It was in the late 1960’s when I first listened to some B. B. King music. A childhood friend had just returned from Vietnam. Joe had a reel to reel tape recorder that was playing continuously whenever his younger brother Bob and I were around. Joe had quite the pot habit and he consumed good quantities of it with everything from B.B.’s The Thrill is Gone to the Tokens singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight playing in the background.
Knowing what I know now that I most certainly did not know then, Joe probably had posttraumatic stress disorder. The music and the marijuana a coping mechanism perhaps. I do not know whatever became of Joe. The last I heard he was on a cross country hitchhiking trek with another of my friends and was involved in a serious vehicle accident. Yes, some people of my generation took that as an adventure. I actually started out with another friend to give it a try. After standing at an on ramp for a couple of hours with our thumbs out, we gave up. Probably for the best.
That is where my mind was while traveling the two lane blacktop to the cemetery where my parents rest. Dad was a World War II Sailor. I love driving two lane roads through the country side the radio fixed on the 60s channel. All familiar music taking me back to a time that probably shaped who I am today.
The drive was enjoyable even when bubba rolled up behind me in his pickup truck. Bubba did not appear happy that I was cruising along at the speed limit. He probably grew more perturbed when he read my bumper sticker that says “Sorry for driving so close in front of you” that is assuming Bubba could read. Too bad he did not see the one I used to have that Suzie-Q made me remove. “Armed Disgruntled Veteran On Board.” When we were about six inches inside a passing zone Bubba took off like a streak rebel flags and all. If you are going to drive 80 in a 55 zone why would you worry about whether you were in a passing zone or not. When I am driving through a beautiful country side I recall the words from a Mac Davis tune, “you’ve got to stop and smell the roses along the way.” We all have our Bubba-Americans. I never let Bubba ruin the moment.
Thinking about Bubba caused me to think of something else that just annoys the heck out of me. Polling. Open up any news site on the Internet or listen to any program that bills itself as news and you will not get too far before you hear that the latest poll determined that 30 percent of us are Bubba-Americans. These days, there is every brand of hyphenation imaginable and a poll to support it. We are effectively polarized into our own little identity groups. Each of us demanding special dispensation because of the group we identify with.
It seems that we took that old national motto and flipped it on its ear. From many one is now from one many. Sadly, we have abandoned the thing that made this the greatest nation in the history of nations. The idea that many people of all walks can come together and embrace a single idea, freedom, and form a government and a nation around that idea is nothing short of a miracle.
I looked down at the Veteran’s marker at the foot of my Father’s grave and thought of the numbers of men and women who have fought to preserve the one thing that sets us apart from the rest of the world. Freedom. Will we miss it when it is gone?
Unless we can all forget our identities long enough to remember that 100 percent of us are Americans and we are indeed freedom’s last stand America is over. Freedom and the thrill of knowing it will be gone away from us.
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