate birthdays I’m reduced to that mother in the delivery room who cares nothing for wind turbines, drilling or guns. I care about the life I’m holding and how it connects me, instantly, to all of humanity. Because we were all once so tiny. We all had a beginning.

       I believe in the differences of our democracy. I think they make the fabric of our national quilt much stronger. But I also believe that celebrating a birthday, when we put our differences aside and decorate our yards with signs of appreciation for the life we are given is critically important. It’s when all of us who don’t know what we have in common remember: We’re all simply chasing our own balloons for a better life. Letting the balloons mingle makes for a prettier picture.


       What makes you feel like celebrating diversity? Do you feel the red and blue of your balloons mingling?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber July 5, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Rebecca, I knew you would right something profound. This is exactly what my husband and I decided to do. We laid aside the animosity we have for so many politicians for just one day. We swallowed the criticisms and let ourselves celebrate a wondrous occasion. It was nice.

But now the day is over. Let the criticizing begin.

Just kidding.



Yvette Francino July 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm

It’s interesting how it’s our differences that both divide us and unite us. Similar to your post about the blades of grass, there is some need to want to stand separate and unique and another need to join with others in blended unity. We need to stand strong for our values and passions, yet remain open-minded and welcoming to those who believe differently. Is this always possible? Should we accept everyone that is American because they are American? Because they have similar beliefs to us? Because they are humans? Where is the line?

There is such a strong feeling of community and love that is born out of loyalty to a country or a cause or maybe even a shared tragedy. I believe most of us want this feeling all the time…that feeling of love and acceptance. Why must we have that shared value or experience to be accepted? Will those that don’t share it be outcast? Would the feelings of acceptance and love be lessened if everyone was accepted regardless of their values?

I agree with you, Rebecca, that differences are a good thing. We learn from people who think differently from us. We may not agree with them, but by keeping an open mind and listening to differing viewpoints, we’re able to form our opinions intelligently.

However, there are people I would not accept into my circle of friends… I would choose not to be around people who are disrespectful or rude. I wouldn’t want to be around people who are negative or those who constantly find fault with others or who blame others for their problems. It’s not race, nationality, relgion, or politics that matter to me. It’s the character of a person that really matters most to me.


The Mother July 6, 2010 at 3:51 pm

It would be lovely if everyone would put aside their differences.

Alas, so many folks are hung up on those differences, and in exploiting them for their own ends, that I do not see it happening soon.

Perhaps, as in that great scene in Independence Day, with the Israeli air force and the Arab troops all listening to the radio together, we just need a bigger enemy.


rebecca July 6, 2010 at 4:28 pm


Actually your comment really has me thinking that it truly is the bigger enemy that we need. That unites us under the same banner and these present day differences melt away.


Sarah July 6, 2010 at 9:47 pm

This is simply the best Fourth of July post I have read. Captivating, really, how you distill the commonalities and the differences in all of us into one neatly wrapped National Holiday.



TheKitchenWitch July 7, 2010 at 9:53 am

It’s funny–we ate ethnic food a lot over the 4th weekend, and my husband commented on that, and I said, “Well, we’re the Melting Pot Nation, right? Ethnic food IS American!” Viva Diversity!


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