The fireworks were nice this year at the annual Santa Monica College display. I watched from Pico Blvd as the explosions lit up the night sky. It’s an apt tradition we have if you relate it to the Star Spangled Banner. Those fireworks are a modern day version of the “bombs bursting in air” giving “proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
We celebrate the 238th anniversary of our independence from the British Crown this Friday. Few of us will reflect on the true meaning of that, what it cost, and what it means in today’s world.
When the Revolutionary War broke out we were but a small backwater in the British Empire. The Crown was ignoring the needs of the subjects and as a consequence dissent and eventually revolution took hold.
As the founding fathers gathered to declare their independence they approached the task with the goal of creating a free society – well, free for educated white men who owned land at least. Those ugly details, of not letting women vote and “owning” slaves notwithstanding, the ideal society was one in which people participated in their government to some degree.
The obligations of service to one’s country went from the minimum duty to vote on one’s legislators who were entrusted to make good law, to being a legislator as a form of public service. That’s a concept that seems to have been usurped by career politicians who seem to always be in campaign mode and rarely, if ever, actually stop to consider if it is perhaps more important to push for or against a particular piece of legislation even at the cost of their own career.
This is in some ways an outgrowth of the democratization of society. As we have moved towards a society where everyone can be a politician, we have opened the doors to people who seek office for power and prestige rather than as a matter of duty and public service.
I am often asked my opinion on political matters and individual politicians or candidates. I rarely wish to engage in the discussions because so often they devolve into a polemical shouting match of entrenched ideas that are more emotion than logic. On politicians, I am too pragmatic to believe that most are in it for more than their own personal gain.
This Independence Day, I’d like to believe that we would celebrate with honoring each other respectfully for the grand accomplishment of maintaining a civilized society that regularly changes its leadership without loss of life. I wish we could find a way past our differences and see our similarities in greater relief so that we could resolve the real problems we face as a nation.
I doubt we will do either.
I expect that we will see a bevy of politicians bloviating with popcorn patriotism as the political pundits rant on and further drive a wedge between us in order to raise their own book sales or popularity on TV talking head shows. The bravado with which they rant is deeply disturbing to me. As one who tries to see both sides of an issue and really understand what is motivating something or someone, the lack of intellectual curiosity of these people is tiresome.
But this weekend the rigors of philosophical enquiry will give way for us all to the gastronomic delights of the barbecue. This weekend there will be hot dogs and burgers a plenty, ribs and chicken, lots of red, white and blue tchotchkes and loads of sugar. Occasionally there will be a shout-out to a veteran or active duty military personnel in an attempt to “support the troops.”
Meanwhile, the VA is a mess. The Supreme Court seems to be handing the country over to the corporations with ever-increasing alacrity, and we hand over our private lives to social media corporations with greater and greater glee each day. Congress is a do-nothing pool of putrid posturing. The role of the police has gone from “to protect and serve” to a paramilitarization that is alarming at a minimum and vaguely reminiscent of the British Governors that we shunned 238 years ago.
Men and women died for the freedoms that are being eroded by those popcorn politicians and the Supreme Court that is wildly out of touch with the populous.
This Fourth of July, please remember the real reason we celebrate. To be free from a tyrant, to speak one’s mind after deep thought and to build a happy life.
It’s not to get 25 percent off a new barbecue.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra