Jerry Davich: On this Fourth of July, declare your own brand of independence
JERRY DAVICH July 2, 2013 11:08PM
Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 4, 2013 6:23AM
What better day than the Fourth of July for us to declare independence from our bad habits, misguided attitudes and tiresome prejudices.
Thursday will be a star-spangled holiday filled with red-white-and-blah diatribes about “patriotism” as Americans proudly parade our beliefs, values and customs.
We’ll barbeque traditions that have been marinating for decades. We’ll attend parades that are too short and family gatherings that take too long. We’ll wax poetic about our childhood Fourth of July’s. And we’ll plop older family members in new lawn chairs to watch “the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”
Some of us will think of flags, festivals and fireworks. Others will shoot off their mouth about previous wars, battles and the real cost of freedom. Kids, however, will ignore the free history lessons while focusing on cookouts, beache, and recreational activities.
However, in honor of this year’s Fourth, I’ve been thinking of a few things that we, as a society and country, should seek independence from. Such as our collective ignorance about our national arrogance or, on a more personal level, freeing ourselves from bad habits and lingering regrets.
For me, I would like to seek independence from being too judgmental about others. And being too cynical, too apathetic, or too fixated on the constructs of time. Though I don’t wear a watch, I’m always watching a clock somewhere, either on a wall, my phone, a computer, or a bank’s digital billboard.
As too many of us know, time is something to be kept, filled, saved, used, spent, wasted, lost, planned, given and even killed. Americans such as me are more concerned with getting things accomplished — on time — than they are with developing relationships.
Or so says L. Robert Kohls, former director of The Washington International Center, who many years ago developed a list of commonly held American values. It still holds true today, and could be used to guide our quest to be more independent minded.
For example, Americans do not believe in the power of fate, and they look at people who do as being backward, primitive, or naïve. The problems of one’s life are not seen as having resulted from bad luck as much as having come from one’s laziness and unwillingness to take responsibility in pursuing a better life.
Also, Americans view themselves as highly individualistic in their thoughts and actions. Individualism leads to privacy, which we see as desirable. When we do join groups, we still believe we are special, just a little different from other members of the same group.
And Americans are very selfish, using more than 100 composite words that have the word “self” as a prefix — like self-confident, self-control, and self-defeating. The equivalent of these words cannot be found in most other languages. It’s an indicator of how highly Americans regard the “self-made” man or woman.
Kohls said Americans value the future, too often devalue the past and, to a large degree, are unconscious of the present. Even a happy present goes largely unnoticed because Americans are hopeful that the future will bring even greater happiness.
Do you agree with those descriptive qualities of us? I do, generally speaking.
I say it’s time we also declare independence from so many falsehoods and rumors that continually swirl around our United States of Amnesia.
For instance, the Pledge of Allegiance was not written in 1776, as many Americans believe. It first appeared in 1892 in “Youth’s Companion,” a Boston-based magazine for boys. An editor, Francis Bellamy, wrote it in response to the president’s call for patriotism in schools to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus Day. And it wasn’t until 1954 when Congress added the words “under God” to it.
Of a more timely nature, we should use the ongoing case of NSA leaker Edward Snowden to spark a long-overdue discussion about the true cost of our personal freedoms. Hero? Traitor? How about using Snowden as a springboard to broader issues that reflect our government’s 21st century capabilities?
Other suggestions, from readers, include seeking independence from our bigotry and discrimination, from our doubts and worries, and from the need to control others or our overreliance on the government.
On this Fourth of July, what are you seeking independence from?
Veteran suicides on the rise
As we celebrate the Fourth, let’s keep in mind a troubling truth about the soldiers, veterans and military personnel who fight for our freedoms.
Did you know that suicide killed more American troops last year than combat in Afghanistan? According to the Department of Defense, there were 349 confirmed suicides last year, compared with 310 combat deaths in Afghanistan.
And, experts predict, the same will hold true again this year as more vets seek freedom from their demons related to combat, depression or addiction.
As many as two dozen U.S. military veterans each day take their own life, with Vietnam War era vets leading in this startling statistic. In fact, more Vietnam vets have taken their own lives than the roughly 58,000 soldiers who died during that war.
Vets age 60 and older are most prone to suicide as their health worsens, their fellow comrades begin to die off, and their jobs or careers come to an end. Also, most vets that age never got properly treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which didn’t officially exist when they served Uncle Sam.
As one retired colonel told a TV interviewer, “We’re a warrior or a retired warrior or a former warrior. We know how to kill. And if we become the enemy, then we know how to take our own lives.”
‘Off the eaten path’
My weekly “Off the eaten path” dining-out recommendation goes to El Salto Mexican Restaurant in Merrillville, which opened its fourth store in Northwest Indiana earlier this year.
I visited the restaurant Friday evening and was blown away by its delicious entrees, abundance of choices, speedy service and overall atmosphere, including live music that night. It also offers several alcoholic drink specials, including signature margaritas.
The eatery is located at 5031 East Lincoln Highway in Merrillville, in a strip mall on the south side of U.S. 30. For more info, call 940-9955 or visit www.elsaltorestaurant.com.
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.