On Pondering the 4th of July…

Image result for image flag 1776

On Pondering the Fourth of July…

I’ve never considered myself to be a “patriot,” even in my early years of believing that the U.S. was certainly the best, the smartest, the strongest. I accepted those ideas, those words, without question. After all, that’s what the nuns said, or at least that’s what I think they said. I knew my father had served in the Navy. Surely that meant something, although he didn’t talk about it much and I never thought to ask, although I routed for Navy in the annual Army-Navy football game.

I always loved the fireworks; we celebrated the holiday with a family gathering of seldom-seen cousins. That was my July 4th. That, and counting the days for school to being again. I was not enamored of my unstructured, and mostly lonely, summers.

It was in 1976, our bicentennial, that I first paid attention to the wisdom and folly of our founding fathers. Certainly human, vanities and foibles at the fore. But a union of intelligence, astuteness, perception in these men, that confluence of the heavens, to be able to put forth such a foundation for this experiment in democracy. Like a fire-rainbow that is rare and evanescent, here and then gone, as it appears that intelligence and prudence and refinement in our country’s leaders have disappeared. We can only wonder if it will return, or if our republic has been damaged beyond repair.

For in retrospect, our leaders have always made dreadful and atrocious errors. Our esteemed settlers who stole land from those who believed that land could not be owned; those who ripped the children of Native Americans from their homes, to give them “better” values and vegetables; those who “possessed” others, and took comfort from Bible verses and laws to assure themselves that they were on God’s side; to uprooting Japanese and other Asian families to make our country safe. And now, perhaps our greatest misdeed – the imprisoning of those seeking sanctuary, children in cages, banning groups based on…what? That they are not like us? In the name of keeping us safe? Making us great? What is it that makes a patriot? Putting country before humanity? Or calling our leaders out for their behavior.

Oh, America, whither goest?

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On Mountains, History, and Private Property…

Image result for image grandfather mountain

On Mountains, History, and Private Property…

This was my view from my porch last week. Each morning I sat, coffee steaming in the cool morning temperatures, and looked out at Grandfather Mountain, said to be named by early settlers who saw the face of an old man’s profile in the outline of the peaks against the sky. The Cherokees, who were here for hundreds of years before, called it Tanawa (famous bird), but it appears that, as so often happens, settlers eclipse Native Americans.

Somebody owned this mountain, at least until about ten years ago when it was, sort of, donated to the North Carolina Park Service. I say “sort-of,” since the attraction side of the mountain (a walk across a swinging bridge and the opportunity to see animals that don’t realize that they are on display) charges a hefty fee of $20 to enter. Now all proceeds do go toward the maintenance of the mountain, but I can’t help but wonder how much of the huge parking lot and resultant facilities would have to be maintained were it just a mountain. (Oh yes, I developed quite a curmudgeonly attitude during that week.)

And now I move on to gated communities in those mountains that are somehow owned, remembering a few hundred years, when the mountains were just there – to be seen, explored, when the Cherokees, who had no concept of “private property,” lived off and respected the land. On this trip, I was incensed to find one gated community after the other, gates closed for what, I’m not sure. To keep out whom/what? For surely the bears and other animals whose habitat we have hijacked with our need for vistas to comfort and ease the stress of our days can walk right around them. So, to keep the gargantuan SUVs from what, befouling our golf courses set at 5,000 feet altitude? Is this what we have become? That we can appreciate the land only while sitting in our Adirondack-styled rockers, sipping our Makers’ Mark bourbon and enjoying the land that our forefathers worked, while making sure those who once lived here were sent West and put on reservations?

Well, I guess so. And the irony is not lost on me that I, in fact, was sitting in such a gated community while my husband and I rented a condominium that gave us this gorgeous view.

Cognizant dissonance, you say? I’ve got it in spades.

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