Have you ever had a dream when you see something terrible happening or something scares you and you try to scream, but you have no voice?
That is what the last 2 years have felt like. Everyone sees it, people know things are not working. The corruption is obvious but how do we fix it? Where do we start? When we try to say something… we get silenced. It’s been going on for so long I became numb to it. I stopped caring because it was so exhausting and frustrating to think about. The truth is, I don’t even know what the truth is anymore. I had no voice.
Then it happened. A simple title triggered me when I was looking through the books at Goodwill. I saw this large vintage book with the title “We Americans”. That was it. That simple little title woke up something inside of me. I don’t know why. It made me sad and angry and frustrated and inspired all at the same time!
What does being American even mean to me anymore? I used to be so proud of my country. When I was younger, I thought we were the good guys. Protecting the underdog, fighting for freedom, taking care of those less fortunate. We were a democracy. We had rights. We had a voice. We weren’t like other countries…were we?
Then the older I got, the more I learned. The more confusing it all became. So much information, so many lies, and now, I don’t know what to believe anymore. I knew as soon as I brought that book home, it was going to be my muse for a painting. I had no idea what it would look like so I just started painting. As soon my brush hit the canvas it was like me being able to scream for the first time, even if no one heard. At least no one could silence my image. No one could silence the emotions I was putting into what I was creating. Every stroke was a release of the frustration that has been bottled up for 2 years! I was in my own home, away from any threats of being verbally attacked by those who disagreed or didn’t understand. This piece was just for me. My release.
Then these words kept coming up in my mind “United We Stand” “We the People” and “In God we trust”. I knew I had to write them out, and really understand where these came from and their meaning.
“United we stand, divided we fall” was originally from one of Aesop’s fables. The story goes like this: “A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them, but whenever he came near they turned their tails to warn another so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarreling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in the separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four. United we stand, divided we fall.”
Kind of sounds familiar doesn’t it? “We the people” is the preamble to the constitution of the United States. A huge amount of thought was put into the words used in the US Constitution and their phrasing. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the preamble of the constitution starts with We The People. We The People refers to everybody who lives in the United States and is going to be ruled by the constitution. (Quoted from ConstitutionUS)
And last but not least “In God we trust”. Have you ever read the story behind why this was made part of our currency? I won’t tell the entire story here, but I will share the response letter from the director of the mint at the time (which is very eye-opening!)
Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861: Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. It always comes down to trusting God. Although that should be the first thing we do, sadly, sometimes it’s the last.
Our country is young compared to others, and yet it has survived so much already! We have been divided before and then united, we have been hopeless before and have found hope, we have been chaotic and have found peace.
Yes, every word we chose to describe our country is absolutely accurate and true, including the words blessed and resilient. This verse came to my mind as I was finishing writing down these thoughts…
“We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”2 Corinthians 4:8-9