Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Every holiday season, I enjoy turning onto Chapman Drive, a road in the charming Wood Streets section of Riverside, an area full of Spanish and Craftsman bungalows. Chapman Drive goes all out for the holidays--every house on the street sets up a lavish display in their front yard. For all of the years I've lived in Riverside, the street featured an International theme. Each house represented a different country and had decorations honoring that country, often large wooden cut-outs covered with greetings in different languages. This year, the displays have changed. No longer are there tributes to France and Japan and Egypt and other nations (I wish I could remember all that were represented). This year, each house on Chapman features a generic holiday display--snowmen, angels and the like.

The new decorations are cute and fun, but they give me a sinking feeling. I worry that the neighborhood decided to change their International theme because they were concerned that it seemed un-American. Now, I haven't talked to anyone who lives on Chapman, so this is all pure speculation on my part. The neighbors may have just decided it was time to make a change after all these years. But I worry that there is a creeping xenophobia in our country, a burgeoning US-centrism, that pits Us against Them, the US against the world. I fear that we are closing our hearts to the rest of the globe, closing our eyes to our shared humanity. I hope that isn't the case on Chapman Drive, but I did notice that one of the angels in front of a house there is trailing American flag streamers. If angels did exist, I'm sure they wouldn't give a whit about national identity.

I love my flag of the Earth; it reminds me that I have an allegiance to something that extends well beyond our well-guarded borders.

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