I'm Not Unpatriotic -- I Just Don't Quite Get It

>> Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy Monday After the Fourth of July. I hope you had a great weekend.

I love holidays ... with some few quirks that you will come to know as the year progresses. The Fourth of July has always been a great favorite, with picnics and family, and fun. Most importantly, for me, has always been the fireworks booming overhead and the 1812 Overature booming in the background with the cannons cracking. Aah, this is life. This is it. Screaming children and all, this is what the Fourth of July is all about -- celebrating the birth of our country with color and noise and fun.

One thing I just don't get is the whole bit about televising the Fourth of July. What are fireworks if you can't feel the explosion in your chest cavity? Sure, concerts are cool, and Barry Manilow and Aretha Franklin on the same stage in one evening is a lot of fun ... but there is something lacking in the magic in simply watching colored lights fan over the Washington Monument on the television, even with the best high definition television on the market. To make matters even worse, the coverage of the Washington celebration ends before the fireworks themselves end.

What's next? I am thinking that before too long, the networks will think it too much work to actually film the fireworks and will superimpose them on the digital signal before sending it out to our TV sets. How would we know? Unless we have one person on the ground looking up, and someone else camped in front of a TV, comparing notes, we'd never catch them, right? Hmm. Maybe they are doing it already. After all, China tried it, and there is precedent. For example, I'm pretty sure that for the New York fireworks they aren't beaming the name and composer of the songs onto the New York skyline. No, I'm pretty sure that's a TV edit.

Another really fun part of July 4th is the music. Not only do we have options of hearing bands excellent and crappy in every park in the land, we also take the time to teach our children the songs of patriotism we learned when we were young. (I was going to say, "when we were youngsters," but then I realized I sounded like my own grandfather. Woops.) So, let's look at the old favorite, "Yankee Doodle." The tune is great, the words are arcane, and if I ever did know what it meant, I don't anymore. Obviously Yankee Doodle was a country bumpkin, but no matter how far in the sticks he lived, what on earth possessed him to stick a feather in his hat? Okay, maybe it is a long lost fashion statement. I can see that, but why call anything "macaroni"? This generates a few questions that just beg for answers. First of all, exactly what was Yankee Doodle calling "macaroni"? Grammatically, it should be the hat, but does this make sense to anyone? What did he do, walk up to the townsfolk and say, "Hello good sir. Please know that I have decided to call this cap upon my head, 'Macaroni' and I would ask that you do as well." Umm, huh?

As a child, I always thought (grammar aside), that it was the feather that he called "macaroni," but honestly it makes no more sense to do this. Secretly, I have come to hope that it was really the pony he called Macaroni, because while this is no way evident by the grammar, it would make more sense that he is giving his pony a name, even if it is quite random that he do so in the middle of the song.

I could go on and on. For example, how exactly are we to interpret the first line of the song, "My country 'tis of thee ...."? Just think about it. Does this make sense? Let's break it down to unabbreviated words. "My country, it is of thee, sweet land of liberty, TO thee I sing." Umm, "to" thee I sing? Are we singing of thee, my country, or to thee, my country? I'm so confused.

But last, and certainly not least, let's talk about John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. It is most certainly a stunning and heart stopping song. Who on earth decided to make a parody of it that no one can get out of their heads once they hear it? I remember being a very small child, listening to my mom and her sister sing to me, with their arms bent like wings and flapping like chickens, "Be kind to your web footed friends, 'cause a duck maybe somebody's mother. Be kind to the man of the swamp, 'cause he's a dilly through and through. If you think that this is the end, well you're wrong 'cause there is still another chorus ...." (The worst is that this is all I remember, but remember it I do ... in the shower, when singing idly to my son, whenever I hear the song.)

Thanks, Mom. Thanks Aunty.


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