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Happy Birthday, USA

by the stormy present Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 07:15:36 AM EST

or, America, a stream-of-consciousness birthday wish from your wayward daughter

I always looked forward to the Fourth of July when I was a kid.  My whole family would head down to the local park for the neighborhood fireworks display.  We'd sit on a blanket, and I'd get to eat cotton candy and hot dogs and ice cream and all the other stuff that was normally forbidden.  And most of all, the fireworks.  I have this vivid memory of being about five, and so thrilled by them that I could hardly breathe.  I kept turning to my mom and dad, Did you see that?  Did you see that one?  Oooooh... transfixed by the showers of color from the sky, the heart-thudding booms, the red-and-blue light flickering reflected on my parents' faces.

Now, Independence Day is a bittersweet holiday.  Fireworks make me flinch; they sound like mortars.  Most of my friends here, including (weirdly) not just Americans but Egyptians and Canadians and everywhereians, are all excited about the US Embassy Fourth of July party tonight, to be held in a grand old palace on the banks of the Nile.  I have no idea why someone would want to go to this thing, but people have been after me for weeks to see if I'm invited, and maybe could I bring them as a guest?

Independence Day.  Not what it once was.  I've changed, but has America?  Maybe that's the problem.

Fifty-one years ago, Allan Ginsberg wrote America.  Sixty-some years ago, Billie Holiday sang Strange Fruit.

Just a few years ago, The Coup sang this:


Fifty-one years ago, Allan Ginsberg (who I had the honor of meeting briefly as a high-school student, for which I will forever be grateful to my 11th grade English teacher) wrote America:

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?

And 49 years ago, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (who I've written about before) wrote I am Waiting:

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right

Sixty-some years ago, Billie Holiday sang Strange Fruit, which began as a poem written 70 years ago by an American closet Communist, because even 70 years ago, you needed a closet in America for that.

Southern trees bearing strange fruit
Blood on the leaves, and blood at the root.
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Today, The Coup is Not Yet Free.

That was before 9/11/2001, when Everything Changed.  Before, not yet free.

Now:  extraordinary renditions, torture, wiretapping, illegal invasions and occupations, presidential better-than-pardons for crony criminals, vice presidential puppetmasters apparently beyond the reach of the law...

Hurricane Katrina.  A city, abandoned.  A city, gone.

The planet is warming, the fish are dying, the oceans are rising and my 19-year-old nephew is sleeping next to his rifle in a tent in Diyala.

How could I possibly go to a palace on the Nile, in the land of the Pharaohs, and blithely celebrate the birth of my nation at a time like this?

Happy birthday, United States of America.  Happy birthday, country of my birth.

Get well soon.

Display:
Maybe it wouldn't really be the Fourth of July without a little Willie Nelson:

It's not my favorite version of the song, and not the best photo montage...

There's so many things going on in the world
Babies dying
Mothers crying
How much oil is one human life worth
And what ever happened to peace on earth

We believe everything that they tell us
They're gonna' kill us
So we gotta' kill them first
But I remember a commandment
Thou shall not kill
How much is that soldier's life worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

(Bridge)
And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we've been told from our birth
Hell they won't lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar's word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 07:26:45 AM EST
but John Mellencamp rocks much harder.  

Rain on the Scarecrow

I've always though that Rain on the Scarecrow would make a great campaign song, much better than "Small Town" at least.  I imagine the lyrics have something to do with why it's not used. Like a fucked up Wizard of Oz, the whole thing take on a special meaning if you understand what's being said.

First they came for the scarecrow's, then the tinmen, and now even the wizards are having a hell of a time finding work like they used to. Mellencamp rocks.

Some of my favorites for the 4th of July.

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown

Mellencamp's an overlooked treasure who's written lots of great political songs that've been overlooked in favor of fluff for the campaign trail.

Two of my recent favorites.

Walk Tall

So be careful in what you believe in
There's plenty to get you confused
And in this land called paradise
You must walk in many men's shoes
Bigotry and hatred are enemies to us all
Grace, mercy and forgiveness
Will help a man walk tall

Walk Tall
And one that has actually been picked up by one of the presidential candidates, John Edwards.

Our Country

And poverty could be just another ugly thing
and bigotry would be seen only as obscene
and the ones who run this land
help the poor and common man
this is our country

From the east coast to the west coast
down the dixie highway back home
this is our country

The dream is still alive
someday it will come true
and this country
it belongs to folks like me and you
so let the voice of freedom
sing out through this land
this is our country

Our Country

My embed isn't working, but I've linked to Youtubes of all the songs.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 03:19:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But what about that country song from the last pres campaign, "I'm Takin' My Country back."  Here's a link (ok it's an address, i don't know how to link yet) to some fourth o july honky tonk hijinks:

musicrowdemocrats.com

On the home page is a link to Listen Now.

It ain't over 'til the country crowd sings.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 04:46:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, willie's one of my heroes, but...

Has anyone heard of John Trudell?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 04:48:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hadn't.  Thanks for introducing him.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 06:14:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your embed doesn't work? It's really simple. Say your last link was: http://youtube.com/watch?v=U0HTff63E0I

Copy what comes after the equal sign, and put it into double parantheses after "youtube":

((youtube U0HTff63E0I))

..and voilà:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 04:10:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
danke DoDo...  what about video from sources other than youtube?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:10:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Instructions are here.  Three platforms are supported at this point.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, happy birthday US...get well soon! The ideas it was conceived with are good...but leave it to corrupt people to screw up a good idea. I remain cautiously optimistic, if not sad...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 08:00:01 AM EST
I envy you your optimism, Bob.  I just alternate between despondency and rage, and there's not a whole lot of hope in the mix.  I wish I could be optimistic again.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 08:13:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't be optimistic the day after Scooter's sentence was commuted and a week after the Supreme Court has shown us that it is, indeed, and now more than ever before, a tool of a corrupt cabal.

I'll just keep scroogling for French real estate in some little village that wants a gentle German bakermeister and a crazy American lady who plants a vegetable garden in the front yard.  And every time another person asks "Oh, you haven't gotten Heinz to become an American citizen yet?" I'll answer the same as always: "I'm not THAT crazy."

I called 911 a week ago to report that it sounded like my neighborhood was being bombed.  They told me it was fireworks... to celebrate the completion of the new Childrens' Hospital.  How perfect to celebrate the event with something that injures and kills so many children every year.  

I adore fireworks, the professional kind, but it's like a little black cocktail dress, not appropriate for EVERY event.

Karen in Austin

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 10:01:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The other day some American said that, given the fires and dryness in some parts of the US he couldn't understand anybody going ahead with fireworks in such areas today.

But it's not ALL doom and gloom - look how well Sicko is doing:

The results are in from the weekend -- and they are amazing! "Sicko" more than doubled what industry insiders had predicted it would do for the weekend and, as I predicted, it did indeed have the second largest opening weekend in film history for a documentary (after F911). It also had the second highest per screen average for the weekend (after the Pixar animated film, "Ratatouille"). All this in spite of the fact, as Variety wrote, it's not been a very good year for documentaries at the box office. According to Variety, there have been 29 docs released in theaters in 2007, and they have grossed less than two million combined. What does it say about the state of affairs for non-fiction films if, in just three days, one film more than doubles what all 29 of them did together? I've decided I want to do something about this. I see so many great documentaries and it's a shame that most of you don't get to see them. Later this year, I will announce a new project that will help other filmmakers get the distribution they deserve.

Of course, if you live in Lincoln, NE; Bangor, ME; Reno, NV; New Haven, CT; Columbia, SC; or Oklahoma City, you didn't get to see "Sicko" this weekend either. But thanks to the massive turnout in the 440 theaters who had it, the studio has decided to expand "Sicko," TODAY (Tuesday, July 3) to 200 more theaters! And this Friday, they will add another 100 cities. Those of you who went to see it in the last few days have made it possible for others around the country to see my movie. Thank you.

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.php?id=214

Of course one film can't change everything, but then:

"Nobody ever made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little"

Edmund Burke

Or, if you'd like an American version:

"Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does."

William James

By coincidence Moore's "The Big One" was in Paris Premiere last night - about his promotional tour of the US, typically going to cities usually ignored for such tours, for his book: "Downsize This". One of his assistants said that he was inspiring and showed that one could make a difference. His talks to large groups had them roaring with laughter - but thinking radically too. It's typical of him that he now wants to help other documentary makers (many of whom will have been inspired by his success) reach wider audiences.

Then, for a wonderfully political night's viewing they showed "Outfoxed", beautifully exposing the lies of Murdoch's minions, especially those of the bullying Bill O'Reilly, who claimed only to have told someone to "Shut up" once in six years - followed by a montage of him telling lots of people to "Shut up".

As I've pointed out before, despite his critiques of US gov and media, Chomsky remains positive and points to lots of causes that have been won since the 60s which we now take for granted, and the fact of protests BEFORE wars start, not five years later (and again the fact that they didn't stop the war doesn't mean they were futile - see quotations above - such events build solidarity for example and those in power do worry about them growing).

There was a very apposite quotation re Iraq in a news analysis site today; a pity Blair, Bush and co didn't read this bit of history years ago:

On Affairs in America

William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708-78)

(1777)

As to conquest, therefore, my lords, I repeat, it is impossible. You may swell every expense and every effort still more extravagantly; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow; traffic and barter with every little pitiful German prince that sells and sends his subjects to the shambles of a foreign prince; your efforts are for ever vain and impotent--doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for it irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies, to overrun them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder, devoting them and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms--never--never--never.  

  Your own army is infected with the contagion of these illiberal allies. The spirit of plunder and of rapine is gone forth among them. I know it; and, notwithstanding what the noble earl [Lord Percy] who moved the address has given as his opinion of the American army, I know from authentic information, and the most experienced officers, that our discipline is deeply wounded. While this is notoriously our sinking situation, America grows and flourishes; while our strength and discipline are lowered, hers are rising and improving.  
 ...
 My lords, these enormities cry aloud for redress and punishment Unless thoroughly done away, it will be a stain on the national character. It is a violation of the Constitution. I believe it is against law.

http://www.quotegarden.com/helping.html




Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 11:04:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I won't be "sad" about this country until it's impossible for me to live a life worth living. We're a long, long ways from that. Enjoy the time you are given, and save the doom and gloom for when the doom actually arrives.

How could I possibly go to a palace on the Nile, in the land of the Pharaohs, and blithely celebrate the birth of my nation at a time like this?

You would if you were able to visit the US or Europe during the 1800's to see what life was like. We have it so much better than they did.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 03:19:17 PM EST

You would if you were able to visit the US or Europe during the 1800's to see what life was like. We have it so much better than they did.

Life for whom? Life as an aristocrat in Europe in the 1800s could be very nice - especially for those able to winter here in Nice, bringing a crowd of servants to look after their every need. Life was really tough for peasants and the unemployed. Such huge gaps still exist - see the recent diary showing the top 0.1% getting richer still.

The point is not - are things in general better than they were in 1800? But rather, have the benefits of progress been fairly divided - between nations and between members of specific nations? Clearly not and in the richest nation in the world the gap is growing and was already appalling; those few at the very top having incredible wealth, the many at the bottom often unable to afford basic health care - see Sicko.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 03:07:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm one of those who believe amurka, or at least it's system, is far too broken to be fixed.  I remember returning to San Francisco after my first visit to then communist Moscow, August '90 (or was later...) and thinking that Russia was ahead of us, because they were dissolving first, and would come out the other end of the tunnel ahead of us.  Two months later Yeltsin was in power, and some of my colleagues were getting incredibly fat contracts to set up capitalism there.  we all know how that worked out.

I thought then amurka had to go through the same baptism of fire, but couldn't handle it.  well, it's happened.  The rule of law is the victim.  It looks to me as if my fellow progressives can shout all they want, but the victim is DOA.  It's as if our only salvation is to get out of the way as the dinosaur dies of its own weight, unable to surf the world's current changes, and it's our job not to be crushed as it falls.

And spread the new vision, that a sustainable world can still be built, that we have the tools, and will create that new society upon the ashes of the dying dinosaur.  That there will be suffering attached is without question.  That there is gold at the end of the rainbow remains a dream.  But what the folk else can we do.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/140

h/t Coleman

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 05:03:05 PM EST
I'd like not to believe it, but I'm worried that you're right.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 05:23:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just got this in an email, so probably been posted around here somewhere already...or seen by most...but here it is anyway (and if not, I'm posting it to the grieving for America articles):

A GREAT rant by Keith Olbermann!!

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/070407Y.shtml

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 05:07:21 PM EST
I made an ostensibly erudite comment here, and it showed up on my browser, but it seems to have disappeared.  Which god have i offended, or what button did i wrongly push?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 05:30:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean in addition to this one?
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 05:35:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No actually i was commenting on Bob's Keith tribute, and discovered he'd posted it on two threads, the other of which i responded to (Open Thread), and it all got confused in a delicious anti-rain fog imposed by none other than the nefarious Caol Ila 18.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 06:15:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If it's Caol Ila, then it's all OK....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 06:21:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...that's what she always says.  (Though i almost had another taste of the Almost There from the same distillery.  Which i recommend as the most cost-effective whiskey in existence.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 06:42:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's KOs closing quote:

It is nearly July 4th, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a King who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them--or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them--we would force our independence, and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time--and our leaders in Congress, of both parties--must now live up to those standards which echo through our history: Pressure, negotiate, impeach--get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our Democracy, away from its helm.

For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.

Resign.

And give us someone--anyone--about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, "I didn't vote for him, but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."



"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 03:55:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So now Kos is asking for impeachment? I don't get it.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:24:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No that's KO for Keith Olbermann.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:26:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, ok. :-/

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:37:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Believe he's referring to "KO" (Keith Olbermann's nickname).  The voice of indignant sanity in the Wurlitzer wasteland.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:29:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a problems with the tone of Olberman's piece. For instance
The crisp matter-of-fact acknowledgement that we have survived, even though for nearly two centuries now, our Commander-in-Chief has also served, simultaneously, as the head of one political party and often the scourge of all others.
The President is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, not of all Americans. Something that seems to be lost on TV anchors (remember Dan Rathe? "He's my commander-in-chief. All he has to do is tell me where to line up and I'll do it") At least some people have started to see how absurd this is (but note that's from January 2007 - kinda late if you ask me, wait for Bush to become a lame duck to say he's not the commander in chief of civilians).

But, then again, there's this

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

There, that's (part of) why Bush should be impeached. It's kinda sad that it has to be something as minor as Scooter Libby that gets everyone finally fired up, but like they say "it's the straw that broke the camel's back".

Unfortunately, Olberman omits the illegal wiretaps, the violations of international law, waging illegal law of aggression, breaking the geneva convention, authorising torture... Olberman is actually giving Bush an out when he says has handed over the Republic to Cheney, and the only thing that he explicitly accuses Bush of is of mishandling the war on Iraq. If it had been "successful" would he be ranting like this?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:36:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
america will be.

and now a little jimi, as a reminder of what america both is and could be:

<object width="425" height="350"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/3h_L9Ud306I"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/3h_L9Ud306I" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350"></embed></object>

by wu ming on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:19:31 AM EST
by wu ming on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:22:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The macro is ((youtube video_id))

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 5th, 2007 at 05:22:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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