Tuesday, July 3, 2018

INDEPENDENCE DAY 2018 - John Adams and Erma Bomeck

This time of year, I think about my favorite Broadway play, 1776. The music is wonderful, the story well-presented, and perhaps, the fact that I first saw it back when I was an idealistic teenager has something to do with my affection for it.

I could not help but be caught up in the portrayal of John Adams as an annoying buzzing fly (among the other annoying buzzing files in Philadelphia) who doesn't give up on his vision of what a new country, the United States of America, could become — if only his compatriots could see what he saw.

I still get goosebumps just thinking about the roll call at the end and how they all end up frozen in place, to match the famous painting. Yes, the music, the bells, the humor — it accomplishes the whole point of leaving the audience with swelling pride. But also, in some respects, an underlying current of sorrow. Sadness, perhaps, for the distance between aspiration and accomplishment that still exists.

The history of the US is full of bright lights and dark caverns. We have, at times, been the beacon of hope for the world, and at other times lost our way in the shadows. It is a history we must pay attention to, in order to keep the light burning bright, while acknowledging the darkness and keeping it at bay.

This year, I worry, more than I ever have, about the soul of the United States. Our collective minds debate daily what should be the future path, and our hearts are pendulums that traverse from stone-cold indifference to tearful empathy. But our souls seem the most fragile and endangered. At times we seem to teeter on the edge of losing them forever, either through willful abandonment or the sweep of powerful tidal forces.

Dante posted a sign at the gates of Hell, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." 

Yet, Pandora found that hope could still exist, even in the face of overwhelming tribulations. 

My wish for the US on this Independence Day, is that we choose the path where hope is still the beacon we shine to the world.

Is anybody there?
Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?

They want to me to quit; they say
John, give up the fight
Still to England I say
Good night, forever, good night!
For I have crossed the Rubicon
Let the bridge be burned behind me
Come what may, come what may


The croakers all say we'll rue the day
There'll be hell to pay in fiery purgatory
Through all the gloom, through all the gloom
I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory!

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?

I see fireworks! I see the pagaent and
Pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out
I hear the cannons roar
I see Americans - all Americans
Free forever more

How quiet, how quiet the chamber is
How silent, how silent the chamber is

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?

Words from Erma Bombeck:

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.  by Erma Bombeck.