3rd of July

It is the 3rd of July. The three day Battle of Gettysburg ended on this day in 1863 with 40,000 dead, a victory for the Union forces and the turning point in the United States Civil War. President Lincoln, four months later, spoke at a dedication of this ground with a speech that folklore suggests he wrote by hand on the way to the ceremony.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

Today I am worried for my country, that nagging deep in the pit of stomach kind of worried. The type of worry you try to talk yourself out of and when night comes, you simply realize no amount of verbal or visual gymnastics can calm you.

One might think it’s the war in Iraq, and yes, there is that. One might think it is the price of gasoline, and there is that also. The swooning stock market and real estate values, the legacy of Guantanamo Bay? Yes. Yes. Yes.

But, what has put me over the edge this week has been listening to a decorated Army general, once a presidential candidate himself, try to undermine the republican presidential candidate, not because of his politics, which certainly in some circles would be ample target enough, but by demeaning his military history, the value of it, which includes being shot down in Vietnam and years of residence and torture in a POW prison in Hanoi.

Have we come so far from that consecrated ground in Gettsyburg that an Army General cannot honor a Navy aviator for his military service, if for nothing else?

I do not share this republican candidate’s politics nor this general’s point. The misguided general only succeeded in demeaning himself proving Lincoln’s point about our “poor power to add or to detract” from the sacrifices made by our soldiers.

When a man or woman has endured the unendurable on this nation’s behalf, it qualifies them to run for whatever political office they want.

So, today, I also turn to things that are joyful and abundant and lift my spirits and make me think my deep pit in the stomach worry is the worry only of an aging woman, not Apocalypse Now.

A child’s cannonball into a pool, over and over again, for example.

Ah, the sheer exuberance of it, the pleasure it gives them to go all out. The amazing agility it takes when you play back the video in reverse and you see their young bodies warping into this amazing coordinated jump into air and then disappearing into “was it the biggest splash ever Pappy?” rising plumes of water.

Cannonballs were a frightful weapon in our Civil War, ripping the literal guts out of boys from the North and the South. Today, on the eve of our national holiday of Independence, millions of children will be cannonballing into pools as grills are fired up and fireworks are set off. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say at least 40,000 children across America shall do this same jump into a pool tomorrow, the nation’s birthday.

Thank you to all those living and dead who have made these high flying jumps possible and the sweet sounds of the biggest splashes ever linger well past twilight’s last gleaming.

©Pat Coakley 2008


25 comments on “3rd of July”

  1. Loved your post….you make some very valid points! I’m also glad someone else acknowledged Gettysburg today…I think we get caught up in the hype of the 4th and forget to remember the battle that ended today…a battle that if the outcome had been different, could have changed our country’s course forever.

  2. Man, Pat!

    I LOVE this!

    This past school year, Aryn had to memorize the first few lines of Lincoln’s address. She did a marvelous job (as always) but was amazed that I, her mom, had to memorize the entire thing when I was in 4th or 5th grades AND that I still remembered most of it!

    I so agree with you! So many forget the real significance of this date and forget to honor and remember those that have or are currently serving our country.

  3. Pat, You know – its interesting. You are one of the few people I have heard be able to say, that although you don’t share McCain’s politics, you don’t condone his bashing regarding his military service. Most people don’t have that kind of perspective.

    Just chalk it up to another thing I like about you. That people to you are deserving of respect and honor. A wonderful thing. You make us feel that about every beautiful photograph of every interesting old lady you happen to shoot. I wish that more people would feel the same.

    4th of July – Our nation’s independence. Sadly I find us becoming everything that the Founding Fathers tried to prevent. A Theocracy, run by the Right Wing Christians of our country who know that they alone are right and the rest of the world better bow down. I shake my head and ache. Thats not how most of us feel. Thats not who we are is it?

    Sorry – you got me to thinking about this… Ill have to mull some more.

  4. The really sad thing about Mc Cain is that he’s a republican.

    I couldn’t help but think about the newsreels showing the smart bombs going through windows in Iraq and the almost childlike joy of the commentators. Much like the squeals and giggles of kids with their canonballs.

    Homer once said,
    “Men grow tired of sleep, love, singing and dancing sooner than war”

  5. Welcome, klar4230! I looked at your blog and am so impressed that such a young person keeps the history of her grandparents military service in her heart. Thanks for visiting. I’ll check in on you from time to time to see how our summer is going!

    Arynsmom, yes yes yes to memorization. I used to have to do this as well, although not entirely successfully.. ahem…as I remember. Hope tysdaddy is on the mend and you are able to get back to normal. Thanks for commenting!

    Thanks, amber moon. I’ll look forward to reading more from you after you mull it over some. It’s true. So much intolerance from those who “preach” tolerance.

    Razz, I loved that quote from Homer. It is so true and I never would have believed it when I was younger.

    Thanks, all. Good night, from Beantown. The sound of the fireworks are filling the night air as I write this.

  6. With all due respect, I’m going to disagree with you on General Wesley Clark’s comments. He said he certainly honored McCain’s service as a prisoner of war and that he had been a hero to him. I do not think that this is insulting.

    His points were that being held as a prisoner of war, that commanding a navy in air squadron in time of peace, and that being a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee do not equate to having ever held executive responsibilities and do not prepare you to become a Commander in Chief.

    Wesley Clark served his country well for 34 years both in the army and the Department of Defense for a mere $40,000 a year. I think he is entitled and qualified to give such opinion as someone who held executive responsibility and the last US Commander under whom a war was won.

    He did not mention that McCain graduated from his Naval Academy 894 out of 899 students. He could have.

    Anyway, I guess I’m trying to say that McCain being a hero in Vietnam does not qualify him to become commander in chief no more than Ingrid Betancourt’s six years in captivity qualifies her to the Colombian presidency. I really don’t see what is insulting about this.

    I do not believe there was any bashing. Just a very honest opinion that makes a lot of sense to me. If we do not want another 8 years of complete fiasco, we may want to ask the real hard questions this time.

  7. I am sorry Pat. I may have over reacted a bit. I really like General Clark. I really do not like McCain. I’ve always had issues with men calling their wives C–T in public, even when they are war hero.

  8. We can disagree, Miss Nat, on McCain and Clark and maybe other things we don’t even know about. But, we can do that, right? This is America! And, do you know how I know? The fireworks have just woken me up. You know what they sound like? Canons. Muffled canon fire. Thanks for taking the time to write back.

  9. Nathaliewithanh – You didn’t overreact – you stated your view eloquently. I don’t like McCain either. I just felt that G.Clark’s statement about him was a bit… petty. I think he could have said something similar without bringing his service for our country into question. It would have been more respectful all around.

    Mind you, on the other hand, I don’t feel like that should be a qualifier either. So there you go. Still doesn’t need to be said in that manner. Keeping to the reasons you don’t feel like a candidate is not qualified is probably a better option rather than bring in something about the person that everyone admires and trying to tarnish that. Its seen as poor sportsmanship – and in bad form.

    As for McCain calling his wife the “C” word, no one who runs for our office of president should ever be allowed to have that heard or recorded of him. I don’t think the first Lady should be allowed to be a recovering addict who stole from the charities she chaired either. But hey this is politics isn’t it.

    Hands down – McCain or Hillary – I would have to take McCain for the reasons that you just said. Hillary used to scream every cuss word known to man at her husband when he was our President in the White House that we all pay for. How little respect to all of us is that? Low character!!!


  10. Hmm sorry not going to get involved in the politics of politics as I am still partly stuck like gum under Mbeki’s shoe. Great photo, love how you merged all three images to make it flow with narrative. Ironically for me the 3rd cutie looks like he is about to crush the flag with two legged force, perhaps it is just the flag in the water drowning in its manipulation and spin doctoring. Again, great photo, great narrative.

  11. PS I mean no disrespect to your flag it is just one persons interpretation oks

    Happy independence Day/4th July (how do you say it?) everyone!

  12. Pat – thanks for your post. It is the little things that often mean so much to us…and are so worth defending. I hope that as our nation dawns anew today, that we recomit ourselves to jumping in together….because that is when we are at our strongest… and it’s more fun that way. Thanks for the thoughts. Amie

  13. Perhaps it’s a visual metaphore symbolising that jingoism can lead to a pain in the rear end.

    Or maybe not.

  14. good morning, campers!

    Welcome to writetools! I love your hope that we recommit ourselves to jumping in together because it is when we are at our strongest. And, since I read a little about you, let me thank you and your husband in Iraq and your family for your service to all of us on this, our nation’s birthday!

    I read Insanity’s comments and said, “You know, this image IS muddled by the proximity of that flag to his feet!” The interesting thing for those who create these type of images (and for those who don’t prepare to be bored) is that the first image I had was simply of the big splash no images of boy and the flag coming out of the water, slightly faded to suit my anxieties, but also as if someone had jumped in with a flag and the flag was the first thing to re-emerge. But, as I wrote the post, I thought..no, the boy’s positions and exuberance are needed to match the narrative so I added those sequential shots. But, after reading Insanity and Razz’s comments– laughing out loud at the “jingoism leading to a pain in the rear end” visual metaphor…..and impressed by the manipulation and spin doctoring interpretation…I said, redo the photograph to fit your words, Pat,( Part A) and think about doing another one some days in the future to match their thoughts, (Part B) so I did. Part A, that is. Thank you, bloggers.
    Take a bow. Air kisses on both cheeks! Keeping singleforareason honest is a full time job.

  15. I love the reversal of perception, very patriotic and fun – love it! But like I said earlier, love the previous one as well, so Part A and Part B are tops! A

  16. The nagging hollow in the pits of our stomachs is the result of politics having replaced governing.
    We are no longer governed. We are manipulated.

    I can only take limited doses of media since it’s as Madison Avenue’d as big pharma.

    Until we are willing to put ourselves on the frontlines of personal sacrifice, let’s recognize that as a nation, we have become lazy, indifferent ( if it isn’t happening to me, it isn’t happening ), and complacent.
    Petty complaints are the prevailing locomotion of the spoiled and self indulged.

    As always, your posts are so thought provoking and stimulating and appreciated.

    I’d like to invite you and your readers to share my friends’ blog posting of today for more succinct thoughts on the significance of Independence Day:


    As she put on her faded old glory t-shirt this morning, she simply said; ” Yup, it’s fading, just like our civil rights ”

    I share your sensitive appreciation for everyone who has given up a life, or a family member to adhere to an original premise that somehow, 250 years later could use some serious tweaking or judicial adherence.

    Let them all go jump in a lake!

  17. Hi y’all from Texas! Happy 4th of July!
    Pat, I’m so happy we can agree to disagree. Still, just one more thing before hitting the pool with Mimosas, I would encourage anyone interested in this debate to read this morning’s Op-Ed by Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “Rove’s Third Term.”

    Coincidentally, the piece states the position I took yesterday perhaps a little more clearly (or coming from him, with a little more weight):

  18. Your comment speaks exactly to my anxiety, Bonnieluria, not governed but manipulated and that the burden falls on too few of us. I think the bill is coming due, however, for this imbalance and the spoiled and self indulged of us have a date with a reality that we will shatter our complacence. I’ll read your friend’s post and your last comment made me think of redoing this picture for yet the third time and putting heads of prominent administration members on the body of the boy. But, I’m going to let it be. And, perhaps, think about a totally different image to communicate the kind of anxiety I have and that you articulated so well. Thank you. Where have you taken me so far vis a via the art galleries and museums??

    Insanity, you are the best. You love the successes and the failures. I’m bottling you, sister friend!

  19. Hey, Miss NatwithanHandboobies! (readers you’ll have to go to her site to see why I address her this way!)

    I pressed send on my last comment just as yours was coming in. Of course, we can agree to disagree, and it in fact may have to extend to Krugman’s article as well!! Oh, dear, sweet girl! You see I did in fact read that article this morning.

    Since I heard the General’s remarks, rather than hearing “about” them, I still maintain that Clark’s aim was to diminish, despite protestations that he honored him and his service. With friends like this…sort of thing, at least to me. I just thought it was so unhelpful all around. Why even go there when McCain’s policies are the biggest target in the world.

    In my mind, it is how McCain handled himself in those unspeakable years in Hanoi that tell me something about him. He was offered the opportunity to leave that prison when they found out who is father was. He did not go. That’s my only point here, having nothing to do with politics. How a man or woman handles unrelenting suffering does register with me, does resonate with me as a qualification for national leadership. I think they have may have a perspective on life that we need to hear.

    If you remember, the issue being spoken about was whether he had the experience to qualify him to make presidential decisions. It’s his political record, not his military record, that casts doubt on that for me.

    But, let me end on a note of total agreement with you and Mr. Krugman and that is in his last paragraph where he says (I’m paraphrasing) we do not need faux outrage or scandals, when we are awash in real economic and governing failures.

    Mimosas all ’round on that one?? Charge it to singleforareason! I’m going back to spud walking!

  20. Pat- we have been to see:
    The Neue Museum- Gustave Klimt ( oh that man could draw )
    The Rubin Museum- Tibetan collection
    The Asia Society- – Iranian Political Cartoonist ( now exiled in NY)
    The Cooper Hewitt- Rococo Exhibit
    The Met- EVERYTHING!
    The International Center for Photography- Seems it’s the Asian theme going here.
    And lots of movies movies movies as we only get adolescent, testosterone themed movies on St. Croix.
    Home on Tuesday!
    It’s been wonderful.

    Are you feeling the blisters?

  21. you write so well…i am envious. i have never done a cannonball in my entire life. i think i am missing out. i worry for our country too. what sort of world are we leaving for our children? there will have to be some sort of great implosion for a change to happen.

  22. Now,when I get some time I’m going to go to all the websites of these museums to see what I saw this past week through you. No blisters but I am broke!

    Meander, hello, girl! Get yourself to a pool and have an eight year old show you how to do it. Then, write about it! I just visited your blog and smiled. You are not stuck anymore and need not envy anyone.

  23. Wow! Great points, W1.

    Politics annoy me greatly.

    How can you have a true leader with only politicians running for President?

    Maybe they should start wearing white wigs again.

    Hmmm… I wonder how I’D look in a white wig….

  24. Pomeroy – they still wear the white wigs in the UK and they are no better off than we are. Nice try.. no cigar for you…lol

  25. Well, those wigs may not be the answer, but “How can you have a true leader with only politicans running for President?” may be the funniest line I’ve ever heard throughout this long campaign! Seriously, why didn’t I think to say that???

    Amber, you’d like Marie Antionnette or a wizard.

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