Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fightin' Mad!!

I’m fightin’ mad! I’m still smarting over the silent scolding I received at yesterday’s Tea Party for being fighin’ mad.

Maybe it’s because I’m part Irish. Maybe it was my upbringing – my ultra-conservative Dad, who was on hand for the socialist riots at the City College of New York, and my feisty mother who, as a young, 21 year-old reporter, drove a steamroller and learned to pack dynamite. Maybe it was my grandfather, a veteran seaman who taught at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, who never failed to badger the politicians at the local city council meetings.

Maybe it was being picked on at school because I wasn’t, shall we say, exactly an oil painting. Maybe it was the inspiration of my mother, who finding I was developing a tic from the abuse of a classmate, burst into the classroom one day, caught him in the act of ramming his desk into my chair. She threatened the teacher with his expulsion and her termination if something wasn’t done.

Maybe it’s the memory of the Sixties, seeing on television soldiers returning home from Vietnam to have bags of feces hurled at them. Maybe it was the site of hippie protestors burning my beloved American flag. Maybe it was the Holocaust survivor I met when I was four, the memory of Hitler’s atrocity burnt into his eyes and onto his forearm.

Maybe it was the many books on freedom my father assigned me to read, extracurricular from the garbage I was assigned to read in school. The last book before he died that he asked me to read was Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

Maybe it was the words of Pres. Richard Nixon, about our being “the Silent Majority” or Pres. Gerald Ford’s admonition that a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything that you have.

Maybe it was because, during the History Class Revolution of 1976 (our high school, by the way, was located on Bartholdi Avenue, the founder of our town being a good friend of the Statue of Liberty’s sculptor), I wasn’t the best student in the class.  I only maybe had a B average in history.  It was all I had to give, but I gave it my all.

Maybe it’s because back then, as everyone has done today (at least up until the Tea Parties), I took history for granted. I liked the subject and was certainly capable of passing it and did, but I didn’t excel at it (or any other subject, for that matter). I was above average but didn’t try harder than that. Up until that moment in the late winter of 1976, I hadn’t realized just how important it was.

It was scary, standing up like that to defy this teacher. The kid in front of me stood up first. In an instant, I knew I had to follow him. But omigosh, my parents would flip. Fail a class? On purpose? One that I could easily pass (unlike math, where I had genuine problems) and had to pass if I expected to graduate the next year?

But if I didn’t, everything my father and mother had taught me about America, and freedom, was all for nothing, if we let this teacher get away with this, without so much as a squeak from us in protest.

My older brother had this same teacher. Billy was always the better student, and the true history buff among us children. He passed the same course, with the same teacher, with straight As (I believe). But he passed it because he laid down the very principles our parents had instilled in us and allowed this teacher to stroke him into placidity with reassurances of good grades and acceptance into good colleges later on (and the concurrent, implicit threats if he failed).

Billy was pretty much the model son, as he was the model student. I was the ram among the sheep, always questioning authority, and getting myself into tons of trouble. Billy was also a bag of jello. An honest, hard-working, thrifty and forthright bag of jello. But a bag of jelly, nonetheless.

We think too much of the consequences of speaking up and not enough of the consequences if we don’t. “What will happen if we don’t fight?” asked the William Wallace character in the film Braveheart. “Nothing.”

When I spoke at the rally in April 2009, I was going to say something about cameras being the 21st century equivalent of the cannon. Only no media showed up that day to shove cameras in our faces, and as the organizers wanted me to cut my speech shorter, I simply dropped the useless references out.

But cameras are the canons we face today. We’re terrified of the media and what our image will be if we’re “caught.” We’re afraid of mussing our hair, as some ladies were a few days ago at work when I needed them to wear hard-hats for a photo.

What are we afraid of? That we might stand out? That someone will notice us? That someone might laugh? Let them. We already know what the media are. Are we also overgrown adolescents afraid of peer pressure, that we won’t be invited to the next party or dance?

Maybe that’s why I’m fightin’ mad. I see far too many good conservatives cautiously backing away from the fight, fearing a bad grade, as my brother did, listening to soothing voices warning them not to “overreact” or speak too loudly or boldy or to carry signs that might be deemed unpopular or controversial.

The racist signs have disappeared, as they should. But so have many of the signs that protested a government that has become a model of socialism, which is about to swallow us up whole. We only have a few short months until November, and we’re allowing the media, nervous politicians playing to the middle, and cautious moderates to slowly drain our energy.

Think of that when you watch the Fourth of July fireworks tonight. Are you going to sit silently with your hands folded politely, or are you going to ooh and aaah and cheer for the greatest nation on the face of the Earth?

I’ll be performing at one of those fireworks concerts today, and I’ll have to be perfectly behaved, with my eye on the conductor (or he’ll get fightin’ mad). But I’ll also be one of the few musicians standing and while I’m watching him and his baton, I’ll also be able to see you Americans out there and what you’re doing.

I want to hear some by-gosh, good old-fashioned American yelling and cheering! Or you’ll hear from me in this blog the next day!


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