If you are reading this on the Fourth of July, rest easy in the knowledge that, somewhere in North Texas, Static, like normal people, is, rain or shine, eating barbecue and homemade ice cream — maybe even wearing its tall Uncle Sam hat, if there are friends around worth embarrassing.
If you read any other newspaper on the Fourth, you will undoubtedly see editorials and columns asking all of us not to forget, amid the sparklers and spare ribs, the True Meaning of the Fourth. It’s as traditional as essays on the True Meaning of Christmas in winter. And those are fine sentiments — we should remember our men and women fighting overseas, remember what Americans have fought and died for through the last couple of centuries. Dad, various uncles, and others on Static’s family tree going back at least to the Civil War fought this country’s battles — and one is still serving. They hid out in swamps from enemy soldiers. Lost a leg. Had ships sunk out from under them.
But let’s back up a few sentences, to “what Americans have fought and died for.” It wasn’t iPhones or American Idol or the right to drive gas-guzzlers. It wasn’t so that Halliburton could make untold billions of dollars on no-bid contracts and then move its headquarters from Texas to Dubai. It wasn’t so that American servicemen and servicewomen could be sent back for multiple tours of duty in a place where, as one soldier said, it seems like his mission is to drive up and down the road to give people chances to blow him up. It wasn’t so that the CIA, in our name, could whisk away suspects — me, you, your neighbor down the street — to foreign prisons so they could be tortured in secret. It wasn’t so that Americans could have their phones, bank accounts, mail, e-mail, and, probably, pheromones, intercepted by a government that apparently thinks itself answerable to nobody. It wasn’t so that the latest George in the White House could set up himself, his cronies, and puppeteers as king — the office that an oh-so-much-greater George W. turned down. Because that earlier George — Washington, that is — did remember what his troops had fought for: freedom from kings and tyranny. Freedom from the Cheneys of the world. Freedom, in the smaller picture, from governments that would seize an entire neighborhood and tear it down so that a mall could add a few more specialty shops and parking spaces.
And before they come and seize Static’s soapbox, one more thing: Along with the soldiers, sailors, the Air Force and Marines, remember the journalists who have died or been “disappeared” while covering conflicts and dangerous situations all over the world, defending your access — and that of people everywhere — to the information without which free societies cannot stand. Daniel Pearl, of course. But also Anna Politkovskaya of Russia, and Zakia Zaki, the owner of a radio station north of Kabul. And hundreds more. They, too, have stood on the walls. Here, put some Parker County peaches on that ice cream. Stay dry. And wave your voter registration card every chance you get.
What could be more patriotic than those peaches and ice cream? Homegrown tomatoes, that’s what. Just ask Guy Clark. Or better yet, Don Young. The ne’er-say-die environmentalist and foe of unrestrained gas well drilling has a new tactic, just in time for the holiday. “If gas drillers can lure unsuspecting victims with free barbecue in Como and taco dinners on the South Side, FWCanDo [his group] can offer free homegrown, organic tomatoes to the loyal opposition,” his latest e-mail said. But, ever the stickler, Young immediately admitted that the tomatoes — like gas drilling money or free lunches — are not really free. He is, indeed, willing to provide “one tasty tomato” per person, not for money, but in return for the recipient posting a “Just Say No to Urban Gas Drilling” sign in his or her front yard. He will even deliver, if necessary, Young said. But if the tomato fans come by his place to get the sign, “you can pick your tomato right off the vine.”
What an American. It gets Static right in the salad plate.