Nothing is more sacred in Pax Americana's symbol system than the Fourth of July. From the New England town style fife-and-drum corps of Concord to the grunts foisting the colors atop Iwo Jima, we settle in the comfort of settled-but-grown-stale communal memories.
Nothing challenges one's equilibrium more than the disillusionment that follows the shattering of a symbol. Pax Amerikana has become pox on our houses!
The courts have been edging our consciousness to rethink many things these days with conservative John Edwards turning out to be another conservative Earl Warren. The comfort of the lawn chair at the park to watch the fireworks, down a cool lemonade in a blistering hot summer evening, and munch on a slice of apple pie, if ever that was a reality, has become an image glowing in rank sentimentality.
Governance as ideally the process of deciding how a community supports itself, maintains order and tranquility, and enlivens one's emotional and intellectual well-being is now left with romantic idealists. Governance, in the U.S., even China and other parts of the world, has become a knee-jerk defensive response toward those perceived to do one harm. Or, in the case with the feds, those who want to stick their fingers into our pockets.
In our defensiveness, we have become inured to sting operations. When Paul Newman and Robert Redford played the 1930's confidence man of Chicago (the windy city by Lake Michigan) in the movie Sting, I was charmed. The movie was a cinematic feast utilizing all kinds of period motifs and technical tricks along with a perky piano rag tune and a Norman Rockwell feel to appeal widely in the box office. It did.
The notion of staging a great con to either right a wrong, or bring a stuffy villain or felon his comeuppance is an added plus we have made as homey American as motherhood and pizza. Having resided in Chicago, we are also familiar with how the feds got Al Capone.
We had always recognized the practice of the sting operation as a mainstay in American law enforcement. Stories of snitches and spies do make good films, but the realization that their employ is also a taken-for-granted modus operandi among public officials makes the Bush's policy of taking preemptive strikes on enemy regimes a legitimate defense, a frequently enforced procedure.
We are not above the con. I remember a lady in WorkHawaii who thought herself to have been wronged by the staff when she slipped on her entry through the front door and allegedly hurt herself. We took on her case, wanting to assist her in her legitimate complaints, only to find out that she had a history of making claims in court for which she was always rewarded since a payoff is less expensive than a prolonged litigation. So we maneuvered for a psychiatric visit and she managed to “hang” herself with her own words, mirroring an instability that the office's lawyers would have used had she proceeded with the prosecution of her claims.
Most recently, we recall how a Homeland Security officer conned some Chinese on Saipan to attempt a quiet slip in the night into Guam. Not to embarrass the government operative, the court judge who heard the case decided that there were no international waters traversed, and therefore the attempt was not about crossing borders. Guam and the CNMI are a contiguous area and in American sovereign territorial understanding, one is allowed to travel freely without legal constraints.
The recent news that ATF&E has conducted a gun-walking tactic to identify and charge drug cartel lords suspected of receiving guns bought in Arizona for illicit use in Mexico has gotten the Republican House in a tizzy. They voted to censure Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt in his refusal to turn over records of Operation Fast and Furious to a congressional oversight committee. Obama weighed in with an executive order to back the AG's refusal to turn over documents that go back to George W. Bush' watch. Suddenly, the hot presidential election is exploding fireworks that reek of stale alcohol and tobacco!
But as Filipino turned California activist, the late Carlos Bulosan literarily attested, America is in the heart. The America of the Fourth of July is neither a jingoistic celebration of a historical date, nor the idle dreaming of the privilege elite to maintain their sinecure in the realm of might, money, and the Arizona state of mind.
Patriotic America is in the heart of the many who act on survival instincts but still are naturally gracious to return a stranger's money purse with thousands of cash left on a trash bin while the man had a heart attack leaving a convenience store.
Nations are people deciding to act out their common vision and communal mission. It is not the objective constitution written by representatives nor the self-serving services of its leaders that defines the country. Rather, it is the behavior of ordinary people, with their varied sense experiences, intense emotional feelings, and complex mental cognition shown and articulated in either intentional commonality or tolerated diversity. America of the heart are real flesh-and-bones independent individuals in an interdependent society.
That's my Fourth of July. Does that make us proud, official stings notwithstanding? The hell, we are. Or, put another way, America, wart, woof, and wonder, all in one, is the present heaven in our heart, freely kept there! How does your heart throb this Fourth?
Jaime R. Vergara (email@example.com) is a former PSS teacher and is currently writing from the campus of Shenyang Aerospace University in China.