Gunpowder & Sky

I’m a bit dubious about Independence Day, especially these days.

Bo Lozoff described the Bush Administration’s (or, as he calls them, “The Masters of Unsustainability”) careful and deliberate erosion of American (and global) civil liberties (wire tapping, bank records, Guantonimo, etc) with an age-old metaphor. “If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out. But if you put a frog in a pot of cold water, and slowly turn up the heat, he’ll die.”

These are our times, I think. As Gore Vidal warned in a prescient Ken Burns documentary on the Statue of Liberty in 1985, “We need to stop thinking of one another as strictly commodity, and start relating to one another as spiritual entities.”

Above all, we are a human community. Our guiding principle should be hope, not fear. And yet we broadcast missile launches, beheadings, and terror alerts. We should be building bridges, not walls. And yet we aim to institute a national language, to construct thousands of miles of fence on our southern border, and to reject the undesirables.

“Give me your tired your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free,” she says. “The wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these: the homeless, the tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

And so, when this most patriotic of days roll around, I tend to retreat. I appreciate the opportunities this country affords me. But I am saddened by the cost. So I sit in my bedroom and listen to Aimee Mann’s “Fourth Of July” on repeat.

It’s the Fourth of July
Another June has gone by
And when they light up the town I just think
What a waste of gunpowder and sky

And yet… And yet I am as excited as a schoolboy when the report begins to echo through the great glass and steel canyons of New York. I set out for the East Side tonight just as the city began its fiery celebration. I rode through Central park beneath a hazy sky pulsing red and white. I ditched my bike at Abbi’s, and began jogging towards the river, stealing glances of great, colorful ring, willow and pistil explosions.

That, then, is My America: gleefully speeding down a dead end road, tethered and unrestrained, afraid but still full of hope.

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