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The Fourth of July 2010: A Short Essay

July 5, 2010

The Fireworks at Chesapeake Beach

On Saturday evening, Claudia and I went to see the fireworks at Chesapeake Beach. The waterfront was packed with families, the smell of barbecue wafting enviously through the twilight. We forgot to bring our foldable chairs and tried to get comfortable on a blanket while waiting for the pyrotechnics to begin. A gaggle of little kids darted over the large rocks of the breakwater. Despite the dexterity of these pixies, their parents harbored the eternal fear: their kids would slip and fall into the void. After the third reprimand, the kids were recalled to the blanket where they had to content themselves playing rock, scissors, and paper. To be nimble and tireless again and to have our own kids (little again) back on the blanket!

The fireworks were worth the wait and sore back. Crews fired rockets from two barges previously hauled by tugboats into the Bay. What a show: orbs, spirals, percussion, and sparkle showers soaring, falling waterward, fading. The most spectacular were bursts that formed thousands of bright strands — arcing skyward and descending as the breeze jostled branches of weeping willows. On several occasions, I heard mothers telling their kids, “here it is the grand finale” – only to have the second barge shoot off an even greater number of rockets.

Pyrotechnic weeping willow: Photo Bay Journal

Between the thuds, I realized that my wandering thoughts had missed what it is we celebrate. How our foremothers and fathers fought for our nation’s independence from colonial tyranny– their courage to take on the red coats and the spirit of rebirth that must have followed the victory.

Yet this reverie ended with a sharp edge. How are we doing 234 years after the Declaration? What would our founders say if they witnessed our current set of crises: the BP disaster in the Gulf, the financial meltdown of 2008 and economic aftermath?

Would Revere warn us that in this very hour we risk losing our independence to the growing power of an elite group of financial, energy and agribusiness giants? Would Tom Paine’s Common Sense point out the irony – the corporate behemoths have been able to obtain trillions of dollars in government subsidies (entitlements) and bailouts, while small credit-starved businesses fold and local governments are forced to cut vital services ?

What would Jefferson say to a Supreme Court that hands over to corporations the ability to contribute sums without limit to favored candidates – in the name of free speech? How would he feel about Monsanto’s growing grip on farmers here and abroad?

But these sages are long gone, and it is up to us. How do we wrestle back our democracy? How do we transform our economy so that it provides for needs of people and kind to the resources and other life supports that nature gives so freely?

Ekos2 — along with many other blogs — is an attempt to answer these questions, to provide both an analysis of the state we are in and solutions – many which are already popping up in communities here and everywhere. In the coming months we will feature these bottom-up efforts to recapture the American spirit so that two centuries from now our great, great, …., great grandchildren will be able to dance between the blankets.

We thank Wax Poetic – Blue Moon’s WordPress Blog for this photo. Check out this interesting blog.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2010 7:19 pm

    Nice Essay Dr. Cole!

  2. Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
    July 5, 2010 3:54 pm

    Steve Cole, my brother, who comments below, is an acute observer of all things political in Chicago and elsewhere. Many of his observations are made as part of an online novel, Gato and his Dadi, which depicts the relationships between fictional characters from very different backgrounds, ethnic and economic. It’s well written, funny, heartbreaking, and above all insightful. Check it out at: Stevedore Stories

  3. Steve Cole permalink
    July 5, 2010 3:30 pm

    Hank, enjoyed your essay, you painted a picture one could readily see, hear and smell. Ours was much more of an urban affair. From outside our Chicago windows we could hear the “people’s” fireworks in all directions and see the busrts through trees and above the two- and three-flats.

    Inside our apartment was a very different Fourth of July, Born on the Fourth of July, Oliver Stone’s movie with Tom Cruise playing Ron Kovic. From gung-ho marine to paraplegic Vietnam Veteran Against the War, Kovic’s transformation reminds us of the sacrifices young men and women are asked to make in the name of country. Most moving are the scenes in criminally negligent Veteran’s Hospitals that belie the country’s promise to its soldiers while African-American attendants try to re-educate soldiers like Kovic about the Vietnam War from within the context of the Black struggle for rights and democracy right here in the United States.

    Today we’re fighting two wars, arguably to protect corporate energy and mineral interests, yet ostensibly “nation building.” In fact “nation building,”is needed right here and now in communities devastated by the same corporate and financial interests who promulgate the wars, tax-cuts, and deregulation for themselves, yet austerity for poor and working people.

    Keep up the good work Hank. There are those who are content with the status quo or want to return to the past, wearing teabag colored glasses. Many more are looking for information and ideas that show a way forward.

  4. July 5, 2010 12:12 pm

    Excellent essay, Hank. Your blog is beautiful, thought provoking, and informative. Thanks so much.
    The website “if it was my home” was a real eye-opener–to see the scope of this DISASTER.

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