Friday, July 04, 2014
But that is a bleak way to set out onto Independence Day, so I will consider instead the Americans that have given us reasons to be proud of our country. I take as my cue Sarah Vowell's remarks in The Partly Cloudy Patriot:
I said that I had recently flown over Memphis, Tennessee. I said that the idea of Memphis, Tennessee, not to mention looking down at it, made me go all soft. Because I looked down at Memphis, Tennessee and thought of all my heroes who had walked its streets. I thought of Sun Records, of the producer Sam Phillips. Sam Phillips, who once described the sort of person he recorded as "a person who had dreamed, and dreamed and dreamed." A person like Elvis Presley, his funny bass player, Bill Black, his guitarist, Scotty Moore.... Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins. Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.And, of course, when we think about Memphis, Tennessee we also have to think of the brave men who were employed as sanitation workers and went on strike in 1968. And about Martin Luther King, Jr.. And then I start to think about the other Americans who have stood up: the March on the Pentagon. ACT UP. The Occupy movement. And then I circle back, and think about Chuck Berry, who invented an art form that celebrated the America he wasn't even allowed to take part in fully. I think about Gloria Steinem, and Justice Holmes. George Clinton. Mookie Wilson-- thinking about Mookie Wilson always makes me happy. I see him outrunning that play at first in my mind's eye and I am reminded that you always work as hard as you can until you can't work any more.
Mookie Wilson was an Augustinian ballplayer, and therefor an Augustinian American, like me.
I have a longer list, but thinking about any of these people is what it takes to get me through the 4th. I'm happier than ever this year to have them to think about.
A road trip took us through Memphis a few years ago, and we made two stops: Sun Studios and the Civil Rights Museum, which includes the motel where King was assassinated. Both good places to stop and see a bit of American history.
Yup. Sun made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. And the Civil Rights Museum is very moving. Graceland next time through
It's still the best country there is. It still needs to be better. My fear is that we may not have enough people of greatness in positions of greatness to fill that need. It's no less complicated than it ever was. Mostly wealthy, educated people have stepped up. They were often quite flawed people but they did have the courage to take on the heavy lifting that's required to move us to be better. One problem is that this kind of people may just not want to sacrifice so much of their own lives anymore; their lives , their fortunes and their sacred honor. Dare I mention that I think Hilary Clinton has what it takes, flaws and all.
"Best country there is" is a tough category. What's the metric? I wince every time I read it, but every American should have a look at Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize lecture: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2005/pinter-lecture-e.html.