64 of them now, personally, and counting, some perspective on 4th of Julys past, and how one can make the argument that the present relates not so comparably to the holiday we once celebrated.
I’ve never been a flag-waver on the 4th of July. Doesn’t mean that I’m not patriotic, or anything. Just that I grew up around my mother, a teacher, who every 4th started in on her annual binge about how the summer was half over and school started in just six short weeks.
I’ll never forget that…how summer suddenly got shorter, and my vacation seemed cheated.
I remember a few others, too.
I remember being ten years old and living down in Lawrence County, Ohio, riding my bicycle down a steep hill on a gravel road in front of our house, pedaling furiously, and trying turn at top speed through loose gravel into my grandparents’ driveway…the only daredevil instinct I ever had. I crashed hard into the walnut tree that stood at the mouth of the drive. Totaled the bike and probably suffered my first concussion. Knocked out for a minute, no one bothered to check that out. Just admonishment for trying to do something so foolish; and a reminder that there were still beans in the garden that needed to be picked.
I remember one particular 4th during my years in baseball, in front of 60,000 people in Denver, when one of the players with a good voice and a flair for entertaining was promoted for singing the national anthem before the game. The stadium sound system had giant echo and when he couldn’t hear himself singing after the words, “Oh say can you see…”, he stopped, blew into the mike, and said, “Is this M*^@#F%#^*@ on?” It went all over the stadium, people started laughing, cheering, stomping their feet, and that was all the national anthem they had on that 4th of July.
I remember being 33 and spending the 4th recovering from the worst case of chicken pox ever seen, as claimed by the late Dr. Chen, in Piqua. Caught ’em from my nephew and have never forgotten that misery. Missed three weeks of work. Never see the nephew anymore.
I’ve seen fireworks.
I’ve seen every possible kind of retail sale advertised.
And I’ve seen hotdog eating contests, some won by the incredibly obese – and some won by those who looked totally emaciated. Apparently, there’s no particular advantage one way or the other.
But as I spend this 4th of July amidst the partisan arguments over whether the Russians hacked into last year’s election – over who pays, and how much, for health care….I see the incredible cultural shift of our country as personified by the groups who line up in support of one candidate or another, or one ideology or another.
We all see a day upon us where the inaugural words of John F. Kennedy, 56 years ago, have long been forgotten. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Remember?
Well now we live in a day of one socio-economic group or perspective after another demanding rights and entitlements for everything under the sun. You feel oppressed about something? Demand restitution, or reparation, from the government. Write your congressman and demand that a heretofore privilege becomes a right.
4th of July parades once were the outdoor highlight of the year in many towns with floats, bands, and veterans marching to honor the declaration of our independence from England in 1776. Those days are in the rear view mirror, as we parade now for political correctness and consciousness over which cultural issue affords the most influence come election time.
We’ve strayed about as far away from the Constitution as we can and still call ourselves the United States of America, and we’re bankrupting ourselves doing it. We’ve taken a document predicated on ensuring justice, domestic tranquility, and the common defense of our nation and diluted it to the point of impotence. Impossible to discern the endless line of challenges from individuals and groups demanding an amendment serving their own purpose. Ask what this country can do for me; not what I could be doing for this country!
A friend recently compared the country’s obsession with selfish interests to that of owning a car. “We don’t worry about the engine and the transmission anymore…the basics,” he said. “All we care about now is a comfortable ride and how many extras.”
As with any succeeding generation, if you ask a new millenial now about John F. Kennedy and his once-famous quote, you’ll probably get a blank stare. It’s a stark contrast to the impression we all held at the time of his presidency. How profound, and how in line with the values and sacrifice of those suffered for the cause of our original independence, and the commitment of those whose sacrifice has ensured the basic tenets of our Constitution in the 240 years since.
Now, liberty isn’t enough. It must come with the demands of growing entitlement. John Kennedy’s head (or his speech writer’s) would spin like Linda Blair’s did in The Exorcist.
“Ask not what your country can do for you…but what you can do for your country?”
Or, what have you done for me…lately?