The 4th of July is often celebrated with good food, parades, fireworks, and family and friends. It is also a time to reflect on the history of the United States and how to craft what our future can be. This year, in honor of Independence Day, I am adding a new tradition. I will also be working on a Welcome Blanket.
THE AMERICAN FLAG IS A CRAFT PROJECT
Whenever anyone asks whether a craft project can have power, I am a little taken aback. The American flag was a craft project. Let that digest: the most powerful symbol in our country is a craft project!
As a kid, I grew up with the story of Betsy Ross who stitched the flag together for some battle. She was the only woman in the story, and though she did not go to the front lines, she created the symbol that united us. The Betsy Ross story has been debunked, and it is now thought that a team of people created the flag together. For me, this part of the story is even more powerful.
Upon just a little more searching (thank you Wikipedia), I learned the first US flag was flown at the Siege of Fort Stanwix. “Soldiers cut up their shirts to make the white stripes; scarlet material to form the red was secured from red flannel petticoats of officers' wives, while material for the blue union was secured from Capt. Abraham Swartwout's blue cloth coat.” In the creation of a physical symbol people gave pieces of their own clothing to create something together.
The symbol of the American flag is both incredibly powerful and personal. What each of us sees is different based on our experience and outlook. As we have learned from today’s political climate, many people have different visions of what the United States is and should be.
When I see images of the flag, I think of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. “ For me, “All men” includes everyone of all faiths (and non-faiths), and especially includes immigrants.
All of my grandparents immigrated to the United States and I am a product of their American Dream. My grandparents sought opportunity, safety, and religious freedom here in the United States. They laid the foundation for my family in this country through hard work, integrity, and kindness. I see my grandparents in the people who, at this very moment, are trying to come to the United States. I want to welcome them with the same opportunity, safety, and freedom my grandparents hoped for.
WELCOME BLANKET AS A NEW AMERICAN SYMBOL
Welcome Blanket is bigger than any one of us. It is a platform for participation and connection. It is about crafting a United States that we envision, a United States with many voices.
I hope these welcome blankets become powerful symbols for the people who will be receiving them. I hope that the ideas and ideals of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” are transmitted.
I hope that the people who will receive these blankets will feel that they are welcomed and a part of our country’s fabric, and that maybe one day they will pass these welcome blankets down to their children and grandchildren and share that when they arrived in the United States, they were welcomed.
I hope making a welcome blanket will become a new tradition every year, sharing our love of this country, and all that the freedoms of our country have meant to us (and our families) with newcomers to the country.