We The People

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity, and ourselves do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 I spent a couple weeks in Asia this summer. While I was there, I was proud to represent America. I was proud to ask people around me about their culture, and to share mine to them.

When I got back, the protests in Charlottesville happened and I wasn’t so proud anymore. I had been welcomed with open arms to a place I had never been and I cried over the knowledge that some people do not have that experience in a place they consider to be home. I kept thinking about the phrases written above, the phrases in the Preamble. Those people in Charlottesville claimed to be proud Americans, yet they were not establishing justice. They were doing the opposite of domestic tranquility, and they sure as heck weren’t promoting the general welfare. They were securing the blessings of liberty for themselves, but for no one else. They were not “We the people”, they were “Us the people and They the people”.

A couple days after Charlottesville, I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to watch the eclipse. This was an interesting place for two reasons. One, it was in the path of the full eclipse, and two, it is the location of the first battle of the Civil War. Everyone and their mother were coming to watch the moon overtake the sun, and I feared that would include the tiki torch-wielding haters. But we hung up hammocks underneath the pier and chatted to people passing by with no drama. We helped people set up tents and we watched people help people. We lay on the sand and watched the sun shrink through our eclipse glasses. We clapped with the crowd as the moon overtook the sun and the color drained out of the world.

That stretch of sand in South Carolina was the most diverse setting I had ever been in, and yet, it was the most peaceful. There were Hispanics, African-Americans, whites, wealthy people, poor people, young people and old people, all happily scrambled together. There was no way to tell who was Republican and Democrat, there was only bathing suits and eclipse glasses. People were cheering the moon on and people were cheering each other on. There was no room for hate.img_9032.jpg

A couple days after the eclipse, a hurricane hit the gulf coast of Texas. Just as the moon shone equally to everyone in Charleston, the storm hit everyone in its path with an equal amount of force. I had been in the Houston airport a few weeks before, on my way back from Beijing. I had a window seat, and I was looking out at Texas as we flew in. The neighborhoods were all neatly arranged, and the homes in them looked shiny and new. The schoolswere big and the football stadiums bigger. Those shiny homes I flew over are all flooded, the people that live in them stranded. Those big schools are ready for students that won’t be able to come for another week. The airport that was bustling with activity is now dark and empty.

The highlight of the eclipse was the moon directly blocking the sun. The temperature dropped and it was too dark to move around. I imagine Texas feels somewhat like that moment right now. They can’t see any sunlight, they don’t know what step to take next.IMG_9035.jpgBut the thing about that dark moment, the one everyone had traveled to see: it only lasted about two minutes. Before we knew it, the smallest sliver of sun broke through, the temperature rose back up, and we knew where we were again. If Texas is the moon right now, the rest of America is the sun beaming out behind it, ready to bring everything back to normal. I have seen companies announcing proceeds going to Houston shelters. I have received e-mails from Samaritan’s Purse urging available people to join the relief effort. Brewing companies are exchanging beer for canned water to ship to victims. I’ve read story after story of neighbors helping each other, neighbors that may live on opposite sides of the city.

We the people, the people of Texas and the people of America, are promoting the general welfare. We’re establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility. The city of Houston established a curfew so that homes would not be looted-providing for the common defense.

We the people are once more “We, the people”.

First Last Days

Today is my last first day of school.IMG_9072.jpg
It’s my last first day and I’m thinking about the excitement of the other first days. First days meant (and still mean) a shiny bookbag, new clothes, and meticulously selected pencil cases, notebooks, and folders. First days meant showing off a tan and swapping stories of the summer’s adventures.
It’s my last first day and I’m thinking about the long line of people that got me here. The physical therapists that didn’t give up on teaching me to speak and walk. The kindergarten teacher that assigned someone to walk to the library with me because I was too small to open the door by myself. The first grade teacher that got me my own chair because I couldn’t stay seated on the floor during story time. The eight grade teacher that came to my house and helped me study the night before the final. The dance teacher that made every girl in the studio believe she was the favorite. The college professors who have handed out cell phone numbers and kept faithful office hours, always willing to help a student in need. The parents who made each first day a special day.
It’s my last first day of college and I’m thinking about the last first day of high school. There was an assembly for the whole school, the same one held every year. Kindergarteners through 11th graders would be shuffling impatiently on the bleachers, until the headmaster came to the microphone and the room stilled. We heard the words we’d been thinking of all summer, “Please rise for the seniors to enter”. It was like a wedding, everyone stood as we walked in, and then applauded as we found our seats on the front row.
Today there is no such fanfare, there is no class picture or matching t-shirts. There is just me leaving my apartment and walking with a friend to class, us both with the bittersweet knowledge that today is our last first day.