The Fourth in the backyard

So as we are working in the garden this morning of our 241st celebration of independence, trimming back Leece's chamomile and mint, whilst Chinese Red Pork slowly cooks over Georgia pecan on the smoker ... I've been ruminating about the Fourth of July.

Leece's chamomile

Chinese Red Pork. Not Red Chinese Pork; that would be unpatriotic. Chinese Red Pork. Here is a good basic recipe. Cultural warning: Do NOT use ketchup. I mean, like, just don't. Some Sriracha will work if you want it a bit snappy; some sweet chili sauce also works.

I've been through a few of them.

Early on, most of our Fourths were celebrated on Marine bases. We kids, three of us, grew up mostly on Marine and Navy bases - Cherry Point, Quantico, Millington, Lakehurst, for example. The Marines can throw a pretty good Fourth of July bash. Civilian kids couldn't ... can't ... possibly understand the sense of America that military kids can develop, surrounded by men (at that time, mostly, though there were some women who were serving or had served, like Mom) who had fought the great naval and aerial battles of the Pacific, and later faced the Commie hordes in Korea.

Vietnam was a nightmare yet to come.

I managed to avoid the draft by going into the Air Force. Unlike many of my compatriots, I make no bones about it. I had no intention of serving as a blood sacrifice ordered up by my 'friends and neighbors' on the draft board.

I ended up spending a lot of time in Vietnam and over in Thailand, deeply involved in the secret and illegal bombing campaigns in Cambodia and Laos, as well as more mundane in-country ops. I watched our presidents and generals lie through their teeth about our purpose and progress.

Our Fourths Over There tended to be rather spectacular events. The Smile Hi fire department puts on a pretty good show but they've got a long way to go to beat a couple of cells of B-52's dropping hundreds of 500 pounders on elephants and cyclists (well, yes, there was all that ammo and weaponry loaded on the pachyderms and bikes but really, B-52's?).

We celebrated with unit parties, grilling up whatever we could steal from the chowhalls and supply dumps on homemade barrel grills though I often wonder about that orange stripe on that barrel grill at Binh Thuy ...

I ended up liking USAF. Vietnam aside, USAF had a purpose, and a mission, and I liked that. If the Soviets had jumped bad, Strategic Air Command was going to turn everything from the East German border to the Urals into a plain of molten thermonuclear glass.

That was the theory, broadly stated, and I guess the Soviets believed it, because they never jumped bad. So I stayed in for a bit more than 20 years, and I have always considered it my great honor to have been able to serve in that manner.

USAF also had a pretty good handle on celebrating the Fourth in fine fashion.

But here's the thing. You can't get caught up in the flag-waving and superficial, if not outright false, patriotism. Blindly following the flag-wavers is what got us into any number of messes, including Vietnam, that makes a mockery of what we stand for a nation. The so-called 'Silent Majority', blindly following the 'leadership,' has gotten us into more trouble than not. The 'Silent Majority' is responsible for Vietnam; it is responsible for the fiasco in Iraq. The 'Silent Majority' is what allowed the suppression and mistreatment of African-Americans, Hispanics, religious minorities. We have much to be proud of, as a nation, but if you look at our history, it is the shit-stirrers, the 'long-haired hippie pinkos', the protesters, the marchers, who have forced us as a nation to confront our devils and mistakes, and fix them. Or at least try.

It is our responsibility as citizens, as patriots, to challenge authority, to ask WTF? when our political leadership leads us astray or otherwise just doesn't get the message.

We have been handed a fine legacy by the Founders, and by all who have served the nation with honor and integrity, and by all those who built the nation over the generations by simply going to work, raising their kids, and dealing with the vagaries of life.

It is our responsibility as patriots, as citizens, to carry that legacy forward. Phony 'Americanism'; false 'patriotism,' blindly waving the flag, swallowing a toxic mess of shallow and self-serving and morally corrupt religion and politics, mixed with greed, lust, gluttony, and hate ... and calling that 'Making America Great Again' isn't going to cut it.

Your mileage may vary, but that's my story and I'm a-stickin' to it.

God bless America.