Menopause and patriotism are an interesting mix.
I discovered this today when I attended the memorial service for a man I hardly knew other than to pay my respects to him and his family. I am at that stage in my life where my hormones are fluctuating and I can cry over the simplest thing; a corny commercial, a nostalgic picture, a passage in a book I’m reading. I also have a very strong patriotic streak; I tear up whenever I see a mass of people with their hands over their hearts collectively reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. So it is no wonder I reacted the way I did midway through the service.
All was well until Taps was played on a bugle, Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, and a fleet of men in marine uniform conducted the full military ceremony complete with presentation of the flag and the firing of their rifles.
I couldn’t hold back the tears; but neither could several others in the room.
In this divisive time in our country, where political and religious views seem to fracture relationships as tragically as those during civil war times when brother fought against brother, it is easy to feel like if things get any worse perhaps the life of an expatriate is the answer. I admit I have often thought that way; that I could go live in a tiny village in Sicily and leave behind the negative climate that has descended upon my country of late.
But being in the presence today of saluting marines, with the sound of such exquisite music as a backdrop, in addition to the way in which a former marine and state senator was being honored, I felt the most immense pride in being an American.
I told my husband that it’s a good thing I don’t attend military funerals very often; in fact that was my first one. On the other hand, I walked away from the event with a renewed appreciation for my status as an American citizen and looked upon the crowd not with my usual suspicious eye: who’s a conservative, who would judge me for my views, who doesn’t agree with me?
Instead, I felt a sense of bonding with those around me, all of us mourning the loss of a fellow human being as well as a father, brother, grandpa, friend. We all experienced emotion and I know that patriotism was one of them as that is when the waterworks really began. Perhaps the answer to this country’s woes, that of the discontent that leads us to accuse, point fingers and scream at one another, is the mandatory attendance of each and every American to a military funeral.
There we can witness with both our eyes and our hearts the one thing that brings us all together no matter what our political or religious views: that we are in a country built upon the spirit of patriotism, sentiment, and principles. Maybe after the final notes of Taps is played even the most obstinate attendee would embrace his or her neighbor with a renewed sense of tolerance.
Or maybe not. Perhaps all this sentimental drivel is just another symptom of my fluctuating hormones. Whatever it is I can’t get the words “I once was lost, but now I’m found” out of my head. Maybe all I need is to up my hormone dosage and call it a day.