Recently, someone posed the following question to me: “Are you an eagle or a duck?” Without hesitation, I responded, “Well, an eagle, of course.” The person who proposed this query agreed with me. Before I delve into why I view myself as an eagle, I want to emphasize that I love ducks and most warm-blooded species, including various feathered friends. Ducks group together, following the astute proverb of “birds of a feather flock together.” When one begins quacking, the others join into what becomes a cacophony of clucking.
In contrast, often spotted is a solo eagle, spreading its magnificent wings for all to see. It is quite a sight to behold. The eagle symbolizes the United States, depicting freedom, strength, boldness, and intelligence. Yes, what a splendid creature to represent our great country.
Now I close my eyes for a few moments and imagine myself riding on an eagle’s wings. The eagle takes me above the fray and noise that is usurping America. I create an eagle’s eye, using my keen vision to view the topography of this magnificent country. Yes, one may see above the turmoil as if snapping a photo of the land of the free. Although pictures speak a thousand words, as a therapist, I am well aware what may appear from afar is not the real story.
As I envision riding in the wind atop this glorious specimen, I think about the privilege I have had for over thirty years of being the keeper of the secrets for remarkable people. My practice is diverse, going across the spectrum of race, sexual orientation, gender, education, religion, politics, and socioeconomic status. Individuals often enter therapy for a particular issue, but until they determine their sense of safety and trust, they remain silent about the core of some of their problems. For several people, the layers will not peel away until they sense no harm will come.
Where were these same voices who now proclaim indignation about this monstrous event?
As I continue to fly with the eagle, I think about the noise again, so much babble about where silencing is accepted and where it is not. Some believe that we must isolate a single event of violence without attending to others. Challenging this premise is met with impatience and dismissal. If one persists, they may be falsely and dangerously labeled or categorized as a…Well, you can fill in the blank. Why is only one view permitted as being right and just? Well, good question. Let us take the example of the Capitol incident. Everyone agrees it was abhorrent with the expectation that prosecution of the guilty parties will occur to the fullest extent, nothing less. With that said, those who remain fixated on this single event seem to forget that mayhem and destruction happened across the country during the “summer of love,” demolishing small businesses of hard-working Americans of all races. Where were these same voices who now proclaim indignation about this monstrous event? I don’t know. What I do recognize is that these incidents are often connected, cascading toward a fiery explosion.
Is history to repeat itself? Will we go the way of Rome? How about Greece?
As I continue to ponder on the state of our tattered republic, the eagle glides gracefully. Many refer to our country as a democracy. It is not. The Founders took pains to create a republic. For those who remember, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands…” I would hypothesize that the Founders studied history and knew about the failures of democracies. The Greek philosopher Plato was prescient regarding Athenian democracy. He predicted that letting people govern themselves would eventually lead the masses to support the rule of tyrants. How correct he was. The Romans maintained a republic for a very long time. Unfortunately, along with financial woes, Rome became riddled with corruption by entrusted politicians. We are a young country. Is history to repeat itself? Will we go the way of Rome? How about Greece? Again, I do not know. Most disconcerting is that the most important amendment, the First, appears to be hanging by a thread.
As the delightful journey with my eagle friend comes to an end, I want to take a few moments to examine our mighty first amendment. From what I have read, we have the right to freedom of speech, which is broad in its scope. Although it protects matters I find disturbing, Jesus Christ ensconced in a bottle of urine and the stomping of the American flag, I grit my teeth, accepting this as free speech. If we begin to curtail these actions, what else can be prohibited? Also included are religion and thought, along with assembly and anonymity. How about silence? Well, yes, our consequential amendment protects that right too. A court case in 1977 highlights this issue. According to the law, those who state silence is not an option are wrong.
My view on silence? Like clients who need reassurance before divulging what lies beneath, many individuals are fearful of expressing themselves. Censorship has occurred for some, as they view the world through a different lens. Others fear retaliation, which includes ruining their reputations, businesses, and lives.
Freedom and safety are balancing acts. People have the right to both. If silence shields them from harm, they are endowed to exercise that right.
As I arrive at my destination, I reflect on the First Amendment. If I choose to speak or write as I see fit, I will do so. If silence is my choice, no one’s shaming or pressure will force me to do otherwise. Remember, I am the Keeper of Secrets, holding sacred information and opinions deep in the crevices of my mind. If I do it for others, I can do it for myself.
As I open my eyes, my last image is that of the eagle with a single tear rolling down its eye. I look closely at this majestic bird, believing that on some level, this powerful feathered friend is aware of the tenuous nature we find ourselves to be. May God continue to bless America, the shining city on a hill.