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American Flag

©B. A. Luceigh, 2016

When my own heart is deeply broken, I know my symptoms. I feel scattered, disoriented, aimless. The loss of what one deeply cherishes is an experience common to humanity. We recognize when the flow of warmth is missing in another’s heart and comfort each other through the process of healing.

But when the heart of a whole nation is broken, what then? Can any one person carry such a public anguish? Can individuals lean against each other to keep the masses upright, or will they simply fall together into a fractured heap of lost hope?

We are a nation of gadgets and clever tools for every occasion. If an individual heart organ were broken by erratic rhythms, we know to reach for a pacemaker. If the heart of our infrastructure were broken by fallen bridges, we know to reach for our bulldozers. But no gadget can repair damage to the heart that embodies our deeply valued connections to each other as a nation, for the symbolic heart of which I speak is that through which shared meaning flows.

The heart of a nation can be broken all at once by deadly gunfire into a motorcade, planes into towers, or needless wars. It can be broken one citizen at a time by the death of a soldier-child or by insidious greed reaching into our bank accounts. Either way, the loss can be widespread.

Our first group reaction to a national broken heart may express itself in fearful, thoughtless ways—intensifying our differences, proclaiming our self-righteous solutions. In our initial response we may allow fear-mongers to shrink the horizons of our hopes or disguised tyrants to decree our helpless dependency on them. In time, we will pass through such flawed options.

Our nation can create the new devices and methodologies of the future, healthy relationships locally and globally, and solve problems in peaceful ways. We know even within broken hearts we are capable of doing all of these. Yet it may be very difficult to do so wisely without first agreeing, if only in part, that we have a common heart for that which embraces our cherished meanings.

When my own heart breaks, yes, I know my personal symptoms, but I am now also sharing symptoms of a broken national heart. When my own heart breaks, I believe I will discover a path for my healing. Can we also believe as a nation we are ready to discover ours?