“I’m a real rebel with a cause.” — Nina Simone
We consider ourselves free in this holy land, and I suppose we are when compared to the rest of the world.
But there is no freedom without bondage. The old baseball manager Earl Weaver once said you can’t be a true rebel unless you’ve lived under the yoke of one kind of imposed order or another.
We profess to have loathed the tyranny of the British Empire when in reality the yoke we bore back in the 18th Century was that of King George III’s mental illness. It can be argued we really had no profound disagreement with the British and regarding the concept of freedom.
We wrote “… that all men are created equal.”
Yes, men. They’re all that counted when our Articles of Confederation, our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution were written. White Men. White men who owned land.
The British themselves were slowly but surely coming around to the idea that male landowners ought to be able to govern themselves. We were just in a little bit more of a hurry about it all.
That was an amazing concept for the times. If we think it’s rather quaint — what about women and blacks and homosexuals and everybody else who isn’t Anglo, pale-skinned, and carrying X and Y chromosomes in their cells? — we have to remember that we’ve come a long way.
“It is possible,” Molly Ivins wrote, “to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”
We’re still struggling. But, again, there is no freedom without bondage.
… and freedom tastes of reality.
People talk about The American Dream as if there is such a thing; that is, one shared aspiration among our 300-plus million citizens and the countless others around the world who want to get in on our good thing.
I’ve met enough disparate people to know there are almost as many American Dreams as there are Americans.
Still, the mythmakers may be right. There is one overriding American Dream that supersedes all those other, idiosyncratic dreams.
For all the people who laugh at Donald Trump — his hair, his bombast, his “Hey Ma, look at me!” persona — virtually every one of them wants to be him.
That’s the true American Dream. To be rich. To be so rich you can tell the world to fk off.
To be so rich you’ll never have to work another day in your life.
To be so rich that when the cable goes out you can bully the customer service rep on the phone and get someone out to fix it even on Christmas Day.
To be so rich you don’t even have to vote.
To be so rich beautiful young women or men (whichever you prefer) will be willing to see you naked despite the ravages of time on your body.
I saw a black guy once on the Fourth of July all decked out in red, white, and blue, his car festooned with American flag decals and the insignias of the unit he served in Vietnam with.
I was tempted to ask him why he was so demonstrably in love with this country. After all, he was old enough to remember when it was illegal in many states for him to have sex with a white woman. Illegal!
He was old enough to have seen Lyndon Johnson sign the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in 1964 and ’65, laws that essentially recognized him as a human being — something this holy land had not done without reservation since its inception.
How in the world could a man who’d experienced so much insult, both institutionally and from his individual countrymen, be loyal to the state that made all that insult possible?
What is it that he sees in the United States of America? What would make him put his life on the line to prop up a corrupt little nation in Southeast Asia — one he’d probably rarely heard of before he was shipped out there — just because American politicians told him he ought to?
Why was he willing to dress up in that land’s colors?
We were at a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky at the time. He jumped in his car and drove away before I could talk myself into querying him. Too bad.
And even if I had asked him all those questions, would he have answered truthfully? Would he toss around catchwords like freedom, independence, and liberty?
Maybe, just maybe, he loves America because he dreams that here he can become a rich man.
My dream? Only that we dream of something more.
YOU DREAMER, YOU
Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.
◗ Downtown Bloomington and around Courthouse Square — 4th of July Parade; 10am
◗ Courthouse Lawn — Independence Day concert, Bloomington Community Band; 11:30am
◗ The Bishop — America, Fk Yeah: A Night of America, For America; 4pm — patriotic films, “Red Dawn”; 8pm — “Rocky IV”; 10pm — “Team America: World Police”; midnight
◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center — Exhibit, “I’m Too Young For This @#!%” by John D. Shearer; through July 30th
◗ IU Art Museum — Exhibit, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts by Qiao Xiaoguang; through August 12th — Exhibit, wildlife artist William Zimmerman; through September 9th — Exhibit, David Hockney, new acquisitions; through October 21st
◗ IU SoFA Grunwald Gallery — Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st, 11am
◗ Monroe County History Center — Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th