If a society is judged on how they treat their children, their elderly and their disadvantaged, our country would sometimes rate poorly, but, hey, the economy is booming. What’s all the worry?
The late great poet of San Francisco and Log Hill Mesa, Jack Mueller, upon hearing the trendy phrase “It’s all good,” would wryly reply, in his trademark matter-of-fact straight face: “No, it’s not.”
The recent image of a young father and daughter drowned, still embracing each other, while trying in vain to swim a river to reach our country, has shaken and enraged many and is destined to become an iconic picture of our time, much the same as the photo of a naked Vietnamese girl running down a road from her village, crying, doused with napalm and burning alive, courtesy of the U.S.A., defines the Vietnam War era. Maybe it will serve as a wake-up call.
Maybe the newspapers, offering all that is dire and doomsday, should not have been perused before breakfast this morning, the Fourth of July, for it is a beautiful day, a perfect day, blue sky after a snowy spring, wildflowers emerging, the creek rising, birdsong, a gentle breeze. No: It’s good to know what’s going on out there, and take the bad with the good.
But, hey, is anyone else tired of being one of the bad guys?
We bought the western half of our country from the Mexicans fair and square, sure, but where is our compassion? Has anyone been to El Salvador, where the drowned father and baby came from? Awash in guns? Check. Armed guards at all business entrances? Check. Bars on all the windows? Check. Broken glass cemented on the tops of the walls? Check. Unsafe to go out at night? Check. Some people so poor they live on garbage landfills? Check. Some of the best waves on the planet? Check.
Despite this last thing, and the fact that most people there, as everywhere, are wonderful and kind and the place is idyllic physically, volcanic ranges draped with rainforest, cliffs falling to the sea, fertile coastal plains, a bountiful land, it’s an example of how screwed up a place can be, when bullies are allowed to run the show. The poor man was just looking for a job. Have a heart.
Wait a minute, babies and children are taken from their parents just because they show up at our gate unannounced and uninvited? This is criminal. It’s called kidnapping. Government policy, you say? It’s still kidnapping. Which, incidentally, is a crime. Government policy.
Is it not compassion that makes a human? What does that make us?
What exactly are we protecting anyway?
And give ‘em a measly toothbrush, for cryin’ out loud.
In this time of national shame, we celebrate our independence. Our families and neighbors. Our home. All that is good in our lives. In the public arena, we look to our elected leaders to crystallize our ideals and hopes as a people. This is where things get sticky.
We have a president who is revered and reviled, and everything in between. He’s been called a savior, a patriot who won’t be pushed around, a genius, a master negotiator.
And a master manipulator, a real estate hustler, an extremely self-centered and childish person of low morals, a parasite, a bald-faced liar, a flim-flam man, a silver-spoon business failure who represents everything in our country that is superficial and conceited and vomit-worthy, a creep.
Whatever one’s opinion, maybe our collective spirit, who we want to be, is more accurately embodied by our women’s national soccer team on the field that on Sunday battle the Dutch for a world championship in the World Cup final. Who are scrappy, who have shown heart, who have shown true grit in hard-fought matches against supremely talented teams from Sweden, Spain and France.
If you happened to be on Main Street last Tuesday in the early afternoon and heard the ruckus coming from The Last Dollar Saloon, it was from the crowd’s reaction to an epic back-and-forth clash between the Lionesses of England and us, who were fighting for the right to advance to the final. We won in the end, but England was no less deserving, displaying admirable resolve.
Soccer, the game of Earth, wherein the use of hands, instruments which have elevated us as a species in many ways, is denied, allows a contest on a primal level, yet rewards those who still use their brains, an invigorating mix of cerebral and animal elements. Timeless human struggle is encapsulated in 90 minutes of regulated mayhem. Were it not for soccer, in which nations’ and humanity’s aggressions are acted out in — mostly — harmless fashion, we’d most likely be onto World War VI by now.
For some, Independence Day is all about a military parade. For some, a parade with babies in wagons, dogs in costumes and kids on skateboards. For some, self-aggrandizement. For some, reflection. For some, another great excuse to get hammered. For others, it’s the celebration of, for once, standing up to a bully. This year, it’s also about cheering on the U.S. soccer women, for they are a symbol of the best we have to offer.
After the hoopla is over, it’s back to work for most, and bless the child who makes his own. The future is addressed, the weight of the world a constant presence, but beauty and light still in abundance, ashamed sometimes of our government, proud of our country always.
Sean can be reached at email@example.com.