Thursday, July 4, 2013

... And Sing an American Tune

I offered this last year-some people liked it, a lot. Thank you. It didn't make my stomach hurt too much when I wrote it so I'm thinking it's not as bad as what too often ends up here. 

I took this picture at Little Plain Park, a pocket park I pass whenever I am attending a municipal meeting in the City Hall of our town (Norwich, Connecticut). This picture is from Monday night-the monument is from 1902. 


The battle the memorial commemorates was Port Hudson and frighteningly furious as its carnage was, it was overshadowed by events in Pennsylvania, at Gettysburg, where the world, Lincoln's fears to the contrary, both noted and long remembered what was done there though sometimes I'm not sure that we do.  

For many of us who are/were nominally in the middle of our work week, today's a day of sleeping in a little later, of enjoying that second cup of coffee at breakfast while lingering over the morning’s newspaper instead of grabbing and gulping and for whittling down your ‘honey dew’ list or maybe closing an eye to it altogether on what should be a day more of contemplation than celebration, today, the 4th of July.

Before it gets really crazy busy today, perhaps each of us should look in the mirror and then take a look around at the country we received from our parents and their parents and which we are giving to our children and theirs. There’s been as much gained as there has been lost through the tears and years and some of what has changed has been better and some of it has only been different. The dilemma is in the deciding which.

By many accounts the heat was oppressive and tempers were hot in Philadelphia two hundred and thirty seven years ago as that aggregation of malcontents and troublemakers (in the eyes of His Majesty, George III, King of England) gathered to refine, define and catalog their grievances and complaints as they took exception with the most powerful empire the world had ever seen.

Enumerating what it called our ‘unalienable rights’ to include ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ the founders of our republic, who did not agree on very much except that the present state of affairs could not be allowed to continue, concluded the only way forward as a people on a largely unexplored, new continent whose size and wealth was not yet known, was to break with the past and declare independence from King and Crown.
   
Out of all of that has come all of this.

And along the way, the original magic and meaning has sometimes been lost in backyard pool parties, car sales and chicken fried steaks on the barbecue. Our politics is spirited even if our interest isn't and our understanding of the issues is muddled and muted. And, again, it’s not that we all agree with who we are and what we are doing. It’s been suggested we as a nation haven’t been this divided morally, politically and socially since the Civil War. And that observation and analysis should mean far more than it does.

Some say never have so many had so much of life’s material rewards but, others say never have so many struggled to hold on to what they have. On the outcome of last fall's elections, we were told, lay the future of our nation-just as has always been the case.

We are a year on and not much (if anything) the better for that bruising battle except to realize (or should have realized) that every election is important and that if you choose not to decide, that, too, is a decision.

What may be missing is our national sense of self and our confidence and belief in our own abilities to forever adapt and triumph. We demonstrated those traits at the Founding and I would hope, today, each in our own way, we might again find them, both for those whose inheritance we are and for those whose promise is yet to be.Happy the 4th of July.

May the 5th and all the days that remain be even more so.
-bill kenny

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