Make Your Heart A Free Country

By Kate Kerry Spencer

I disagree with you, but it’s a free country

I heard that line a lot when I was a kid. I heard it often from my always-Democrat mother in regards to what my sometimes-Republican father would have to say about some pressing issue of the day.

I loved that my parents could have completely different points of view from each other, agree to disagree, cast their votes independently, and laugh at the end of the day together like two separate, but allied, countries. 

I remember loving the idea of living in a country where people could speak their minds and hearts and that others would listen, counter and make their own case. There was, and remains, a long way to go in making that process inclusive, fair and productive. But the process itself was fundamentally good in important ways.

I was white, middle class Catholic, living in a small town, attending parochial school, learning the art of peaceful debate from the nuns in their veils and wimples, and the priests in their cassocks. I didn’t understand, much less agree with, everything they taught me, but they taught me that peaceful discourse was possible without alienating others or creating enemies. 

I remember loving the idea of living in a country where people could peacefully protest against injustices that ran counter to the truths that a group of long-dead white men recognized as self-evident: that all people are created equal. Yes, those long-dead men said “all men” were created equal, but the people of this country decided it was all people. And yes, some people in this country are still deciding that.

I remember loving the idea that I lived in a country where an African American could and would become President. It was a turning point in this country’s history and that man, to me, was and remains a beacon of intelligent, dignified and compassionate leadership, with the idealism of youth and the wisdom of years. I miss that kind of intelligence in the public discourse and must believe that it will return and rise in every color, gender, heart and mind. For the sake of all future children, it must. 

I remember when we were the allies of the oppressed, when we opened cages instead of closing them, when we were the country whose Lady Liberty declared,

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

That Lady still stands in the harbor. We are still that country. You are part of its future.

Today, in the light of a new morning, put your hand on your heart. With each breath in, remind yourself that you are part of something bigger than your own life. You are part of a country that is part of a world that all of today’s children will inherit. Do whatever you can to make the future of those children as humane, sustainable and welcoming as it possibly can be.

We shape the future of these children in many ways and one of those ways is to vote for what you believe will help the next seven generations of children to live in peace. If you think your vote doesn’t matter, think again. As Leonard Cohen wrote in his song Anthem:

“Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”   

One of those bells is Liberty and one of those lights is you. November 6 is the election deadline. Cast your vote and be that light.


Kate Kerry Spencer is a Pacific Northwest writer, editor, and publisher. Learn more about her upcoming memoir, Smoke: A Story of Love, Lies and Cigarettes

Smoke is the story of fatal consolations--tobacco, denial and deceit--and the second chances that can come to us in the most unlikely places. For this mother and daughter it was a rehab center where the two women wrestled with cigarettes, scrambled brains and each other--and in the process, found the long way back to love.

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