Houston National Cemetery, Houston

Memorial Day approached for 2018 yesterday, which affords many of us a day off of work to remember those who selflessly died in service of our United States.

But, the second most newsworthy event regarding this week’s post was deciding the music to pair with rows and rows of marked and flag adorned graves.

In elementary school, I remember a screeching track from Lee Greenwood titled “God Bless the USA” played any time something slightly patriotic was presented. A heartfelt ballad which boasts pride for American rights and how those are provided courtesy of the men and women who serve near and far to protect us. Nobly, I understand and appreciate the sentiment. Supporting our troops is an important endeavor, though multifaceted in available approaches.

Admittedly, I thought of a handful of Simon & Garfunkel tracks to use this week as well. Anywhere from “All gone to look for America” or a more somber “Echo from the sounds of Silence”. Nothing really seemed to click.

I have been following Brother Ali (and most Minneapolis-based label Rhymesayers Entertainment artists) for the good part of the past decade. Ali is a significant voice in hip hop to me because he uses his experiences of being partially blind, albino, Muslim, and husky (which I too, can most relate) in his art. Ali is at times soft-spoken in interviews and regularly ferocious on the mic, while wholly personable at every interaction I have seen. He is methodically versed with every topic he approaches, displaying a meticulously knowledgable and informed crafted opinion. Ali is intentional in his word choice, devout in his belief, and determined to make the world a more compassionate and caring place.

Ali’s “Letter to My Countrymen” is as much hope for what America can be as much as it is an evaluation of what we still need to work on. The lyrical plea attempts to remain apolitical, and on the whole tows an even line.

While I value the importance of individuals with media platforms to remain neutral, I also identify with portions of this song which addresses holding our country to the wonderful place it can be.

So this year as I tossed around appropriate songs to represent a feeling of hope among cynicism towards patriotism all while traditionally hearing words about honor and freedom as I walked along the rows of those fallen, I hope that we can add a new one to the vocabulary; accountability.

Accountability to hear the stories of the fallen. Accountability to strive for community, not just with whom it is easy or most comfortable to associate. Accountability towards building an America that honors our traditions as much as we also step toward the future and amending parts of our past that need redress.

Thank you to all who serve. Thank you to the families of our fallen.

Now, I look forward to making America as amazing as the ideals that we boast so freely.

#flipbin #houston #serve #hope

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