I remember the first time I heard this song. I started crying when Mr. Young got to theses lyrics:
"There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.
Keep on rockin' in the free world"
I did get to go to school. A well-funded public school out in the suburbs.
I got to fall in love...and to have my heart broken.
I got to be...well, nerds weren't really cool in the 60s & 70s but you maybe get my point.
Simple minimal things that should be the birthright of every kid.
The Myopic-Americans out there think that every American (by their definition) did have those things back in the 50s before Democrats ruined everything.
I dimly knew that wasn't true for all, even back when I was a small child. One of my first memories is spending time at my grandfather’s farm in the south. I remember standing out by the fence of the house. I'm staring silently at three black kids around my age and they're silently staring back at me. Both sides understanding I think that there was a barrier stronger than the fence keeping us apart.
I remember the joy with which I would celebrate the 4th of July as a kid. Blowing up firecrackers in the back yard. Watching the town parade. Eating hotdogs and riding the cheap rides at the fairground. Oohing and Ahhing as the fireworks exploded in the sky, surrounded by a few hundred people all looking white like me.
Images that wouldn’t be out of place in Reagan’s “Morning in America” campaign ads.
I don’t remember JFK getting shot but I do remember Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I remember the Vietnam war on the nightly news and Star Trek going boldly where no man (a decidedly American man) has gone before. I remember President Nixon saying he wasn’t a crook and making a quick escape by helicopter (was it the same type of copter that the last Americans leaving Vietnam took?).
Round and round, personal memories swirl and entwine with the complicated reality of the USA both past and present (and oh dear lord, the present is complicated).
I don’t celebrate the 4th of July.
There’s a lot of people who’d say I’m not a patriot (some would even say I’m a commie pinko traitor but those people are just…dumb).
I do think about this country every single day. About what it is and isn’t. About why I’m a democrat (or liberal, or progressive, or socialist, or whatever label you feel comfortable with). About why I’m interested in politics and why I involve myself with them (and to be fair, why I’m not more involved than I am). About this system of government we have which no matter how corrupted it has become I still hold out some hope for in its ability to improve our future.
I’ll listen to songs like Rockin’ in the Free World and Born in the USA…heck even American Woman on the 4th and I’ll have some fun with some friends and maybe I’ll watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in the evening but I’ll pass on the fireworks.
This ain’t much of a diary but if you’re reading and feel so inclined, give me some of your favorite patriotic songs.
And also too, have a safe and happy Independence Day.