This past Friday was Independence Day, an occasion that I marked by pulling weeds and moving large quantities of trash from their various hiding places to the dumpster. In the evening I watched television and listened to the fireworks. I'm not complaining. It was alright as holidays go. When you are retired the days just seem to flow together into one constant weekend.
Murrieta, that city in California where patriotic protesters waved their flags and hurled insults at busloads of immigrant women and children, has been on my mind for several days. We can be free and independent and puffed up with pride, but God help any of those little brown buggers who feel they have some inherent right to be as free and independent as we are.
We got ours, there is nothing here for you, and don't let the door at the border hit you on the ass on your way back to El Salvador.
One day we've got the Supreme Court telling us that the law must give way to the demands of religion - particularly the Christian religion - and the next day we see "good" Christians demonizing and threatening children. And then we eat, drink, and light fireworks!
I'm not saying that America isn't worth celebrating, but it seems like the ideal of America, that land of liberty envisioned by the founding fathers - and mothers, tends to get bogged down and even lost in all of the noise and hate that passes as patriotism. Are we about everyone being free and enjoying what this great country can offer, or are we about only certain ones of us being free to claim ownership of America and her destiny: the whites, the males, the Christians, and the straights? Sadly, it is beginning to feel like we live in a country club from the 1950's with only certain people being allowed membership and everyone else being relegated to working in the kitchen or on the grounds.
Claude McKay was a writer and poet in the period known as the Harlem Renaissance. The young black man with the powerful pen was never an official communist, but he readily admitted to strong sympathies for that economic philosophy. His poem from 1921, America, discusses the country that never completely opened her doors to him. He had some respect for his adopted homeland, but also a bit of disdain. I include it below to offer some balance to the America typified by the flag-waving and screaming denizens of Murrieta.
It's a big country, and there should be room for all of us - and opportunity for all of us.
by Claude McKay
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.