Independence Day: Really? or Really!

I believe... in us

I believe... in us

This is a major milestone.  The first Independence Day when the “Leader of the Free World” is a non-Anglo guy who reads.  Who woulda thunk it?

When I was born, my home town in Oklahoma was still a “sundown town”: the sun didn’t set on a black man in that nice little hamlet.  There wasn’t a synagogue, much less a mosque there.  A few decades before, there’d been a race riot and massacre in Tulsa, about 90 miles away.  The “N word” was common, and gays were queers and homos.  “Dirty Harry” Calahan would have fit right in, except he was one them Califernians.

It’s amazing to me that so much has changed, and it’s gotten good enough that, strangely, many people don’t remember how bad it was and how much sacrifice was required to move the ball down field.

So, when things aren’t perfect and racism rears its ugly head, it seems a lot of people throw up their hands in despair.  Some people turn to guns and religion.  Some turn to drugs and crime.

And in the middle of this, Michael Jackson dies at a tragically young age.  The impact and the hype surrounding his death are amazing.  Within hours of the promoters at AEG putting a registration link on the Staples Center web site, over half a billion people had gone there.  The prize was a lottery for 8,750 tickets to his memorial service.  I wonder what a pair of those would go for on Ebay?

While his death is tragic, I couldn’t help imagining the front page of a fictional newspaper.   The headline blared “Michael Jackson Dead at 50.”  The following stories were, “500,000 Children Die of Hunger, Disease”, “467,000 US Jobs Lost”, and “GM Exit from Bankruptcy in Doubt”.  There’s a question of balance here…

My point is, the 24-hour newscycle is like a constant feed of McInfo, throwing “news-like data” and gossip in front of us in a frenzied search to bolster sagging ratings and profits.

Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?

Private enterprise hasn’t made peace keeping or nation building cheaper, news and television better, or food more nutritious.

Big daddy government doesn’t solve all the world’s problems either, though from the conflicting stories it’s hard to tell whether it’s because they do it too well – stifling free enterprise and the free market – or incompetently – allowing free enterprise and the free market to run amuck.

In these days of racial and ethnic polarization, isn’t it worth thinking about the concept of all the Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and all the rest of us as… just Americans?  Treating each other in that way.  Laying down our arrogant claims of knowing what the Founding Fathers meant and just dealing with each other as fellow countrymen and women, as neighbors, as members of communities small and large?

“Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free” seems inconsistent with the mindset of the modern-day Minutemen.  The concept of caring for those less fortunate, either through direct action or through government programs, seems to be an idea that is contested.  You can protest against or target abortion clinics, but do you really offer an alternative?  If you’re trying to deprive a woman of her choice, are you walking the walk by offering to help?

We will never truly be independent until we are able to see that those below us are not the threat.  The threat comes from those who seek to widen the income gap, who would deprive labor of the right to collective bargaining, who seek to undermine the value and existence of a thriving middle class.  Who outsource and shelter offshore the jobs and profits that should be enriching this society, in pursuit of higher profits and stock prices.

If you take anything away from this scribble, take this: the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and the battle for a vibrant American society that can once again be an inspiring light to the world is fought everyday, in every town, in every workplace by people who care, not just what their country can do for them, but about what they can do for their country.

May the Higher Power as you know him or her make this a joyful day for you and your loved ones, wherever they may be.

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