What does it mean to be free? It’s such an abstract concept for someone who has always been relatively free. I mean, it sounds simple enough to understand, but how do we really appreciate freedom unless we’ve experienced the opposite? If you’re an American reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’re female, 35+, and probably grew up middle-class. Maybe you’ve felt discrimination in the workplace or overlooked pursuing a sport, but you probably weren’t slated to marry solely for your father’s economic gain or afraid to voice your opinion for fear of beheading (or your children’s beheading). You were most likely educated and encouraged to do something productive with your life, other than having sons. It’s hard to really empathize with the unfree. That’s where art comes in. Art is one of the tools God gives us for creating compassion and visualizing the impossible. I believe the freedom to develop and express creatively is something worth fighting for.
We just returned from a trip to Hawaii, stopping at the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor on our way to Maui. Pearl Harbor was always one of those “events in history” for me. I could appreciate that some died, that began our engagement in WWII, but it was always somewhat abstract since it happened before I was born.
And then there was 9-11. As I sat with my then 3-year-old watching towers that I had stood upon fall and hearing accounts of civilians my age who were dead or missing, I began to really understand what Pearl Harbor might have felt like to my grandparent’s generation. The recent movie about Pearl Harbor (the one with Ben Affleck), helped me FEEL what might have been at stake for someone on that island when the planes struck. Last week when I walked through the museum on Oahu, I was MOVED by the terror and loss, but also the sense of purpose. How differently things could have turned out! And when I entered the memorial which begins with a rise, descends to a mid-section drop to indicate the low point of the war, and then rises again to the names of those killed flanked by the “tree of life” design I was RENEWED by the HOPE and FAITH it takes to fight for freedom. The design of the memorial expressed that to me.
My husband loves the military toys. Not war itself…he’s as conflict-avoiding as I am. But the ships and helicopters and stuff? Testosterone rules. After visiting the memorial, we boarded the USS Missouri for a detailed tour of the ship and account of the signing of the treaty with Japan. I’ve toured other military ships, subs and aircraft with him and I always have a mix of two thoughts:
1. Good God, if we didn’t have to spend THIS MUCH MONEY on fighting, we could solve all the poverty issues of the world!
2. I am grateful to live in a country with the people, technology and vision capable of defending my freedom. I look at those cramped ship quarters and think of the grace under pressure needed to run the machinery. I am awed not by the politics or the might, but by the dedication of the troops. It’s not a job I could do. It’s not one I take lightly. It’s one that’s hard for me to comprehend without standing before the design, scale, and imagery of it all. It’s easy to get caught up in one’s vitriol or apathy until you stand on the site where lives were lost and history was made.
I am a peaceful person. I am an artist. I am a thinker who tries to take large abstract concepts and present them in simple, beautiful ways. The beauty of art is that you may find something valuable in what I paint or say that touches part of you. You may connect to something in my art independent of how you judge the actual “me.” We might be from wildly different backgrounds and beliefs, but through art find something even more primal in common. We might appreciate each other, differences and all. And isn’t that the crux of the Freedom?
On this (American) 4th of July holiday, God, please DO bless America. We still need it.