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Friday, August 29, 2014


Today we watched Caleb march onto the parade field with 4000 other cadets, a precision spectacle of blue uniforms, white gloves, drums and flags.  All the parents and spectators rose, instructed to put our right hand over our heart as the national anthem played.  A cannon fired, bugles sounded, and a formidable number of healthy strong young men and women moved into position.

And in a surreal moment of self reflection, I wondered about how we got here. A kid born in Kenya, raised in a fluid chaotic world of dirt and sun, soldiers who wore flip flops, an army that borrowed fuel from us when rebels attacked. Whose only prior year of American school was kindergarten. Who has a healthy skepticism for dominating absolutes and an eclectic view of the spectrum of cultural beauty. Yet this morning, an indistinguishable member of a force whose purpose is to fly airplanes on the side of America. One of uncountable pale faces, short hair, uniform clothing, unified steps.

I know some of the answers. If you aren't rich (as in if you're a missionary kid) and want to learn to fly, this is he ticket. If you want a superb education emphasizing engineering science, this is the place. (We toured workshops full of machines and viewed steel under an electron microscope in one of his labs). If you are attracted to the difficult, thrive on the integration of physical and mental challenge, the military academies will provide plenty. If you believe in the brotherhood of shared danger and hard labor, the military and the mission field meld well. Bottom line in this case, if you want life to be about something more than personal comfort or gain, if you want the discipline of serving others, this is a very valid route.

But the America theme is pretty prominent, and I wonder how it will play out. In our best moments our country is about justice and equality, about the prevention of tyranny, about freedom to think and believe and pursue. In those moments, a missionary kid can feel at home. John the Baptist baptized roman soldiers and told them to go back and do their jobs fairly, to not oppress, to protect. In a world where evil sometimes takes on national violent proportions, justice needs some legitimate enforcement.

But there is also an undercurrent of fear in America, fear of losing our wealthy advantage to the dilution of immigration or the pluralism of democracy when the majority no longer thinks like we think our founders did.  Or perhaps an undercurrent of hubris, the sense of entitlement or superiority. The same forces that drive tribalism when small language groups on one continent crowd up against each other could drive nationalism in unjust directions as America rubs shoulders with the world.

So I rejoice in the opportunity and provision of this place, and appreciate the potential for good. These kids with their values of excellence, service, and integrity are exactly who we want flying lethal aircraft and controlling dangerous weapons. And I pray for my own son's sake that being American and being African never conflict for him, that he can serve with confidence and pride a country that serves the global good. 

1 comment:

Sally said...

I've wondered, as I've read of your son's journey, how he might process the juxtaposition of the multiple world views to which he has been exposed. I pray that he would be salt and light in a unique way as he serves our country.