Monday, July 4, 2011

We've Lived So Well, So Long

An aside to start: Welcome home, SF Sorrow and Chief The Other Bill (and not much longer for The Very Merry Perry's return, either) I'm sure the planes were filled with men and women, like you, concluding another portion of their service in uniform to our country in a place of which the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) had little knowledge. Funny how little has changed in all those years, eh? Enjoy the crowd who greeted you and the embrace of family and friends and the fireworks tonight you might wish to think are in your honor. You've earned them, or what's a heaven for?

There's a story told about a moment in Richard Nixon's historical trip to the People's Republic of China when, irritated by Mao's repeated remarks about the revolutionary changes in the world's most populous society, the President mentioned America's War of Independence adding 'Americans are revolutionaries, too.' Mao purportedly asked, 'how do you know one Revolution was enough?'

I'm not sure what, if any, answer Mr. Nixon offered but three and half decades later, I wouldn't welcome either the question or the answer. Today is the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence but, I fear we've journeyed even closer to Abraham Lincoln's 'a house divided' than we fully realize.

We are, as PJ O'Rourke wrote, the only nation on earth founded on the belief that joy was integral to the human experience. Why else, he pointed out, would our nation's founders have defined as "certain, unalienable rights" ideas that to this day stun most of the globe: "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Somewhere along the way we've lost our way and our politics in recent years makes me worry if we can ever be found again.

We've sent thousands, tens of thousands, actually HUNDREDS of thousands of our sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, daughters, sisters, mothers and wives to fight wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Colombia and a half dozen other places in every corner of the globe helping to build, and rebuild, every nation but our own.

We've gotten really good at not seeing the broken bodies carried in stretchers from the medevac flights at Dover, fated to spend some variation of forever in physical, mental and spiritual pain because too little can be repaired. The help no longer helps. We turn away as the coffins are carried by the funeral details in countless cities across our country to cemeteries and final resting places often mutely mourned by only family and friends. So much for that oft-heard phrase, 'a grateful nation.'

We accentuate and luxuriate in the ephemera of notoriety and celebrity. And argue passionately about the Politics of Plenty- and let's understand something we still have is plenty, far more than everyone else, anywhere else-and how we always have to have more. Greed is now need. How can the heart remember when the belly was empty, when it never was?

We are the Land of Limitless Possibilities, where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. When was E Pluribus Unum supplanted by Nos es non validus facio is hic ullus magis? When did we stop dreaming the same dream and when did all of this become a nightmare from which we cannot now awaken? And what do we intend to do about it and when?

How much success becomes excess, when does that happen and how can we cure it, assuming we even want to? And why, even as we send a generation of enthused beginners, nearly a decade AFTER 9/11 still in love with service to their country, ten thousand miles away to die for principles we've abandoned (if we ever believed at all) can we not find our areas of common ground (and common sense) and launch our second American Revolution with malice towards none and charity towards all and become again the nation the rest of the world has always seen us as being.

The ideals worth dying for everyday since the Founding of the Republic must also always be worth living for. Start today and see where it takes us. Happy Birthday America.
-bill kenny

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