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“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”
On this Independence weekend, the words of singer-songwriter Bob Seger echo in my thoughts as pivotal moments in American history flood my mind. Flash points ignored until finally forced to deny my own denial.
Juxtaposed with the lyrics of Bob Seger, the poetry of Carl Sandburg push through a tsunami of thoughts. Both Seger and Sandburg issued warnings against disillusionment. Some might say the two don’t deserve to share the same page, and sure, that argument can be made. It’s probably more appropriate to quote Jefferson, Adams and Madison on this Fourth of July weekend. Lofty quotes such as, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” That’s Jefferson, of course. But, today, on this anniversary of our much celebrated Independence, it is Seger and Sandburg whose words are speaking to me.
As the small town parades begin, the batons twirl, the sparklers swirl, and the red, white and blue fireworks fill the sky; these two voices somehow balance me. Yes, that balance is on a very precarious tightrope hanging over a netless expanse. A tightrope representing what has been sold to us as the “new normal.”
Enter Bob Seger:
And I remember what she said to me
How she swore that it never would end
I remember how she held me oh so tight
Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then
We live in a nation born of a small group of revolutionaries determined not be slaves to any monarchy. They were “young and strong and running against the wind.” But, they were also building a nation on lies. While vowing to be no man’s slave, America was built on the backs of the enslaved. And, that is where the hypocrisy began…at the very beginning…and the hypocrisy lives on today.
Despite it all, we swore the good-times “never would end.” But, we know now, what we didn’t then.
Could the founders have ever imagined the handful of unpatriotic monarchs currently ruling our lives and lining their gilded pockets with our money? With money accumulated from schemes that decimated the nation? And 235 years after the signing of a Constitution declaring all men equal and all religious beliefs tolerable, we must acknowledge that wondrous dream is still deferred. So, on this Fourth of July weekend, let’s heed Carl Sandburg’s advice and not pretend to be too “happy, happy” about it all.
Carl Sandburg asks in “Snatch of Sliphorn Jazz”:
Are you happy? It’s the only
way to be, kid.
Yes, be happy, it’s a good nice
way to be.
But not happy-happy, kid, don’t
be too doubled-up doggone happy.
It’s the doubled-up doggone happy-
happy people . . . bust hard . . . they
do bust hard . . . when they bust.
Be happy, kid, go to it, but not too
This Independence weekend an estimated 16 million American children are reportedly living in poverty. Millions of middle class families are living in cars and boxes and homeless shelters. They will be on my mind.
The merchants of war and weapons and death will be on my mind. The Gold Star Families will be on my mind. The relentless Faux News encouraging today’s “fair and balanced” quality of life will be on my mind. Endless propaganda to keep the war machine intact threatens to drown hope like ignored levees. Racism and partisanship and corrupt, corporate-ownedpoliticians destroy America while stuffing already bulging pockets. Politicians sell us a bill of goods, rather than preserving the Bill of Rights. And those same unpatriotic corporations will try to make you feel good by “sponsoring” the Fourth of July fireworks you’ll most likely take the kids to see this weekend.
Independence in 1776 meant rebellion against paying taxes to Britain—taxes that did not enhance America, but filled the coffers of the monarchy. Does this sound familiar?
On this Independence Day weekend, true independence once again means “running against the wind.” It means demanding health, education and housing for everyone who works hard. If not, those who are swept along in the red, white and blue euphoria this weekend, determined to be oh so “happy, happy,” will, as Carl Sandburg cautioned, “eventually, bust hard.”