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April 08, 2011


Apologies for the length, but a Republican-right-wing-Tea-Party wrongness post seems like an appropriate place for these thoughts. Today is Patriot's Day, a holiday here in Massachusetts commemorating the start of the American Revolutionary War. One of those nearest-Monday holidays, but this year on the mark - the day of Paul Revere's ride - and Prescott & Dawes who took alternate routes.

(Also Boston Marathon Day. The marathon route runs past the end of my block near mile 23. World record for men set today with perfect cool weather and a brisk tailwind. 2 hrs 3 min 2 sec - about 4.7 minute/mile on average, but the guy doesn't get to hold the world record "because of today's strong tail winds on a course that has frequent downhills" The elite runners can do the course faster than I can on a bicycle. But back to Patriot's Day.

I came of age in the late 1960's and was active in the progressive movements of those days. So I have long had a resistance to "we're #1" type chauvinistic patriotism. But I also resent that the right-wing acts as if they alone have values, as if they are the only "real Americans." Freedom of expression is at the core of who we are as a people.

Having grown up in the Boston area I particularly resent the Tea Party attempt to take over the iconic moments of US founding history (Michelle Bachman thinks the Boston Tea Party took place in New Hampshire, but, whatever). The foundation of the US is not perfect; the US has always been a work in progress. But for me the people and places and moments of the American Revolution are not just textbook stuff; they are part of the background of my life - streets named Adams, Hancock, Franklin; historic homes passed on the way home from school; go-to places on family Sunday drives.

Some of these places are preserved historical sites (George Washington lived for several months in the house next door to where I work when he came to Massachusetts to take command of the Revolutionary forces). Some of these places are still part of contemporary life. The Old North Church, where they hung the lanterns to signal Paul Revere, is still a church with an active congregation. Faneuil Hall, the "Cradle of Liberty," where revolutionary gatherings took place, was given to the city by Peter Faneuil to be a marketplace and meeting space in perpetuity. And it still is. OK, the marketplace on the lower levels is T-shirt shops and low and high brow souvenir shops (replica Paul Revere bowls in silver and pewter anyone?); but upstairs is a stately old assembly hall where events are still held to discuss the issues of the day. I've been to a few.

Boston Common, the oldest public park in the US, is still a city park with playgrounds and a ball field; and has held public gatherings since the earliest days of the city. Sarah Palin spoke there, but so did Martin Luther King, Jr., anti-war activists, feminists, gay rights activists, labor supporters, environmental and climate change campaigners. I've been to many progressive events on the Common (even to an alternative rally when Pain was there).

Bill McKibben and James Hansen were arrested on the Common a year or so ago along with students demanding action on climate change who had a camp-out there. There have been peace demonstrations at the Minuteman Statue on Lexington Green and Green Energy Revolution rallies by the Old North Bridge in Concord.

These iconic places and moments belong to all of us, not just to the Tea Party. The American Revolution was a visionary period in history. At the same time we can't forget that fulfillment of the vision, of the true American dream of liberty and justice for all, is still a work in progress. Langston Hughes said it best in his poem "Let America Be America Again" The whole poem is worth a read on this Patriot's Day, but I will close with this excerpt:
"O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe."

Laurie Dougherty

Laurie, nicely said. As someone born in Massachusetts, I guess I have a lingering connection with that state also. My grandmother lived in Rhode Island, where her house dated from the late 1700's if I recall correctly. There's so much history in the East. Out here in the West building from the early 1900s is really old. Not so on the East coast.

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