It’s getting cramped in here…
the nest we call America.
For the past few weeks from my dining room window, I have witnessed one of natures finest miracles. Reproduction - up close and personal. With great excitement, I peered at an unsuspecting mother robin tend her nest with tender care. Each tiny and delicate bird, cloaked in velvet down, popped its head out of a carefully crafted nest in search of food. As instinct dictates, their noisy and over-scaled beaks stretched forth with insistence that they each be heard and fed.
With each new dawn there was a marked and rapid change as eyes opened, their oversized beaks became more proportioned and down became feathers. Within a two week period, they were developed enough to leave the nest and doting care of their mother. At one point, four - almost grown birds in a single nest made for a pretty tight squeeze. When one bird moved the others were jostled around as each movement required a necessary accommodation by the other equally cramped birds.
My DSLR was left on my table for those two weeks as I stealthily stole as many action shots as were allowed by a suspicious mother. Aside from the miracle of birth itself, was the miracle that these four birds somehow managed in a tight space taking turns being fed. In two short weeks they all grew to a level of independence and were gone.
My husband and I recently saw the Broadway play Hamilton which stirred in me a remembrance of principles that passionately resulted in the creation of this great country. As is depicted in the play, American politics from the beginning, have not been easy nor completely conciliatory. However, there were some truths that emerged from the collective efforts of those founding fathers and many others who have given time, effort and their own lives to make our country work. One of the great truths that emerged was that of unity.
The correlation between my two week bird observation and the current state of American politics seems fairly profound. Sometimes, it feels mighty cramped and not much room for us in the grand scheme of democracy. However, I am reminded of the words from a song written by one of the Founding Fathers John Dickinson called “The Liberty Song.” It was first published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768 and a portion of the lyrics are familiar to us all…
“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!”
Patrick Henry, also one of the founding fathers, through passionately clasped hands and a steady and unwavering stance repeated these words,
“Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our essence hangs.”
It was through a truly united faction that these UNITED States won independence against a much stronger and better organized Great Britain. Many have written about the miraculous defeat of that great power and it is fairly undisputed how our scrappy, underfed and ill troops could pull off such a defeat without divine intervention.
United we stand, divided we fall. What have we forgotten about those words of power and strength? There were converging ideas, differing opinions, cultures and traditions coming together then as there are now. Hungry and noisy beaks are open with necks outstretched as each group demands their fair share, then and now. We needed to be reminded during the inception of this great nation that we all win when we unite together, and without that united front we all fail. With that failure comes vulnerability, bitterness, hatred and in many cases death.
Abraham Lincoln centered his speech in 1858 when running against Stephen Douglas on the analogy of a “house divided” in illustrating the need for a universal decision as related to slavery. We all know the human toll of that division calling for a civil war.
There is room for everyone in the nest. We might feel cramped, have our feathers ruffled and may even feel that we are not getting our share of worms. However, we can make it work. We can stand united in cause, in spite of our differences, as we search for common ground.
It was not easy in the beginning and we have a great deal of history that suggests it has not been easy along the way, but there are plenty of examples to prove that it is possible.
Eleanor Roosevelt sums it up quite nicely and her message could not be more on point than it is now,
“Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here.”
The ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop uses a phrase that is similarly repeated in the Greek version of the New Testament in Mark 3:25,
“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
My plea is not meant to remain silent or even to agree, my plea is to seek common ground as we wrestle for solutions to difficult problems. My plea is to do so with civility and respect with a confidence that there will be a forum for difference without persecution and disrespect. If all the collective energy that is being used currently for faultfinding and division were channeled into solutions, there is not a problem we could not tackle.
Our necks are collectively outstretched for survival. May we all try a little harder to wrestle together to keep everyone in this remarkable nest that has withstood the test of time, the storms of man and nature and the multiple battles fought and won.