Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hoping Not to Blow My Fingers Off this July 4th

Today celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. That means as a nation we are 233 years old, still young enough to repeatedly believe we lose our innocence every time something really bad happens to our national psyche. That hoary expression "America will never be the same again" has been used so often by commentators since our beginnings that it might as well be part of a Madison Avenue created brand logo by now.

In my lifetime, America has been irretrievably shaken to its very foundations so often that if this country were a condo complex, no self respecting building inspector would allow tenants to remain within its walls. We were shocked when the Russians launched the first cosmonaut into space; we were stunned during Kennedy-King-Kennedy assassinations; we were humiliated by the events of Watergate; we were surprised at the machinations involved over the Iran-Contra hearings; we were embarrassed throughout the Clinton impeachment, and, of course, 911 spelled the end of everything except numerals.

We have always taken the blow, standing stronger every time, returning to our place of prominence, bloodied yet unbowed. We can survive anything because America's uniqueness lies in its most abundant non-outsourced asset: amnesia. After every major kick to our collective head, we rush to our Lethe rivers, whip up a 200-proof broth of amnesia ambrosia, then triumphantly walk home to our City on the Hill. This must be a Puritan-Pilgrim thing, for we are forever being reborn guiltless, faultless and sinless. Best of all without a hangover.

I love this most about America. We stay magically virginal regardless of how many times we get laid by the patronizing politician, the snake oil salesman, or the cunning clergyman. Nothing fazes us. We are as bendable as a willow facing down a twister. Always as pure as the driven snow even if the slush has been trucked in over four states. Every day may tempt us with the perverseness of a prom night escapade, yet with the knowing expectation that if something nasty does occur, we can erase the mistake by ignoring it, forgetting about it, or shoving it under an imported carpet.

I love the 4th. I used to be one of the jerks who would hold lit cherry bombs in my hands until the last second; who would light sparklers in the dry tinder of the Madison Arboretum; who would eat so much at picnics that vomiting and viewing the fireworks became synonymous.

So before I again test my luck with illegal fireworks, loaded weaponry, and my stomach vs. beers and brats, I leave you with three of my very favorite videos. Each one describes an aspect of our national psyche that no other nation can lay claim to.

We are truly an optimistic country. We really are. Nothing will ever defeat us for we have nothing to fear except fear itself -- unless you spend your time watching Fox News. Then all the armaments granted us by the 2nd Amendment won't be able to protect us from THEM and, damn it, we know who THEM are or is, or whatever. Otherwise, no matter how bleak, dour or depressing the situation facing us looks, happy days are just around the corner even if those constructing the corner just went bankrupt. Not only do we make lemonade from lemons, we pour enough sugar into the mix to send us all into diabetic shock. Too bad if you don't have health insurance.

We are a religious country and with it a tolerant nation. Otherwise why would we have so many toe-tapping, knee-slapping, jumping up to the ceiling songs of spiritual redemption? Gospel music is our salvation. Without it, this country would be as poor as a deep sea fisherman in Kansas. Even a down on his luck white sinner like Elmer Gantry can find solace in a black church if he knows the words. Who would have thunk that Burt Lancaster could sing?

We are a nation that begs to be pickled and processed by polecats. Otherwise who would we buy our musical instruments from so we could eventually forgive them for leading us astray? Wall Street wrecks havoc on Main Street, yet we blame the unions. Politicians blame the weak, the sick, the infirm and the immigrants while they scrap regulations and rules so they and their lobbyist friends can make millions. Congressional representatives refuse to vote to to provide the electorate the very same comforts afforded them for life. No wonder all of us wait expectantly for Prom Night.

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