Back in the day, which for me was WWII and just after, Fourth of July was major. In Portland my family went down to the levees along the Columbia River to shoot off our fireworks. We sent them out over the water in great arcs and explosions, all colors. It was a time when we had watched the real life explosions of battle and heard a lot of stories about what guns can do, the smell of gunpowder, and hand-to-hand combat with bayonets. War was personal in those days — no watching from a satellite while a predator drone killed a family reduced to little green figures.
Recently someone heard a suggestion that to keep from contagion we ought to watch fireworks on television, which is sort of like modern war — quiet, distant, merely an effect instead of a consequence. No smell at all.
But it was thrilling to hold a Roman candle while a fireball came shooting out the end or to set up a good-sized rocket by pushing its tail into the sand and then watching it trace a curve almost to the other side of the wide river. Those things are illegal now. There’s not enough traffic or tourism to even operate a fireworks stand in Valier. I’ve heard very few firecrackers go off. The teacher who used to do fabulous displays has retired and left.
In the Sixties in Browning we didn’t do fireworks, but once we went up to the railroad depot where Esther Becker was the station agent as well as our bookkeeper, and we set off some traffic flares, very hot and very red, but on the tracks where they didn’t start fires. Our usual trick at the rails was to bend a wire into a word, like someone’s name, and put it on the rail just before the train came through so it got rolled flat. This made vivid to me what would happen if a person happened to be lying on the tracks.
Ours was a violent and vivid patriotism, celebrated on those terms. Brass bands were the rage — not rock ’n roll, nor mournful dirges for the lost. No one pretended to be more patriotic, more in touch with the Truth, than anyone else. Stalin was our ally. North Korea was created at the end of WWII and then “given” to Russia with the message that they should go away and not bother us. We “took” South Korea and made Japan promise not to start any more wars and to admit their emperor was not a god after all.
WE had the monopoly on God and were in his image. At least the white men of a certain sort were in his image. Not really the poor, corrupt, criminal or the “obese,” which was worse than being fat. Women were a different sort, either nuns or moms. (If you say “virgins or prostitutes” some people will be horrified, but the phrase is about the same split.)
The point is that things weren’t so different from now but the way we divvied up the territory and created the categories was entirely different. “Family” and “nation” are terms that are always the subject of argument. What are the those terms now and do they really exist in a time of unmarried parents and international crime?
Maddow said yesterday that we’re past the first half of 2020 now, though we weren’t sure we’d really survive, and that it’s unlikely the second half will be as bad. One can’t help sourly guess that it might get worse, esp. since the biggest explosion that has obsessed us in the more than half-century since WWII has been atomic. We aren’t even sure whether that’s what ended the war. Maybe Japan was already willing to surrender. Maybe we wanted German technology about rockets and so on and were willing to accept war criminals to get it, so now we ARE them. Nothing is clear.
Not even what to do on a daily basis. The laundry piles up and the cats proliferate but they can’t be dealt with via the internet. To break the lockdown, even in a mask, means to risk Covid-19 and the virus for someone old and diabetic — like me — means courting a death sentence to go driving to another town. The new cases this week on the rez were nine people, mostly children and older women, one family. Not reckless drunks. It’s so easy to see how tempting it was to go shopping. The rez itself is on lockdown — no tourists. Businesses closed. It’s like the Big Flood when all bridges to Browning were washed out. No traffic all summer.
How do we show patriotism to the nation when White House governance and Senatorial action is missing. They say let the States do it, but when governors act, they are defunded. Certain people have frankly announced that their goal is the destruction of the country and the conversion of the military force that won WWII into a political organization serving only one party.
We should line them up and shoot Roman candles at them until they take their loot and leave. They are so old that they will have little time to enjoy the power and access to the forbidden sins that they think they can buy.
What if the Clintons were to tell all they know? Surely they know as much as Ghislaine Maxwell, if she survives to tell it. Trump and his corrupt buddies make lousy witnesses because so many of them are so addled that they can no longer tell the truth because they don’t know what it is. They never admitted the facts, only skewed explanations.
It was a more innocent but also more stupid time when I was a little kid. We went for the appearances. MacArthur paraded past Vernon School in a convertible, sitting up high and waving like a politician, and we all thought what a hero he was, even if Truman was mad at him for something we didn’t understand.
In the Sixties we thought the world was blasting apart because of assassinations and riots, but that we were safe on the rez because the white people who ran things wouldn’t allow real danger. But they WERE the danger, and now we know. All without fireworks.