People Out Loud: Exceptional experiment – Veterans, flags and corn bread stuffing

November 2021 Posted in Uncategorized

By the time this edition of Our Town is published, Veteran’s Day 2021 will be a thing of the past. Perhaps you bought the 9,000 thread count California King sheets at the “Massive Veteran’s Day Bedding Sale,” where they pretend to care about those who serve and served. Maybe you drove around town with your American Flag waving proudly from the bed of your F-150 or took your Pops to get free pie at the local café. Sure, I am a few days late, but my mind has been on vets a lot these days, and patriotism.

I appreciate people who are patriotic. I truly love this country. As United States Air Force Viet Nam-era veteran and kin to many veterans, it was a privilege to serve. My father was on Guadalcanal during World War II. Brutal fighting, at 17 years old. Truly one of the “Greatest Generation.” But why am I in a funk?

I guess it boils down to the cherry-picking some people do when displaying their uber-patriotism. What I love about this country is the good we have done in the world, the generosity we have shared, the heroism our people have displayed, and the diversity of our population. The amazing human beings and gifts we have offered the world, in entertainment, sports, medicine, science, Nobel Peace prizes, and the aforementioned Greatest Generation which helped stave off the Axis of Evil. But I don’t get to just revel in the good and pretend we are surrounded by rainbows and unicorns. 

I don’t believe we get to be called “Patriotic” if we just subscribe to the concept of American “Exceptionalism,” revise history to just promote the sugar-cube version, and want to break up our democracy, our 245-year-old grand experiment, because we disagree that “insurrectionists” were really just “tourists,” and that Baker City and Ontario need to become part of Idaho. 

Ted Cruz envisions a day when Texas, where much of my heritage is, might secede from the United States if the government does not behave perfectly. My America is a beautiful place, warts and all. But we need to admit that the award-winning lemon-merengue pie is both awesome and tart. That our history is both miraculous – having helped nearly rid the world of polio (even the Taliban is now getting ready to immunize their people) – and stained. Winston Churchill said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” 

Let’s make the magic of America happen again. My biggest fear these days, along with a changing climate, the virus, and the huge chasm between those that have and those who want, is this: how do we get the “horse” of civility back in the barn? Can we promote good deeds while telling the truth of failures, since people who “learn from failures seldom repeat them.” 

Can we keep this experiment, one of the greatest this world has even seen, together? Can a Capitalistic society also provide a safety net for all its citizens while honoring and respecting ingenuity, hard work, and the human spirit? I ask these questions because I don’t know the answers. I just hope we pull it off. And for those who fly the flag, whether tattered and torn in your pickup truck blowing in the rain and wind or flying above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an honor guard offering respect and a haunting rendition of “Taps” – please remember what it stands for – 245 years of blood, sweat, tears, and joy. The best of what humanity has to offer, the worst, and everything in between. This Thanksgiving, that is what I am thankful for – what we’ve done, where we have been, and how good we can be. Let’s get that back.

And don’t pretend that Stove Top dressing is a reasonable alternative to fresh, moist, cornbread stuffing on the day we give thanks. Cornbread stuffing – another reason not to let Texas go.

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