Monday, July 4, 2011


The fixated motorist flies by on the right. He weaves in and out of traffic, totally obsessed with his own needs, caring nothing about those around him.

One car he passes nearly swerves off the road. The elderly gentleman was stunned. He remembers when he had some maverick in him but his energy was spent in a different way.

His knuckles weren’t always gnarled with arthritis. It didn’t seem that long ago when things like bifocals and hearing aids were foreign to him.

This man didn’t have the chance to freewheel around when he was trapped between puberty and maturity. He was on a transport carrying him and others his age onto the shores of Normandy, an agent of the free world trying to hold back the sinister arm of tyranny during the dark days of World War II.

The motorist is impervious to the benefits of living in the land of the free. He takes it for granted, pushing safety laws to the limit to satisfy his own needs.

It’s July 4. America is celebrating its 235th birthday. The aging WWII vet is the latest in a long line of freedom fighters dating back to the early days of the American Revolution, when so many gave their lives so that future generations could be free.

Does the motorist, or any of his generation, ever take the time to comprehend how our freedom evolved?

Greedy athletes line up against greedier team owners over financial matters in two of our major professional sports.

The athletes in the NFL and NBA get more and more. The owners want more and more. Lawyers and agents instigate more and more so they can get a bigger piece of the pie. The people pay more and more, making the football and basketball arenas playthings for the wealthy.

None of them give a hoot about the people.

Do any of them stop on July 4 to pay their respects to those who have made it possible to get ridiculously wealthy playing children’s games? How many of them even know the significance of the date?

I wish I could answer that they do, but I don’t think so.

The night crackles with the sound of fireworks going off all around.

The Fourth of July. They have it circled on the calendar in their minds. Fireworks, boom, yeh!

But do they know why they’re shooting off fireworks on this day? How much do they know about what they’re celebrating?

Some of them may remember the history book highlights, no matter how vague or even misleading they may be.

Paul Revere made that ride, right? President George Washington, first man in the White House? Not exactly. Ben Franklin? Five dollar bill, but there are many more reasons he’s pictured there other than flying a kite.

What about Thomas Paine? Daniel Morgan? Nathaniel Greene? There may not be one in 100 who knows about any one of them, and one in 5,000 probably couldn’t identify them all, but there almost certainly would be no speeding motorists, no professional athletes and no fireworks on Fourth of July without any one of them.

Who are they? If you can get out your Google to find out when the latest stupid movie with robots and fire is coming out, you can Google them.

So, what’s the point?

Well, maybe it’s because U.S. history resonates deeply with me. Maybe it’s because you start to think about your own mortality when your age reaches grandfatherly proportions and you want to pass on what you’ve learned. Maybe it’s because things haven’t exactly gone well for me lately and I’m looking for some sort of escape.

It’s probably a little of all three, but I decided that I would take a good portion of time this Independence Day to reflect on those who have sacrificed so I could grow up basking in the glow of freedom.

I attended an afternoon of patriotic music and festivities Sunday that the Farmington Historical Society graciously staged. A troubadour with deep historical roots named Tom Cullinan sang songs including “Rally ’Round the Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” He spoke reverently about those who have served our nation, who numbered eight at the event.

I sang when I knew the words. The thoughts that passed through my mind dampened my cheeks. One woman had the foresight to bring two young boys. Hopefully the event will be etched deeply in their minds so they can pass the spirit along to the next generation.

Independence Day. The Fourth of July. The day means everything to me, it should mean everything to you and I don’t mean the procurement of fireworks, scoffing multiple burgers and keeping the beer cold.

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