Happy 4th: Losing focus and the American flag


It’s a quandary for me right now. I love the American flag. I want to feel proud of my country and celebrate what is wonderful about it. But everything is out of focus. I can’t fix on any one thing that makes us special. We’ve drifted so far from what our founding fathers wanted us to be, but I think it’s all a result of a series of mistakes.

Maybe the first mistake was in ever thinking that the wounds a civil war inflicts upon a nation can ever be fixed. Or maybe it was in believing that such a huge expanse of such varied terrain—which, by nature, requires differences in the people who seek to live there—could ever be united in one cause. But I believe the mistake came when white men first set foot on this land, which already belonged to someone else.

You can’t own what’s not for sale. You can steal it, but you’ll never really be the owner.

Think about that the next time you’re feeling particularly possessive of all your survey, whether it’s the view from a penthouse, the beachfront, or just your neatly mown front lawn. It’s all stolen. Or maybe just borrowed.

It’s easy to lose focus. It’s easy to forget and whitewash and remember only what we wish. The big picture is made up of many small pictures, after all. But every so often, it’s useful to study those small pictures and remember, divided as we might all be, we are all, at best, borrowers—at worst, thieves.

And when we pledge allegiance to our flag, we’re promising to continue the tradition.

“But”: A Poem for Independence

Happy birthday, America. You’re 241 years old. Congratulations.

You’re still an infant on the world stage. An infant with a very big gun, but an infant still.

Maybe that’s why we’ve allowed you to get to this state. Mass deportations, guns in every pocket, a tyrannical toddler in charge, squabbling lawmakers unwilling to compromise, and worst of all, your beautiful land pockmarked and disfigured, air polluted and waters spoiled by avarice.


But you’re a lovely idea, a perfect ideal to work toward. We’ve only taken a moment to tend to our worst selves. We’ll get back to the job eventually. We’ll return to the original intent of our forefathers. I believe that.

And I love you.

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” — James Baldwin


By Michelle Garren Flye


Lady Liberty holds a tablet and a torch—

The law of freedom, the light of hope.


But what does it mean when guns fill the street?

When drugs are offered but food is not?

Fear is the only law. There is no defense.


What happened to our freedom?


Some fight still for their most basic rights,

But the Bible of an intolerant God quashes them.

Your love is wrong. Your life is less.


Where is the light of hope?


It shines still, cutting a swath through darkness.

Land of plenty, home of brave, promises made—


But will they be honored?

Top Ten Books that Celebrate Our Country…Honestly.

Happy Fourth of July! Over the years of my reading career, I’ve read a lot of books that leave me with a sense that I know a little more about the United States and why I should be happy to live here. Here are ten of those novels, for your summer reading pleasure.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Was anybody more honest about our country than Samuel Clemens? I get the feeling he really understood what was going on, at least in the Southern United States. I’ve always prefered Huck to Tom because of the lush, wild landscapes of the Mississippi River, and in particular the relationship that grows between Huck and Jim.

2. The Great Gatsby. An honest look at American excess. We’d all do well to remember the lessons this book can teach us.

3. Little Women. For all its faults, Little Women is still the book I’d choose as the foil to my other Civil War favorite…

4. Gone With the Wind. I love reading this story of the Southern Belle who grows up. Maybe I can relate to it. I’m a girl raised in the south. And yes, I’ve had to adjust my perspective on things as I grew up. I’m no Scarlett O’Hara, but I can see myself in her at times.

5. The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne’s classic tale is surprisingly still appropriate to today’s world. Every time the media chooses a scapegoat or public opinion turns against someone, I think of this novel I was forced to read in high school and have found so fascinating ever since.

6. The Secret Garden. Kid book or not, this is a wonderful story about rediscovering the beauty in something old and overgrown. I hope one day we can find that in our own nation.

7. Look Homeward, Angel. This list would not be complete without a shout out to my fellow writer from the NC mountains, Thomas Wolfe. I always fear I’ll do the same thing he did when I write and alienate the hometown I still love.

8. Little House in the Big Woods. Although it was probably colored by nostalgia, this was my first introduction to life in an earlier day of history.

9. The Red Badge of Courage. Oh, how I hated this book when I was made to read it in high school. I wanted to believe the world was all light and love and war was all glorious patriotism. This was my first introduction to the reality of what war can do to the human spirit.

10. The Sound and the Fury. This story about the downfall of Southern royalty both fascinated and disgusted me when I read it in high school. I’ve often thought I should read it again.

Enjoy your summer and be happy to live in our great nation. It’s not every nation that would not only allow but also support the honesty of some of these authors.