Friday, July 04, 2014

taking the fifth on the fourth

Today is one of my favorite American holidays -- the most American of all.

The Fourth of July.  When we celebrate our declaration of independence specifically from Great Britain -- but more generally, in favor of republics and opposed to monarchies.

Throughout the land, Americans will listen to politicians inflated with their own self-importance while enjoying picnics with their families where they will be inflated with their own potato salad.

As an expatriate, it is an odd day for me.  Usually, I am in Mexico on the Fourth -- most often, in San Miguel de Allende avoiding the tropical heat of my house.  When I am south of the border, the day is as distant as good cheese.

But, today, I celebrate the day not as an expatriate, but as an American patriot -- a patriot who is proud to call himself an American, but who is continually confused at the lack of reasonable political discourse in The States. 

And it is not just one political party.  Almost all of the people I have encountered up here seem incapable of discussing politics without working themselves into a lather. 

Don't get me wrong.  There are plenty of opinions and positions.  Most of them stated in tones just a degree below civil commitment.  Of course, there are never any reasons posited for these opinions.  All politics seems to be the result of received authority.

I suppose I cannot complain too much, though.  I come from a family of leavers.

When religious matters got contentious in the 1600s, several of my ancestors pulled up stakes in England and high-tailed it to the Americas on the Mayflower.  Some of them fought the British in the Revolution.  Others left for Canada.

Another branch of the family found Scotland to be dangerous for their continued existence in the 1700s and 1800s.  They left for Canada.

If you look at a map of my family's treks, you will find lines through Minnesota, Virginia, North Carolina, and Missouri.  Wherever my ancestors lived, they eventually left.  Until we all ended up in the good state of Oregon.

Keeping up the family tradition, I also left.  To Mexico.

My people chased the American dream across the continent.  Always believing that each year would offer a new possibility of opportunity.  That the liberty and freedom that stoked the fires of the American Revolution could actually find traction in the reality of hard-earned gains in the pioneer west.

I suppose that may be what I am still looking for.  That sense of hope and opportunity that once burned so bright as settlers headed west.

That may be one reason I headed south.  Mexico is not a perfect land.  But it is certainly a less-contentious place.  To be fair, Mexicans hide their disputes.  I am not certain that is much healthier.

But it is good enough for me.

As you read this, I am driving back to Bend to spend the holiday with my mother, my brother, and my sister-in-law, where we will toast this 238th birthday of the land of my birth.  When I left on Monday, my mother was decorating the house with enough bunting to qualify us as a DAR historical site.

Whether you celebrate this day or not, I wish each of you a life steeped in freedom.

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