If there is a day of the year when we all ought to be able to set aside our differences and unhappiness and find a way to join together to celebrate the gifts we have received from those who came before, this should be the day.
Excepting of course Native Americans, for whom the invasion of the Whites brought nothing but misery and pain. We are well past due for making those amends.
The rest of us, though, should be able to see that for all of our many flaws America still stands as a beacon of hope and opportunity for people from all over the globe. We may not have handled this whole feedom thing as well as we could have, but we were the first to give it a try and we haven’t entirely failed at it either. With each generation we move closer to the ideal of universal sufferage and universal opportunity, towards equality under the law and succor for all those who are suffering and in need.
However short we fall of those ideals, that inadequacy should serve only to inspire us, encourage us, incite us and drive us to keep pushing and pulling and moving towards where we need to be. Nobody hands out freedom and equality; the only way to get them is to figure out how to sieze them.
So many of our current difficulties stem from unresolved issues that first erupted in the War Between the States. I have this message for those who reactionary few who insist on trying to perpetuate that struggle:
That war is over.
Now get over it, find some positive way to contribute to this country that you profess to love so much and stop trying to refight a war you’ve already lost, before we kick your ass all over again.
This is a day to celebrate freedom, opportunity and hope. It is also a day to remember and be grateful for all those who sacrificed their lives and their own futures to secure our own, along with all those who serve in our armed forces today. The best way to honor them is to not waste their valor and courage, to keep them safe and hold them in reserve and only deploy them when the security of the nation requires their service.
No more foolish wars, no more death and no more suffering for no good purpose.
(A nice little lesson there from Richie, good, kind, decent man and gifted teacher that he is. If you start into something and it isn’t going quite right, no need to fuss; just pause a moment, set things straight, then get right back at it.)
The next song is from Joe MacDonald, a US Army vet who has spent his whole life advocating for better treatment of veterans.
There are many versions of this song, but this one stands out for me because it epitomizes the essence of Pete’s mission, to teach others and to keep learning ourselves, and above else sing out loud and long and never fear to speak the truth:
Aaron Copeland was originally commissioned to produce this next piece as a memorial for falllen veterans but by the time he had researched and finished composing he felt that there could be no difference between us, that military or civilian, politician or voter, man woman or child, we are all one people. And so the name:
(If you’ve never experienced an organ played in a cathedral-like space, I heartily recommend it. You don’t just hear the music, you feel it and become one with it; the sound flows through you, your spirit is uplifted, and you are transformed.)
You can’t do a revolution on your own, at least not a political one. Every movement needs allies, friends you can count on to be there trhough good times and bad, to feed the cat while you’re gone and scrounge around for bail money when it’s needed.
The first time I saw Joe Cocker live we both had a full head of hair. He performed on a small stage with just a five-piece band who doubled as backup singers. By the time of this performance in 1992 he had assembled all the bits and pieces, and figured out how to make the whole thing scream.
What all this striving and stress is about is freedom, a concept both simple and complex. Freedom doesn’t mean the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want, it doesn’t include the power to exploit or dominate others; that is simply villany. Real freedom is to see everyone, not just a privileged few, relieved of want, of fear and of oppression. Real freedom is to be able to lie down to sleep each night in happiness and security with the expectation that tomorrow will bring more of the same, and to wake up knowing it was not all just a dream.
We’re not there yet, the road ahead is long and arduous, but that is no reason to give up hope. While we may grow weary and be tempted to dispair, we must instead remember we are on that road together, and there is freedom to be found in that communitarianism, in knowing we are not alone.
Francis Scott Key so would have loved this:
Be safe, be sane, be happy, above all have some fun. Happy Fourth, everybody.