Ain’t that America

Nobody’s normal. Did you know that? I do, but the picture was brought into clearer focus for me today. Jeni and I took the boys to the capitol building for the Special Olympics Torch Run Ceremony and it might have been the most American two hours I’ve ever experienced.

As we unloaded the boys from the party bus, chants were echoing through the streets. A battalion of RN’s were rallying on Kleman Plaza, preparing for their march on the capitol. Uniformed in red T-shirts and armored with sloganed posters, the nurses were ready to fight for somebody’s right to something.

A quick walk around the north wing brought us to the courtyard, in the shadow of Tallahassee’s 22 story capitol building. Sitting on the steps were about 50 of the athletes who compete in the Special Olympics. We’ve become friends with a couple of the key leaders of the Leon County chapter and they’ve asked me to Grand Marshall the opening ceremony this Saturday. As we waited for the jogging officers to arrive, I was introduced to the athletes and they cheered. I felt like a part of their community.

Then we heard them. Being led by a calvary of uniformed officers on their motorized mounts, about 200 police officers jogged into the courtyard, outfitted in matching white T-shirts. A group of them were engaged in a menacing liturgy that boomed through the concrete citadel until the herd came to a halt at the foot of the steps.

The ceremony began and I found myself lost in thoughts of community? How do we define ours? I looked at one of my friends on the steps. Was her community found in her color? Her gender? Her unique abilities? Did she identify with her classmates? Her teammates? Her friends? What about me? There were people from my church, two of my three “jobs,” and my university. Some shared my political views, some had a common educational perspective, and some were united with my thoughts on faith and family. Who were my community?

I was listening to a speech from a governor who is under fire from his constituents. Our mayor snuck in late; he’s being investigated by the FBI and may be on his way to jail. We were set to join a group of home school families who were meeting with a senator to discuss amendments to a bill. Everybody was there for different reasons, but we were somehow all in the same eclectic community.

I stood in the line for lunch with my family and we were behind a few athletes and in front of some of the uniformed joggers. Our food was served by a group of law enforcement administrators while our drinks were served by convicts, complete with their striped uniforms and hunters orange vests. Republicans & Democrats, officers & the incarcerated, senators & angry nurses, Special Olympians & special volunteers, all in the same place. A community of diversity. A symphony.

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” Not same, equal. They’re different. There was very little sameness today. Had an alien landed in that courtyard it would have been impossible to identify a “normal” American. Because nobody’s normal, and that’s why we’re equal. That’s our community. Little pink houses for you and me.

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