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Tag Archives: 4th of July

Happy 4th of July

I had this incredible experience last night.  My boys took me to see the local minor league baseball team as a late Father’s Day gift.  We had a good time, made possible, in part, by my request that they keep their phones in their pockets.  A request they mostly honored.  It was the type of evening I look forward to having with them in the future.  Where we come together a little more as peers rather than me as the father and the two of them as “the boys.”

Before the game started, they prepared for the singing of the National Anthem.  A local veteran’s color guard brought the colors out to home plate and then the PA announcer said, “We have a special guest to sign the National Anthem.  You.”  And, so we did.  The 10,000 – 12,000 people in attendance sang the National Anthem.  Quietly.  Almost reverently.  And I thought I wanted to blog about this.  And then I didn’t.  It was one of those moments I wanted to write something meaningful about, only I didn’t know if I could quite say what I thought about that moment.  So, I didn’t write a post about it.

And a little while ago, I get an email from a blogger friend who had witnessed her small town’s fireworks show and she had a few thoughts about some of the contradictions involved in the display.  And I emailed her back the following, which I’ll let stand as my thoughts on last night:

Last night, my boys took me to the local minor league baseball stadium to see a game.  When it came time for the National Anthem, rather than having somebody come out on the field to sing, the PA announcer said that it would be sung by a special guest — all of us attending the game.  So, we did.  And I thought that in that moment, there was a chance of something.  As silly as it seems, what if we did that at every sporting event and every other occasion where the national anthem is sung.  Rather than having some famous person butcher the thing, we should be singing it.  Off key (because that’s simply what human beings are and Americans in particular) but together (because that’s what we need to be to get through this thing called life).

It was a special moment.  The kind we need more of in this country.  Instead of recalls and flame wars.  We need to recommit to the ideals of our founding fathers — like you said.  Citizen politicians.  Citizen volunteers.  People who contribute because it’s the right thing to do.  It’s what needs to be done.  Enough with the name-calling and the finger-pointing.

But, yeah, sigh,  Doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen, does it?

The interesting thing is that there isn’t anybody I talk to that disagrees with this point.  So, what do we do?  This is the point where I start to believe in the conspiracy theorists who claim that the corporations and the powerful have taken over our government, leaving us little people with nothing.  I hate when I go there, but …

This ramble brought to you by … a quiet evening at home.  I stayed home to defend our home against the idiots who want to set off illegal fireworks in the middle of the worst drought California has seen in recorded history.  The family is elsewhere.  I’ve had a couple of beers.  Homemade cinnamon rolls are in the oven.  And I’m working on a short story.  And my friend from Colorado reached out to share a feeling with me.  One I have as well.

Happy 4th of July to you.  Celebrate the America you believe we should be.  The America you believe we could be.  Ignore the reasons it isn’t that and imagine what it would be like if it was.  Maybe, just maybe, you and I could be the start of making what you and I imagine into a reality.
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History and the 4th of July

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150 years ago this week, an incredible battle was fought outside the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Over 160,000 soldiers faced off in an area approximately 25 square miles in size.  At the end of the three day battle, almost 8,000 men had died, another 27,000 were injured, and over 10,000 captured or missing.  Those casualties were the greatest of any battle during the Civil War.

I always wonder whether the legend of such events is over done.  Whether historians looking back inflate the significance.  If you read anything about Gettysburg you will be told that it was the battle that began the end of the Confederacy.  It was the battle when the North finally won in convincing fashion, virtually destroying Robert E. Lee’s army.  With the loss at Gettysburg, it was only a matter of time.  Is that really true though?  When you walk through the hallowed grounds of the Gettysburg battlefield, it’s easy to believe the historians.

I’ve been lucky enough to do this twice in my life.  Once when I was seven — I don’t remember that trip.  A second time three years ago when we took our kids back east for the obligatory American history tour.  Gettysburg was the only Civil War battlefield we stopped at.  We spent a day there driving through the monuments and statues.  I’d gladly go back and spend more time walking the battlefield.

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There are hundreds of them, memorializing the many units and corps from the many states that sent their soldiers to fight and die.  It is seeing all of those stone markers that renders the significance of the battle all too real.

The battlefield is spread out over relatively flat land.  Small ridges provided convenient locations for the Union forces to form their lines and hold back Confederate charges.  Small hills, barely deserving of the name “hill”, provided the focal points for the battle.  Whoever holds the high ground wins.  The ultimate test of King of the Hill.  Little Round Top.  Culp Hill.  Hundreds of men died, many more were injured for these little patches of land.  Here’s a view of the battlefield from Little Round Top.

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That the Union held and never gave up at Little Round Top was critical.  That one little hill.  If the Confederate troops had been able to overrun the Union at Little Round Top, maybe the battle would have turned and history would tell another story.  And that’s the thing that is so amazing.  Such a small thing and history’s story turns out one way instead of another.  The stories surrounding Gettysburg, as with so many historical events, are fascinating.  But for this general’s strategic misstep or that general’s gallantry in the line of fire, but for men who rose to the deed or those that failed no matter how hard they fought, history could have changed.  History’s story is frequently better than anything fiction can come up with.  If you have a chance to read a book about Gettysburg, do it.  It’s a fascinating tale.

As everybody celebrated the 4th of July yesterday with their barbecues and beer and fireworks, I wondered as I frequently do, whether I belong in this place and time.  We’re celebrating our freedom!!  Yippee!  Hooray!  But does anybody stop, really stop, and think about that word.  Freedom.  What it means.  What blood and sweat has gone into it.  Preserving it.  Strengthening it.  Weakening it.  Freedom.  Really.  Does anybody stop and think about it when they’re having their third hot dog and the fake rockets are flying into the air setting off dazzling displays of color?

Next year, I’m not doing the traditional thing again.  I’m going to find a soldier to thank.  Or something.  Anything other than the mind-numbing “celebration” that has become the norm.  If you were really to celebrate your freedom, to mark it in a real way, what would you do?

Because it’s the 4th of July

What do we Americans do better than anybody else?  That’s right — drink crappy beer.  Without further ado, here’s my favorite joke of all time.  It comes from Monty Python and includes the F word (no, not fallopian, the other F word).  So don’t read any further if the F word offends thee.

Why is American beer like making love in a canoe?

Well, before I answer that question, you should go here for a review of the cheapest of American beers.  I’m thrilled that Oly, the beer of my childhood made it into the top 10, even if its described as smelling like the produce section of a carpeted grocery store.  Better that than to be Keystone — “worse than Heineken and murder.”

Answer:  Because it’s fucking close to water.

Happy 4th!!!

Happy 4th of July

Don’t try any of these at home.

[Edited to Add:  Notice there appear to be no women involved in the stupidity.  Us male types might actually be able to learn something from them.]

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