February 04, 2008

The Unsinkable Patriots

I was watching the Super Bowl yesterday in my den in the company of a lifelong pal, a fellow I can share stories with about seventh grade teachers as easily as the current perplexities of the American economy. A liberal like me, whose views of society were informed as much by the lower middle class California housing tract we both grew up in as by our later exposure to student agitation at the University of California at Berkeley in the late Sixties.

So maybe you'd expect us to be a little cynical watching the Declaration of Independence reading that preceded the game. Switching from one NFL star to another (and including others, such as Pat Tillman's wife), most of the Declaration was read, all except the bill of particulars laying out the specific grievances against the British Crown. I have a framed copy of the document on my den wall, in fact, and I make it a practice to read the entire Declaration every Fourth of July. So maybe I expected myself to be inured to yet another reading, and if so, I would have been wrong about myself, too. Because both of us sat there crying, within a few moments of "When in the course..."

The Declaration of Independence is simply the most eloquent, stupendous, inspiring, and brilliant political document in the history of the human race. Yet there was something else going on there, too. Maybe the thing was being broadcast on the Fox network; maybe half the guys reading it are Bush supporters; maybe it's simply my wishful thinking, inspired in part by the ascendancy of an African-American man and a woman to positions of political prominence in current politics. Maybe all that's true, and yet the inclusion of a couple of vignettes before and after the reading, Ben Franklin warning that the Declaration was a perilous act ("either we hang together or we shall surely hang separately") and the signing by John Hancock in large letters so that "George" would have no trouble reading it...and the inclusion of Pat Tillman's wife, who has been a courageous critic of Administration propaganda...is it possible that entities so mainstream and corporate as Fox and the NFL were subtly sending out messages that it's time to reclaim the spirit of democracy once again, and to demonstrate the courage of the Founding Fathers in our own time?

Just for a moment I didn't feel so alone in this sense our country has been betrayed, that if I'm a crank writing under the sobriquet "Waldenswimmer," that's okay, because I'm doing it for the right reasons. Because patriotism isn't dead in this country, and it will live to fight another day, just as Tom Brady will recover from that injury and resume his greatness soon. It's very early on a Monday morning and I find myself utterly incapable of cynicism, a triumph in itself; and I feel resolved to demonstrate in my own life at least 1/10th of the courage of Adams, Jefferson, Washington and Franklin. Or, for that matter, Eli Manning on the last magnificent drive.

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