Archive for July 4th, 2020

I am not feeling celebratory on this Fourth of July.  I have strong feelings about the ideals of this nation and the recent events here challenge my belief that those ideals can prevail or even merely hold on. There is just a bit too much irony in today celebrating our independence from what we viewed as the grip of cruel tyranny in 1776. We are weakening our country when we accept cruelty and selfishness as an aspect of our governance and national character. And make no mistake about what I am saying, selfish cruelty is weakness and we are witness to that currently. Here’s a post from several years back that I run every now and then on this day, speaking to our better ideals. Enjoy your 4th.

Jasper Johns “Flag”

Another Fourth of July.

Parades. Picnics. Fireworks. Red, white and blue. That’s the shorthand version of this day. The actual meaning of this day is much harder to capture, probably more so for Americans than for those from other countries who view us from a distance. I think we sometimes lose sight of the idea and ideal of America in our day to day struggle to maintain our own lives. But even that struggle is symptomatic of the basis of our nation, reminding us that anything worth preserving requires work and maintenance.

For me, America is not a static ideal, a credo written in granite that will always be there. It is vaporous and always changing, like a dense fog. But it is an inviting fog, one that is warm on the skin and invites you in with hazy promises of possibility.

And maybe that is all America ever was and will be– the promise of possibility.

Maybe it is the sheer potential of a better and safer life, the possibility of remaking one’s self, that defines our ideal America. We are at our best when we are open and inviting, offering our opportunity and empathy to all.

And we are a long way from our ideal when we close our doors and try to capture the vapor that is America all for ourselves. It is not ours to hold– we are simply caretakers of an ideal, one that brought most of our ancestors here.

Maybe this doesn’t make any sense. Since it is such a hazy thing, this amorphous fog that is our ideal, we all see it in different ways. This is just how I see it.


I have ran this post several times over the years. Even the preface at the top was written in the past. I was going to change things up this year for the 4th and run Frederick Douglass’ famed Fourth of July speech given to a group in Rochester back in 1852. It strongly points out the hypocrisy celebrating a day of independence when one takes an honest look at this country’s past, especially at that time when slavery and the brutal assault on the sovereignty of the Native Americans was in full stride. It is an angry rebuke of the unequal nature of the American ideal. But in it, Douglass still maintained hope for the future, hope that the potential that this nation offered to some would one day come to be available for all people.

168 years later and we’re still struggling with that.

Here’s a song from Robert Earl Keen that kind of captures the atmosphere of this day, at least for me, in recent times. Even the cover for the album that the song came from, with parked cars ablaze at a picnic, fits these times. This song, Fourth of July, it’s not what you might expect. Not a flag waving, good timey kind of tune. It’s about the end of a relationship, about the real life problems and tensions that exist on a day while others celebrate. It’s a good tune so give a listen and have a good day.



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