Truck-Mart is prepping for the 4th in a big way this year. Their driveway and our street is parked to the full with these jumbo trucks with shining chrome roll-bars and ET simulated floodlights that could silhouette the presence of illegal aliens and such like should they encroach upon the lovely vineyards surrounding us and demand a minimum wage or clean drinking water for the field work. I admit to a certain fascination with these monster machines whose giant wheels the height of one story buildings, crush other littler cars in the course of track annihilation and have fiery crashes….sort of like the mechanical version of Big Time Wrestling on TV.
Still, for all that I did put out the flag as usual on this eve of the bombs bursting in air giving truth to the fact etc. and so on. The flag is not only a great patriotic icon, but a friendly and reliable symbol that unites most of us in a common American identity, however diverse at times, and comes in handy for bridging the chasms of cultural differences which often appear in neighborhoods.
In our case, it is between we who moved here eight years ago and the rather conservative Truck-Mart tribe. The OCCUPY FIRST STREET sign that went up on our fence during that fitful time when folks thought there might actually be an effective protest did raise a few eyebrows over there. In my case these days however, tendencies toward grooviness, and bell-bottoms have given way to sweatpants and the elder’s best friend—elastic. Plus that long curly, wavy hair is now white and sheared down with the dog groomer because haircuts here-a-bouts cost as much as small mortgages.
The Truck-Mart folks were polite but clearly a little skeptical of us anyway because, you know, we two didn’t grow pot or wear Bubba caps, decorated, gardened with pretty flowers, had a complete set of the Harvard Classics 1913 edition and cooked ( OhMyGawd ) French food. It was a friendly distance sort of thing and they soon realized that ‘IT’ wasn’t spreading or contagious. Then years later, circumstances had dramatically changed and Andie came along. I was redeemed by her, let’s face it, sublime cuteness and loving personality. Plus, Andie was so perfectly socialized by her Fairy Dog-parents, that she got along with other dogs and cats.
Since the day Truck-Mart stopped and said, “Hi Bud,” when walking Andie, all has been well up the street. I swear if diplomats would bring their pets to meetings the world might be a kinder more peaceful place. I don’t know if that applies to terrorists. I think they probably eat pets, but that’s the subject for another story in a different forum, where the easily offended would give me the title of ‘troll’ and have me blocked.
We in this small community are grateful for the mutual peace and respect that seems to so gracefully bind us in a friendly neighborhood where we share orchard gleanings and food sometimes mysteriously appears on the front door step. So, to wit Andie and I are grateful for that flag that was put out on the 4th for that America, which defines the variant multitude of us, in an idealism of liberty so tested and tried in the maelstrom of history that we often forget the day to day manifestation of it in our peaceful lives.
My favorite patriotic mantra is by the poet Langston Hughes:
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!