Monday, July 04, 2016

this is my country

So, there I was writing about how to become a Mexican citizen, and my calendar decided to do an impression of Poe's raven. There is something about the Fourth of July that stokes the fire under the nostalgia cauldron.

There was a time when the Fourth of July was a very special holiday for Americans. Family picnic. Fireworks. Pageants. Sometimes, all of them in one grand package that could only happen in The States.

In the mid-1960s, Alpenrose Dairy outside of Portland, decided to produce an extravaganza of American history. Alpenrose was one of those businesses with a civic conscious -- the type of business we all think of when we hear the term "American small business."

The company sponsored and provided facilities for Little League, a midget racing track, a velodrome, an opera house, a Christmas village, and dozens of other activities that made the farm exactly what the family owners intended -- a hub for the local community.

Not to mention that it was darn good business. Everyone had a soft spot in their heart for Alpenrose. I still remember the trucks delivering milk in the morning while I was cycling through my neighborhood on my paper route. Alpenrose was part of my Norman Rockwell childhood.

But I stopped being an observer of Alpenrose when I was invited to be part of its newly-formed Fourth of July pageant -- "This is My Country." The production was everything Cecil B. DeMille could have desired. The full panoply of American history. Pilgrims. Presidents. Cowboys. Indians. And lots of wagons, horses, and assorted animals. All played out on a rodeo ground with 10,000 spectators.

Most of the cast was recruited from the various Portland-area Youth for Christ clubs. It was a great opportunity for most of us to meet people we would not have met otherwise. I still have a very close friend who I met there.

What I remember best is the complete lack of irony in the production. It was what it was. A full-blown love song of patriotism for the nation we loved. We were perfectly aware that the country was not perfect. But we loved it for what it was -- and what it aspired to be.

And that is what I intend to do today. I am going to reach back 50 years to find the Norman Rockwell kid I once was -- to simply bask in the greatness of the country I will always love. And celebrate a full day without sardonic sarcasm or irony.

No matter how many citizenships I stick on my suit case before I die, this is my country.

Happy birthday, America. It has been great knowing you.

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