A few years ago, I came across the story of an American Marine in Iraq. While an international news crew looked on, he ran into harm’s way to rescue his injured comrades. And when all of his fellow Marines were safe, he went back into harm’s way and started rescuing injured Iraqis.
Someone in the news crew pointed out he was rescuing the enemy, but he answered without stopping.
“I’m an American. We’re the good guys. This is what we do.”
Not all of us are trained Marines, called to have the bravery to go head-on into harm. But we can all try to be the good guys, even in the midst of political strife.
We Need All Three
Somewhere in our nation’s history, it’s become acceptable to malign the political color — red or blue — we don’t endorse. But do we really think that, by discord, we can create a better America? After all, all three colors are in the flag.
The red in the flag symbolizes hardiness and valor. The white stands for purity and innocence, and the blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
Maybe we shouldn’t be fighting the other color. Maybe instead, we should be learning from our mistakes and focusing on being the good guys. After all, we don’t all have to agree to have unity. We don’t all have to be the same color to support the three colors of our flag.
My great-grandfather, known to me as Dad Benson, was the state senator for northeast Alabama, and my dad was a senate page back in the ’50s. When they had to visit Montgomery, a cab driver usually drove them down in Dad Benson’s car.
Once, about halfway to Montgomery, Dad Benson asked the driver to stop the car.
Out in the middle of a field a poor, black farmer had lost control of a big mule, and it was cavorting all over the place.
Everybody got out of the car and helped head off the mule, finally catching him. Then, in the heat and dust of summer, Dad Benson spent a good while chatting with the man about farming in general and mules in particular.
I don’t think this was in Dad Benson’s district, and at that time, the farmer probably couldn’t even vote.
There might be those who would say an Alabama politician during the bad old days of Jim Crow segregation would have a hard time being one of the good guys. But on that day, I like to think Dad Benson qualified.
When Neighbors Call
My neighbors don’t share my political views. But when my mom died, it wasn’t my favorite newspaper’s op-ed writer, or a political satirist or a congressional subcommittee who showed up on my front porch with a chicken pot pie.
It was my neighbors, Gary and Sonja.
And when their son Matt needed his tie tied for a school assembly, and his dad was out of town, Sonja didn’t call on her preferred political action committee. She sent him to me.
It’s times like those when I’m reminded the colors of the flag can flow between people of all sorts of political standings.
Bring On the Innocence!
If we are ever going to fulfill the promise in the Pledge of Allegiance, “one nation, under God, indivisible,” and if we’re going to be the good guys, we have some serious work to do.
We need to look beyond our reds and our blues to see the clean white background of responsibility, sensibility and reason that holds our Star Spangled Banner together.
There is a certain amount of purity and innocence needed to bridge the gaps and make sense out of the red-and-blue head-butting that is dominating our politics these days.
If purity, rather than stubbornness and pride, is what it takes for us to be people of hardiness and valor, let’s get all the purity we can find. And if innocence, not paranoia and revenge, will make us people of vigilance and justice, then bring on the innocence!
Being the Good Guys
It takes humility to stop fighting and learn from the experience. Humility is strengthened every time we don’t get our way, and it deepens every time something hurts us. That’s a good thing.
But where are we going to find innocence these days? Where is purity? Humility?
There’s one place, or rather, one person who ate and drank as one of us. In His humility, He descended from Heaven to be born into human flesh. He is pure and innocent, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, Sunday school teachers and punk rock aficionados, red and blue.
When we get sick and tired of tearing our flag into fragments, He welcomes us all.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Yes, the world will be indignant and laugh at us. It will point out we are dancing with the enemy, eating with sinners, and carrying burdens for folks of the other color.
But that’s when we’ll say, “True, I’m an American. We try to be the good guys. But first and foremost, always and forever, I am a Christian. And love is what we do.”