Happy Fourth of July!

Childe Hassam, Fourth of July 1916

Post by Herb

To hear the professors and the television savants tell it, the American experiment is a flop. President Trump is either Hitler or Mussolini. They can’t decide. The ICE agents at our southern border are Nazis. Their detainment camps are like Auschwitz. (Yes, seriously.) There is injustice, racism, sexism, and bigotry everywhere. Can’t you see it? Well, no, actually, I can’t. What I see are people of different sexes, races, and ethnic backgrounds all saying “Good morning,” and please and thank you and having lunch together. And I don’t see any of the President’s critics going to jail as they would be if he were really a Hitler or a Mussolini (or a Stalin).

America’s not a paradise on earth—never will be—but when I remember the racism and sexism that existed when I was 21 in 1952—to say nothing of the wary attitude everyone had towards each other if they worshipped at different churches, belonged to a different ethnic groups, or even came from a different part of the country—the transformation that has taken place within my lifetime is astonishing. It makes me proud to be an American.

PS: Though I’m proud of the changes that have taken place since 1952, I don’t feel superior to my grandfathers. Their ideas of what was right and possible were limited by the assumptions of their times. So are ours. What is wonderful about America is that our Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written by men who somehow managed to transcend the limits of their times, and those two documents act as a little leaven that leaveneth the whole. (Galatians 5:9)


Up, up, my friend, we’re missing the parade.
No? Why not? The fife and drum?
The uniforms? Hey this is not Iran,
Hitler’s Reich, or Imperial Japan.
This is America!

So, Jefferson was “really.” Is that true?
And Washington? Him, too? Have you considered
the “really” number I could do on you?
Ah, let that pass. But tell me this:
What would you have had those people do?

Wait! Before you speak, think how the flight
of a butterfly in Kansas can
ignite a dust storm in Afghanistan.
Tweak the historical record you’ll start up
differences in all directions.

The Indians—what if they’d won? Or the Mexicans?
What if the white tops hadn’t rocked and rolled
to Whitman’s Mission and to Sutter’s Mill?
Would there have even been a Civil War?
And what then of the slaves?

What if we’d let the Kaiser colonize
the Philippines?  Or not dropped Little Boy?
Tojo was planning a giant Okinawa.
Think of the final battle inside Troy.
What then would the occupation have been like?

Someday we will learn from someone clever
how to pick the fly poop out of pepper.
But good from evil? Never. Just the same
we have to choose. And so, my friend, would you
choose to be interned by us or them?

A citizen of the world? Come off it, man.
You’ve got U.S.A. all over you.
Hey, Mister American is what you’ll hear
anywhere on earth. So pop a beer,
and let’s go celebrate our nation’s birth.

From Did You See This? Poems to Provoke the Politically Correct by Herbert Knapp

2 thoughts on “Happy Fourth of July!

  1. Happy 4th of July! I’m very proud to be an American and your daughter. Off to sing some patriotic songs.


  2. As much as I despair over the division currently in this country, I am reassured that I feel conident in living my truth: with honesty and kindness towards others in my part of the world. I am easily riled when I see how leaders speak about and treat other people…and general public being “given permission” to follow suit. It is a different world in Oregon, especially if you leave the cities. Still, there are so many more people that live the values I share. Thank you Herb!


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