A Very Different 4th

So, The 4th Of July, 2020! Can’t help but wonder of this is another “day that will go live in infamy” day. More likely the whole insane year will go down in infamy. Damn sure feels like it. I used to wonder, late in the evening, after watching a documentary of WW I or the stock market crash or the Indian Wars, what it would have been like to have lived back then. Now, to be clear, I didn’t really want to know… it was just a simple curiosity, a curiosity about how folks survived all that back then, how it might have changed them, and our country in the process.

Well, today I have a damn good idea. Look where we are. You all know, and there’s no need to go into it. A deadly, out-of control-pandemic, a crumbling Democracy with a treasonous leader, an economic crash of unseen proportions, a major racial uprising that was long overdue… it’s an incredible time, a national crisis, a cultural perfect storm! And all in the year of 2020! Can’t help but wonder if the coincidence of the year is a not-so-subtle reminder that now is the time to take a hard look at ourselves… to see us as we really are, and to see why we’re here, how we got here. To me, it’s beyond simply coincidental… it’s karmic!

History tells us that hundreds of thousands of people died between 1917 and say, 1939, of the Spanish Flu, of starvation, of WW I, of the economic collapse. But history also tells us that our country, and the majority of its people survived it all. The farms continued to produce food for its masses, the cities regenerated and became even more productive, the nation’s corporations mostly survived and became more successful. And FDR was installed as president… which should be self-explanatory. So as grim, as dire as it was back then, they survived, and eventually flourished!

I think that’s a good and positive remembrance for today. They survived, and ultimately improved! I find this is history telling us how it all turned out, and how it can turn out again. There’s hope in there, and I want to believe it!

As a 77-year-old, i have seen so many great 4ths. Always with the beautiful fireworks, always with something to drink, with friends to celebrate our concept of national freedom and democracy! It always seemed to me that our country was somehow blessed with such strength and peacefulness, especially when the rest of the world seemed to be warring with itself. Turns out I was wrong about most of that, but that’s what it felt like to me, for many, many years. Ignorance is bliss, after all!

When i moved to Atlanta back in ’72, I began reading the witticisms of a Southern writer named Lewis Grizzard. I mention him because he was well-known in the South, and once wrote an article about how he celebrated every 4th of July. So you know, Lewis had a hilarious sense of humor, and was somewhat known for his lengthy book and article titles – Elvis Is Dead And I Don’t Feel So Good Myself – They Tore Out My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat – When My Love Comes Back From the Ladies Room, Will I Be Too Old To Care? – Don’t Bend Over In The Garden, Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes! He had more, but you get the idea. He once wrote that, on every 4th Of July, he got a tubful of ice and canned beer, PBR I think, and sat there all afternoon in his backyard, drinking cold beer and being damned thankful to be A Southerner, and an American… in that order! For proof of that, he once wrote, “If I Ever Get Back To Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet To The Ground!”

I have long thought that Lewis Grizzard knew how to celebrate his country’s birthday right proper like! And I have long thought that America was the greatest place in the world to live. I no longer necessarily think that… travel gives one a much wider perspective and a deeper understanding of where the ethics, the strength and the quality of human life actually lies… but the United States has been the life-saving soil for millions upon millions of people looking for any kind of life that was better than their present one, and finding it, often in spades, here in America. And that’s what I’m going to celebrate today.

I’m going to celebrate those carefree years in Virginia City, Montana, where growing up was a magical experience for at least a 10-year period of time. How many 4th Of july’s did Rick Gohn and I blow Gorillas and Lady Fingers right at the feet of some of the older ladies of the town, right on the sidewalk in front of the post office? How many soup cans did we blow nearly to the moon with cherry bombs in the lot across the street from the post office? How many buzz bombs did Ricky fire down the middle of town, scattering tourists everywhere? And how many times did he hit his brother, Eddie, in the back with a Roman Candle? Once.

I’m going to celebrate what the 4th Of July used to mean to me, what America used to mean to me. I’m going to celebrate what it has been, how it has been, because I don’t recognize much of it any more. Some of that is just me, getting old. Some of it is the clear remembrances of how we were as kids, how carefree and easy our lives were.

Betty and I were planning on spending the 4th in Nevada City, MT with John and Carma Sinerius. We’ve had to cancel all that… Montana’s numbers are on the rise for the last two weeks, and even Madison County’s numbers are starting to creep up. We know V.C.’s fireworks are canceled this year, but I’d be surprised if John and Carma didn’t have their own show… they’ve done it before. I know, I’ve been a part or their 4th celebrations in their back yard from time to time. Great fun always, but watch out for errant Roman Candles!

We probably won’t watch the news. I think one day without the Cover-19 numbers is something of a celebration in itself. It’s hard to celebrate the birthday of our country when the gravity of its present difficulties is hitting us over the head at every turn. But we’ll try, by god, we’ll try. A couple of vodka tonics and some music, maybe we’ll get at least a glimpse of what might be out there in the dim and frightening future. A few things we know for sure… the past is the past, history does repeat itself, mostly because we’re too stupid as a culture to change it; and there is no more “normal.” Wherever we finally light, down there on the road to the future, it won’t be any kind of normal that we recognize. On second thought, make that three vodka tonics.

Happy 4th, Y’all! And Don’t bend over in the garden, Granny…

Steve Hulse