…had had enough of King George by 1776 that we allowed some really smart, if (by today’s standards) terribly flawed guys to write a letter to the King telling him we were breaking up with him. And then we did.
There were, in those days, people we knew as “Tories,” people loyal to the King and Great Britain, and there were others, like Dathan, the Israelite character portrayed by Edward G. Robinson in the enormous film The Ten Commandments (not to be confused with the actual Decalogue), who kept getting by turns skeptical, scared, cynical, ready to give up, whining, saying “This is never gonna work, we’re all gonna get killed over here” (and so maybe sounded more like Lindsey Graham in one of his panicky moments) and had the People taken Dathan or Lindsey or the Tories or any of those other naysayers seriously, I don’t know what we’d be now, but it likely wouldn’t be anything worth writing home about.
But we did pay attention to them, and in fact we got angry with them for their negative, self-defeating talk, and told them to stop it, because it was demoralizing our brave troops.
On this day, the 242nd anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution, we look, to some of us (I can’t speak for the rest of the world) like a people defeated, after a mere 242 years of constant revolution, evolution, birth control, the sound of soul…wait. Those are words from Ball of Confusion by the Temptations. And they fit, so we’ll leave them in. They are all pertinent at this very moment, on this very day, as we listen to the Dathans among us scream “Birth control is dead!” and “Democracy is over!” and “We’re lost!” and “I’m moving to a better place than this sucky goddam Trump-ridden mumble, grumble, gripe.”
Will ya’ll kindly, at least for one day, in the immortal words of Little Richard,
Now, while you’re shut up from your “The sky has fallen!” moment, think on this: Fifty years ago, when the country was only 192 years old and Richard Nixon about to take the reins (to the extent any president can take the reins), and the world was a Hellscape and the US was far closer to every wrong thing than it is now, yes, far closer to passing away, we had a 4th of July. And we by God celebrated the genius of the founders, not their foibles, and we celebrated that we had survived and thrived and become ginormous in the eyes of the world in less than 200 years (a blink of an eye in terms of the history of the world) and though we teetered on the precipice of nuclear annihilation, collapse from within, commies everywhere trying to kill us, the Democratic party in total disarray in Chicago, ramping up to a Nixonian nightmare we could only speculate upon as Lyndon Johnson was packing his bags to get the hell out of Dodge, Doctor Strangelove had the president’s ear (the ear of several presidents, in fact), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy, the two angels of Hope we had been given had both been taken away by assassins’ bullets, Jim Crow was still largely in effect, whole cities were aflame including the Nation’s Capital, and the world had effectively ended, and as Don McLean wrote and sung (ad nauseum by now):
“Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on: Jack be nimble, Jack be quick!
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
[The day our nation died].”
And Satan was Dick Nixon, or maybe even LBJ or Henry Kissinger, just as today he is Donald Trump, and we know what became of all those other Satans, same as what will become of Trump: They fell ingloriously and now they are dead.
But “…there we were all in one place, a generation lost in space, with no time left to start again…”
Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but we had “no time left to start again,” and yet, even as McLean’s song was being played and Tricky Dick was dicking around with democracy, some dumb fuck did something providentially stupid at a hotel called The Watergate (because of it’s proximity to the actual watergate, a grand stairway from Potomac river leading up to the Lincoln Memorial, not a scandal, but merely a place named for a thing by the water), and soon good people began to notice this scab and started picking at it, and by 1974 King Richard (Nixon) who had been laughing with delight in January of 1969, was two years later being investigated (well, not really, but effectively he was) and in a mere two more years had fled Washington, DC and was no more.
“We’re doomed!” “Trump is the worst thing that ever happened! He’s destroyed us!”
Cue Little Richard.
And then there was Slick Willie, who balanced his bad with some good and a whole lotta slick, and then there was, horror of horrors, a stolen election and some dope called “Duh-byah” was in the oval office misunderestimating stuff, declaring himself “The Decider,” and (with the able assistance of a Congress of willing Democrats and Republicans) starting wars, in fact, it might seem right now, War Without End.
But it’s worse now, because…?
It’s a good time to move to Denmark (Oh no it isn’t, in case you’ve not been paying attention) or Canada (which we invaded in 1812 just to fuck with the British, who subsequently returned the favor and burned the White House down), or Costa Rica or Timbuk-fucking-tu.
Why? Because of 18 months of some goddam used car salesman having gained access to the Oval Office? Like Nixon wasn’t clinically mentally ill (and if you’re as old as me you’ll remember, from 1960, the first time he ran for president, and lost, the opposition’s poster with a picture of a shady-looking Nixon and the question: “Would you buy a used car from this man?” We bought more than that, and we ultimately returned it — up his ass).
So then. We’re fucked. We’re doomed. Just like we were at the outset, just like when the stock market crashed and people starved, just like when Germany and Japan took it upon themselves to declare war on us and force us to do the impossible and in a mere four years bring both those nations to their knees, seventeen years before the Cuban Missile Crisis when we all almost actually died. But we didn’t. We survived all that and more.
Yeah, we couldn’t do any of that today, because…Trump. Really? And Mitch McConnell? And Paul Ryan? Oh come on, people. That’s right, ya’ll who are We the People. This is all you got? I don’t think so. I think you, we, can do any god damned thing we need to do and do it better than we have before, so quit whining and declaring doomsday for democracy, and shut up!
You’re demoralizing the troops. You are undercutting the efforts of all the righteous men and women (especially women lately, if you hadn’t noticed) who are busy doing the “impossible.”
So on this one day, do us all a favor, please, and celebrate what this day is about, which is not fireworks, is not a cookout, is not some big box sale, is not even the weekend yet, but is that thing up at the top, that letter to King George and every other tyrant who might consider trying to be a king here in this new world, this young, this adolescent country of ideas and ideals, this thing Alex de Toqueville, a French guy, for chrissake, described as exceptional for the very reasons that it was founded, that those imperfect humans cobbled together, and which still is the richest and most powerful (at least on paper) nation on Earth, because of what is written on paper if not in all men’s hearts.
Celebrate the notion of what we might be, and resolve, here on this stolen ground, to Make America Great At last.
Oh yes we will
Now lead, follow, or get out of the way, but please, shut up!