Being the son of a career Marine, I was bounced around from duty station to duty station my whole life, right up until the time Ken Holt Sr. retired in Jacksonville, Florida. In fairness to my mom and dad, "Bounced around" makes it sound unduly rough as though I may have arrived at our final duty station as damaged goods. If I had a therapist, he or she might say that my ability to maintain lasting, committed relationships was impaired. But, I choose not to blame everything on my parents, although in later life parents can serve as convenient scapegoats for later calamities.
The fact is, I credit my "one year here and 2 years there" upbringing with planting what I'm going to call the sojourner seeds of inclusivity. In other words, I'm not afraid of what's coming next and I appreciate the wide variety of folks I am likely to come in contact with around the next corner. Closer to the point, my world view has always been wide open. Walls and fences and unequal distributions of justice and fairness have always rubbed my inclusive backside the wrong way. Even closer to home, I never did like it when the skinny guy (who was often me) didn't get picked and was excluded, and I don't like it now when the black guy gets stopped for a seat belt and my burned out tag light seems to go unnoticed.
My Japanese American 4th grade teacher on Kaneohe Marine Corp Air Station made us stand every morning and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I recited the words, drilled into my head at an even earlier age, always ending as you know, "With liberty and justice for all." As an adult I’m still working on understanding what I recited all those years in seven schools across the country. Clifford Jones, my first black friend, stood next to me for two of those years. When we got out of the 6th grade, I wonder what his experience was like of "liberty and justice for all." Hopefully those words took on concrete meaning at his job interviews, or when he was looking for a house or apartment to rent, or at the inevitable traffic stop.
Lots of talk these days about flags. Believe me; I went to more flag parades than your average kid. Ken Sr. actually carried one representing the USMC on the cover of a Sunday magazine once. And they handed me his flag as they lowered him in the ground. I understand the symbolism. Today, I think he would agree with my 4th grade Japanese American teacher, it’s all about fleshing out the words we’ve all recited, even when we were thinking about something else. It’s about “liberty and justice for all” becoming the day to day life experience for all Americans; emphasis on the word “all.” That, for me, is where the energy is best spent.