Saturday, July 4, 2009

Let freedom ring your bell

I asked a shopkeeper yesterday if their store would be open today. She said yes, and then, after a pause, she said, "All day." I laughed, suggesting that red white and blue is not as important as green and yellow. Ok, actually, I said, as verde and then tried to say yellow in Spanish and gratefully accepted her correction.'s amarillo. (not amaryllis.. the word I came up with, sounding right to me but instead, a flower, a great flower, but one that is hardly ever yellow, by the way). No l's pronounced. Of course.

But I grew up with fireworks and grilling out and patriotic songs on the radio or over loudspeakers or both, the day and night a panoply of color and charcoal and parades, the oohh and aahh of burstings in air. I went from the eager participation of a child to cynical teenage observer growing up during the confusion of the Viet Nam war - supporting the soldiers who were, hey! friends of mine! and yes, hating the war - to a parent, seeing in my children's awed eyes the reflections of fireworks my father saw in mine (pinwheels on fences in pitch dark New Mexican wastelands...oops! memory lane detour stops here!)

Yet still I would (and do) get not really but slightly embarrassingly teary, seeing World War I and II soldiers carrying the flag, wearing uniforms musty with age, though still worn with ramrod straight postures and pride. Those men are fading away into history, as is Viet Nam remembrance, even with the deja vu of now. The wars go on, seemingly not having much to do with America anymore. Rather like myself, in the half in, more than half out of Puerto Rico and stretched even farther out-ness of Culebra. Which any Culebrense will assure you is not Puerto Rico. Are you confused yet? Me too. I can cry hearing that country guy singing that incredibly calculated tear jerker country song about America...why is that? Can't be genetic, trust me.

Every 4th of July I'm reminded of friends in the late 60's and early 70's who went to live in Europe and to a man and woman, all came back to USA lives. They would send me postcards with beautiful stamps, studded with snatched poems and songs of the moment. One I remember was Roses are red, violets' leaves are green, America is the best place I've ever seen. Not particularly profound, and I think it was mainly a comment on toilet paper quality, but it has stuck in my mind for over 30 years. Because most of my friends were older than me at a time when a few years meant a huge gap, I was, in my travel impotency, so very jealous. I wanted to be in those velvet wing chairs on a barge in Amsterdam. Or eating in that Parisian dive. Playing music on a malecon somewhere in Spain. Anywhere but America, fighting with my Communism vs. Capitalism teacher who insisted there was no hunger in America and I was a drugged out, commie minded hippie to dare to suggest such a thing. Well, gosh.

So today, a few of us who have chosen to leave the yellow brick road will get together and enjoy the beauty of where we ended up. Not too far away, but far enough away from the umbilical cord of America to have a different perspective from both sides of the coin. Straddling the divide, we lean toward away.

Cherish independence! Let freedom - personally, professionally, politically ring your bell; to action beyond words.