“And so, once again, my dear Johnny, my old friend,
And so, once again you are fighting us all.
And when I ask you why, you raise your sticks and cry, and I fall.
Oh, my friend, how did you come to trade the fiddle for the drum?”
I am often fashionably late to the parade. This weekend is no exception. Not so when I was a drummer in the Adlai E. Stevenson High School Marching Patriots Band, (actually, I was an oboist, but oboes don’t march). You can’t be late to anybody’s parade when you set the cadence. It’s impolite. I can still tap the 48-bar pattern on a tabletop, and it’s been forty-four years. Tempus doth fugit to the strains of The Stars and Stripes Forever — in my ear and my hands and heart. A mere blink of the eye, Gentle Reader, and in that time I’ve grown into a patriot of a lonely kind.
I am blessed and grateful to have grown in the era I did, with its obvious benefits, graduating from AESHS in 1970; also blessed to know a ‘security and freedom from want’ that myriad other people on The Happy Planet then and now can only imagine. Because of the when and the where, I was able to learn beyond high school history and government books. As Red Riding Hood sings in Sondheim’s Into the Woods: “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit not.”
In the roll-up to the July 4th holiday in the US of A (the pre-game show!) and throughout the long weekend, I am reminded over and over of the young idealist standing decades before the ‘radical’ grandmother in reading glasses who types staccato rhythms — her solo cadence — on a laptop now. I put the word radical in quotes because, like so many words, the meaning has been mangled and maligned over time. Oh! You’re one of those? Yes. But don’t mistake me for an inhabitant of Planet Politics. I don’t live there anymore.
Since I hope to keep this short, (ever the dreamer!) suffice it to say this: what disturbs me most about Independence Day celebrations is all that’s piggybacked upon the birthday of a nation of diverse people who longed to live free of the tyranny of kings. What the cultural loudspeakers blare today is nothing remotely about the bold experiment of the nation’s founders. It’s just not, and it makes me more nauseous as the weekend wears on. I won’t share my long list of soapbox perturbations here and now. You can relax. Another day, perhaps,…
I work hard to keep chauvinistic fairytales out of my head-heart space. So much seems insane to me. I was near-to-bursting the other day, and felt compelled to pick up my old violin to fiddle the dissonance away. I play you a magic, mournful and hopeful melody. The peoples of the United States of America have a lot to learn and much to unlearn. I have hope that they are up to the challenge, willing to take moments away from ‘USA,The Miniseries’ to refresh their memories on matters of freedom, nationhood, patriotism and gritty courage. It’s an often lonely place. A necessary place.
We might each begin here: We hold these truths to be self evident…
I hope you’ve had a blow-out holiday weekend with full bellies and full hearts, great joys, inspired for the sojourn just ahead. See it, there on your horizon? **Fare forward, Voyagers, and watch out for low-flyin’ crazies as you go.
From my heart,
** a nod of my head to T.S.Eliot’s, ‘The Four Quartets’
– All images in this blog are created in the virtual world, ‘Second Life’.