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Tag Archive: patriotism

Jul 01

Fourth of July memories– it’s really the patriotism we love, not the potato salad

“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.”–Erma Bombeck.

Ah yes, I remember that “iffy” potato salad and the flies, too, at many a Fourth of July celebration of my youth.

The Fourth of July is a happy holiday bringing back delightful memories, but maybe it is more than the family picnics and fireworks that I remember and love.

Maybe it is the patriotism, 1950s style, not the potato salad, that makes it such a happy holiday.

For instance, one of the things I remember most about past Fourth of July celebrations is a television monologue given by the late great comedian Red Skelton in honor of Independence Day.

For younger generations who may not know this, Skelton was a comedian who rose to stardom between the 50s and 70s delighting audiences coast-to-coast with his weekly comedy television show.

After all these years, turns out I remembered very few details about Red Skelton’s then famous “Pledge of Allegiance” monologue. However, I do recall how much I loved his performance at the time.

If you search the Internet, you will find it easily, the YouTube video of Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance, 1950 style.

Skelton tells a story about how his teacher Mr. Laswell of Harrison School in Vincennes, Indiana, felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite, something monotonous.

Mr. Laswell remarked to the students, “If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?” He continued.

“I—meaning me, an individual, a committee of one.

Pledge—dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self pity.

Allegiance—my love and my devotion.

To the flag—our standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there’s respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody’s job!

The United—that means we have all come together.

States of America—individual communities that have united into 48 (now 50) great states; individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose; all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the republic—a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it is from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.”

Red Skelton’s entire rendition of Mr. Laswell’s speech is too long for this column.

However, I will share with you here his final admonition to his students, “We are one nation so blessed by God that we are incapable of being divided, which means, boys and girls, it is as much your country as it is mine.”

Yes indeed, it is this kind of patriotism that I love and remember, but not so much the “iffy” potato salad.

Happy Fourth! May it be patriotic and memorable, even if you can’t keep those pesky flies off the potato salad.

Jul 02

On Independence Day, whistle Yankee Doodle with the fervor of John Adams

“Yankee Doodle went to town a-riding on a pony. Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.” – Revolutionary War ditty

As we celebrate the 4th of July this weekend, perhaps whistling the song Yankee Doodle is just what we need to do as we reflect on the birth of our nation, 233 years ago in 1776.

We must never forget that day and why it is important either. Whistling and singing Yankee Doodle might help us do just that, if we do it with the gusto John Adams professed.

As I researched the history of July 4th to rejuvenate my memory, I remembered that July 2nd not July 4th was the official date when the Second Continental Congress voted in a closed session to separate the American colonies from Great Britain. But the date July 4th is the date shown on the Declaration of Independence document, the date when the colonial government announced its independence to the world.

The exact date does not really matter anyway as John Adams wrote in this now-famous note to his wife at the end of the colonists’ world-changing congress. What does matter is how we remember and celebrate our nation’s birth.

John Adams penned: “The second day (later celebrated as the fourth) of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated at the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

I like what John Adams had to say.

In fact, I wish patriotism would come back in style with the fervor John Adams describes.

I wish we could unabashedly sing Yankee Doodle Dandy’s light-hearted and whimsical tune without a cynic raising an annoyed eyebrow.

I wish folks would stick a small American flag in a flowerpot with pride, display an official flag with dignity and respect, and never, ever belittle it.

I wish the citizens of this great country would feel proud, very proud, of their fine country, the best experiment in freedom ever envisioned. I wish we would never hang our heads about the United States of America, I wish.

I wish when fireworks explode over ballparks and city parks this July 4th, that we collectively get a lump in our throats, that we swell with pride as the national anthem is sung.

I wish we would do all these patriotic things again without apology as we did in days and years gone by.

And yes, I wish folks would walk around whistling the light-hearted and whimsical Yankee Doodle Dandy refrain. It would bring a smile to my face. It would make you feel good, even if you are dressed up, as my cousin Al used to say.

Hey, Kermit the Frog sang Yankee Doodle and so did Barney and Friends. Caroline Kennedy named her pony “Macaroni”, and it is the official State Song of Connecticut.

How can you go wrong with that? It won’t hurt you, it will help you.

So won’t you join me this Fourth of July by taking John Adams’ words to heart and sing happily and proudly:

“Father and I went down to camp, along with Captain Gooding. And there were all the men and boys as thick as hasty pudding. There was Captain Washington upon a slapping stallion; a giving orders to his men, I guess there was a million.

Yankee Doodle went to town a-riding on a pony. Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni. Yankee Doodle, keep it up, Yankee Doodle Dandy. Mind the music and the step and with the girls be handy.”

Happy Fourth of July!

May 21

Cemetery visit takes a turn for the better on Memorial Day

“Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time.” — General Order No. 11, Washington, D.C. May 5, 1868, issued by General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief, Grand Army of the Republic.

Normally, I don’t “hang out” in cemeteries.

However, it is Memorial Day week, and we do such things.

I anticipated the upcoming and obligatory cemetery visit to be rather dreary, so I planned on hurrying through it.

Spend more time at Dad’s grave than the others, of course, but allow enough time to make sure that his headstone is clean and there are no weeds growing around it, I reminded myself.

Just hurry and get out of there, I thought.

Make a quick “drive-by” tour of the graves of Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Ida, Aunt Aggie, Uncle Dick, cousin Al, cousin Robert, Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Phil and their baby daughter Kathleen, and on and on. There would be several graves to visit.

The truck was abundantly filled with bedding plants (I like to use fresh flowers), a garden tool to chop weeds if needed, and two jugs of water. Quick work, I decided.

To avoid the frenzy of the Memorial Day weekend, I decided to go early in the week to the cemetery in northwest Missouri where my mother’s family is buried. When I arrived at Maple Grove, I noted that I was alone there, not another “living soul” in sight. Usually when one goes to the cemetery on Memorial Day, it is a busy place with the lanes filled with cars, and the grounds dotted with folks laying wreaths and decorating headstones with flowers and American flags.

Not this time; I was early.

Besides being alone, there was another problem that surfaced. I could not find the location of the graves by myself without help from Mom or Grandma. Mom is not able, and Grandma is gone.

For my siblings and me when we were growing up, the precise location of headstones was on a need-to-know basis. We never thought we would ever use a cemetery map; we had Mom and Grandma. Besides our primary job back then was to carry empty coffee cans covered with aluminum foil and filled with iris, peonies and spirea to the designated graves.

Without doubt, Memorial Day appeared to be more meaningful for my mother and grandmother than it was for us kids. They cut only the best fresh flowers from our yard and arranged them beautifully in cans or jars. Their day was solemn yet joyous, honoring the fallen and departed; ours was celebratory, honoring the official entrance of the long-awaited summer.

But, back to my recent visit to the cemetery. The wind was blowing gently, the temperature pleasant, the sky sunny; the day perfect.

And thus as I hunted graves for nearly two hours, I quickly forgot about my “search-and-drop-off flowers and get-out-of-there quick” mission.

Surprisingly, I was having a good time.

My Dad’s grave was easy to find as I have been there many times. My grandparents’ headstone, on the other hand, was more difficult to locate, and some cousins’ graves and aunts’ impossible. So impossible in fact that I had to call my cousin Judy to help me find Aunt Ida’s grave. Turns out it is easy if one has a map.

Eventually, I finished the task that was no longer a task.

I took pictures with my iPhone as I wandered through the rows of graves. I took notes and made a map so the next generation would fare better than ours.

It was too important not to do so, and whether it came from the wind or the heavens, I understood the message I heard that day.

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