Friday, July 3, 2015

Third Of July — Exactly 10 Years Later
I wrote this post on July 3, 2005, read it yesterday and decided that enough of it was worthwhile to merit reproducing it today, with a few amendments.

I drove to the Fiesta Mart in a foul mood, plotting my angry, depressive, generally unpalatable post for the Fourth of July. But in the Fiesta parking lot I came face to face with this...

.. and, as almost always happens, I came away with a completely unreasonable hope that our nation will survive these awful times and one day thrive again. This flag is the size of a football field, representing exactly the kind of commercial gigantism that drives me nuts, and simultaneously the kind of unbridled optimism suited to a car dealership, uh, I mean, to the American people.

We are facing unprecedented threats to America's ideals, threats from within as surely as from outside. But so did John Kennedy and the Cold War generation. So did FDR and my parents' generation. So did Abraham Lincoln, who found a way to save a nation and a people at least as deeply divided as we are today. We must save America from a renunciation of its own ideals; we must... therefore we will. If failure in Iraq is inevitable, failure in the restoration of America's dedication to its most deeply held values is not an option. We must do this. We can do this. We will do this.

Join me now in singing... no, not the national anthem; we've had our fill of rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air and lots of other places... but rather Paul Simon's American Tune. Simon published this in 1973; we all remember what was happening in '73 (don't we?), and the analogy is sometimes hard to take. But bear with me; this is, in its unique way, an American tune, with the text of which just about all of us can identify. If you don't know the tune, think of the hymn "O Sacred Head Now Wounded"; the first two phrases are identical. If you still don't know it, just fake it... that's the American way: sing along with this MIDI, or go find a recording of the Central Park concert view this YouTube video:

American Tune

Many's the time I've been mistaken,
And many times confused.
Yes, and [I've] often felt forsaken
And certainly misused.
But I'm all right, I'm all right;
I'm just weary to my bones.
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home.

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered;
I don't have a friend who feels at ease.
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered,
Or driven to its knees.
But it's all right, it's all right;
We've lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road
We're traveling on,
I wonder what went wrong;
I can't help it, I wonder what went wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying;
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly,
And looking back down at me,
Smiled reassuringly.
And I dreamed I was flying;
And high above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty,
Sailing away to sea;
And I dreamed I was flying.

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower;
We come on the ship that sailed the moon;
We come in the ages most uncertain hour,
And sing an American tune.
But it's all right, it's all right;
You can't be forever blessed.
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day,
And I'm trying to get some rest,
That's all, I'm trying to get some rest.

— Paul Simon, 1973

To all Americans "so far away from home," geographically or spiritually, my heartfelt prayers for your safe return to America... and for America's safe return to its senses.

I probably won't be posting on the Fourth. Some of us are getting together to watch fireworks in the evening, if for no other reason than to try the fireworks settings on our various new digital cameras. May those be the only explosions any of us experience this year. Before the fireworks, we'll probably indulge in the traditional BBQ wheat gluten, veggie hot dogs on whole wheat buns, etc., with "freedom" fries, of course. (Hey, you have your traditions; we have ours... that, too, is what America is about.) Have a safe and happy Independence Day. Remember our founders; remember their success against improbable odds, and keep fighting the good fight as you see it.

Thus ends the post from 10 years ago. A lot has changed; a lot more hasn't. I'm still with Stella, both of us gimping around wielding canes on our good days. America still can't keep its oar out of the troubled waters of war, even with an African American president who is at least in theory a Democrat. Climate change is fully underway, to a degree that, 10 years ago, we could only imagine as happening in the far distant future. America's constitutional separation of powers is almost wholly a myth now; indeed, democracy (such as it was) has mutated into a perverse sort of oligarchy. Cops, improbably, are people of whom citizens are afraid, especially citizens of color. Drones are devastating weapons of war... and of (supposed) law enforcement.

If you see major matters being changed for the good, by all means, post a comment and share them with the rest of us; some of us merely hope not to outlive our time. The aging process is certainly on my side, but some of you are literally less than half my age, and probably will live to see how this oligarchic fanaticism plays out.

But hey, people survived the Civil War; you might survive this, too... and if that looks unlikely, at least try to take some pleasure in the beer, hot dogs and barbeque on the Fourth. And be sure, LGBTQ or straight, to take part in the American pastime... yeah, sex; surely you didn't think I meant baseball?

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