More love, in new Forms
July 5, 2022
It’s the 4th of July, 10 am. I’m sitting in a folding chair, dripping sweat on my driveway, playing amplified Sousa marches for a children’s parade that’s warming up down our gentrifying street. My teenaged son, coaxed into participating last year, is inside, asleep on our couch. My wife Melanie is helping to organize the party. And our dog is sniffing around the usually forbidden front yard.
Community emerges tentatively in this neighborhood. The shared rituals that would have drawn us together in decades past have eroded, particularly over the last two years. Our family is sandwiched between generations here; most of our neighbors are millennials or boomers, and their kids are a decade younger than our son. Melanie invited food trucks onto the block early in the pandemic, so the neighbors—suddenly always home—could get to know each other. A food truck sits down the street now, perhaps an emergent symbol in a new rite of community building.
We hold deep tensions as Americans. Many aren’t actually being held, but are being lived out unconsciously, in emotional and physical violence. Isabel Wilkerson notes that today, July 4th, 2022, is “the day that the United States will have been a free and independent nation for as long as slavery lasted on its soil.” The stories we most want to believe about ourselves live alongside the stories we least want to own. We struggle to hold more than one feeling, one value, one story at a time, in fear that other, more painful ones will annihilate us.
The young families, their little ones pedaling by, are grateful for the Sousa marches. Today, they discomfit me more than they once comforted me. They evoke my childhood experiences of the 4th of July, watching fireworks at the county fairgrounds, participating in color guards when I was a Boy Scout. And they evoke an imposed order. They scored the honorable training and celebration of the soldiers who serve in our military. As well as the expansion of American empire across the world, an order often imposed without invitation or permission, at great cost to those soldiers and to the communities they encounter.
Today I’m grateful for the young families drawn together on our block, and am glad to play a small role in their community. I hear the music differently than I did as a child. And we need these connections that are forming as the music plays.
Love is the only force that will save us or allow us to hold the tensions we are this summer. C.G. Jung suggested that holding the tension of opposites long enough allows transcendent possibilities to emerge. Sousa is an echo, faint and fading, of what drew us together decades ago. We need more now, not less or different—new and different connections, new music and art and celebrations. We need more of our collective history and living, vital present, more love in new forms. Today I’ll take my sadness and fear, and my pleasure watching these families chatting as they march to Sousa, and I’ll hold them together. And hope that more will emerge.