This past 4th of July weekend was idyllic. We have moved to a place where life is safe, easy, and seemingly problem-free. People don’t lock their doors or their cars. Cameras are left on the piers with notes that say, “ Found on June 30. Hopefully the owner will come back to claim this…” The crime reports that are published in the local paper are almost laughable: a fishing infraction here, a bar brawl there, perhaps some tools stolen from an unlocked garage…)
Each of the towns up and down the coast of this peninsula “take turns” with their weekend carnivals and special events. Jacksonport has a Maifest at Memorial Day and Cherry Days in August, Egg Harbor has Octoberfest, Ephraim their FryBall….
But my very own Baileys Harbor goes big and grand on the 4th of July: live music throughout the weekend, a huge arts and craft show, a parade, and a fireworks display over the water that would rival those of much larger towns.
Friends were visiting, and of course we attended the events partly because we wanted to, but mostly because the parade especially represents a throwback to a culture that seems long gone in the America I have come to know. In this parade, there are plenty of tractors,
classic old cars, and poorly made floats that consist of a truck pulling an undecorated trailer with someone merely sitting on the back.
A few had musicians to entertain us.
There was one marching band, despite the fact that school is out for the summer.
Everyone came in his or her red, white, and blue. Children scrambled for the candy that was thrown from every car. The firetrucks ambled by, honking their horns at the waving kids.
In almost every way, it was a scene of Norman Rockwell Americana.
But here is what is nagging at me: it was a white crowd. Where were the people of color? In the whole morning, I could have counted the number of African Americans on one hand.
Of course this is yet another part of my culture shock. The demographics of this place simply do not include racial diversity. In contrast, I came from a place with a keen awareness of race. (My home in St Louis was only a few miles from Ferguson.) I had enough African American friends to learn how very, very ill we are with the disease of racism despite our efforts to pretend we are not sick. I mourned with them, ached with them, sided with them when the injustices came time and time again to oppress and burden them. (Think police brutality, think racist “jokes” in the classrooms, think an educational system that separates the haves and the have-nots). These things mattered to me, enough to move to a neighborhood known for racial diversity. We purposely enrolled our children in schools that meant they were the minority in their classrooms among people of color.
I did not purposely move here to Wisconsin to escape difficult societal issues, especially racial ones. In fact, I occasionally feel guilty that I am so far removed from the fight.
I am not sure how I can contribute to significant change from this new place, and this bothers me.
However, when I am conflicted and have questions about big issues, I look no farther than Scripture. I read this lovely passage in Revelations 5:9 that gives me hope:
“For you (Jesus) were slain, and by your blood, you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
So, although my new home seems idyllic, peaceful, and wonderful, it is, after all, NOT perfect. It is NOT paradise. The heaven of our futures may be green and filled with a blue lake and fields of wildflowers, but there, when I watch parades with my neighbors, many will have black skin. They will speak all languages. I will not feel safer here than my friends who live elsewhere; we will all be safe. And there, our allegiance will not be to American flags, and our patriotism will not be because we have fought wars. Instead, we will glory together in a bigger, better cause, united in praise of a God who has fixed injustice and has righted all wrongs.