Tag Archives: Independence Day

God bless America, warts and all!

My friend David Stevens, a New Mexico newspaper publisher and all-round good guy, has it right.

He said on Facebook he has no intention of protesting anything on the Fourth of July. He intends only to salute the country, even with all its flaws.

I have to concur with him.

I make no apologies to anyone for my love of this nation. I am the grandson of immigrants who came here with virtually nothing. They reared their children — 10 of them all told on both sides of my family lineage. They all enjoyed success and brought families of their own into this world.

I, of course, was one of them.

We hear so much these days about the divisions that run deep throughout our society. I admit they exist. They make me mightily uncomfortable. I don’t like the tone of the political discourse these days. However, not a single aspect of it makes me love this country any less than I always have.

I am a sucker for Independence Day pageantry. I love parades. The patriotic music makes my soul soar.

I’ll admit that I do not stand and salute the Stars and Stripes when they play the National Anthem. I have seen my fellow veterans do that. Such outward public displays of patriotism look to me to be a form of showing off, of making a spectacle of oneself. I prefer instead to take off my cap, put my hand over my heart and sing the anthem loudly … even if it’s more than a bit off tune

The protests over shoe companies, over the late Kate Smith’s “God Bless America,” over athletes “taking a knee”? I take no part in any of that. None of that interests me in the least.

I stand and salute the nation I love without condition. It’s not the perfect nation. It merely is the best one on Earth. I am proud to be one of her sons.

Shut up, Lou Dobbs!

Lou Dobbs doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he calls American general-grade officers “snowflakes.”

The Fox News business correspondent/talking head stepped in it with a comment about the generals’ opposition to the militarization of the Fourth of July celebration set for tonight in the nation’s capital.

“No wonder” they haven’t won a war since 1991, Dobbs wrote on Twitter, which lit up in return over Dobbs’ ridiculous bloviation.

Dobbs takes heat

Just for giggles, I sought to look up Dobbs’ background and came up empty in the hunt for any military experience. I am not suggesting that military critics who didn’t serve are not qualified to offer criticism of the brass. I am suggesting, though, that service in the military might have tempered Dobbs’ statements about the brass’ opposition to what Donald Trump is seeking to do with the nation’s tradition of honoring its independence.

And what, therefore, does the commander in chief think of the criticism from the ranks?

For his part, the president has been tweeting all day, apparently, about the thrill of seeing the finest military hardware on Earth while the nation commemorates its independence from colonial rule in the late 18th century.

What I should tell readers here, given Dobbs’ apparent lack of understanding of these matters, is that the military high command dislikes being used for political purposes. The men and women who serve do so to protect the nation, not to be used as props.

The generals’ opposition is not a matter of “snowflake” sensibilities. It’s a matter of understanding the mission of the world’s mightiest military establishment.

Get a grip, Lou Dobbs. Stick to business reporting and steer far away from — dare I say it? — “fake news.”

My new favorite holiday? Umm, maybe

The older I get the sappier I become.

My wife and I spent a glorious evening with Emma, our 6-year-old granddaughter. We ventured to the other side of Princeton, Texas — which isn’t all that far, to tell you the truth — to enjoy some Independence Day festivities.

The city put on its Fourth of July Spectacular at Caldwell Park, which happens to include a one-time World War II prisoner of war encampment where Nazi soldiers were kept near the end of the war.

Emma enjoyed some rides, sipped and nibbled on a snow cone, then sat with us as we listened to music superstar Lee Ann Womack belt out some country/western tunes before a large crowd gathered in front of the stage.

Then the fun really got started. The fireworks display — which I sought to capture with the photo that accompanies this blog post — was nothing short of spectacular.

I love the pageantry associated with the Fourth of July. The older I become the more I enjoy listening to the patriotic music while the rockets’ red glare lights up the night sky.

Truth be told, I’ve always been a bit of a sap about this particular holiday. My parents imbued it in me as a youngster. Perhaps it has something to do with Dad’s role in ridding the world of tyranny during World War II. He was proud of his Navy service, although he didn’t brag about. The Greatest Generation is not full of braggarts; it is full of heroes who did their job, answered their country’s call to duty, then returned home to start or restart their lives. That was Dad in a nutshell.

Mom, too, told me of how the Port of Portland, Ore., turned into a “liberty ship” assembly line, cranking out cargo vessels at a clip of one per month. You remember these tales of greatness in the face of international crisis.

So we watched the fireworks tonight. We listened to music. It was our way of saluting this great nation of ours.

What’s more, we did it with our precious little girl.

How in the name of all that is good can it possibly get any better than that?

Trump turning Fourth of July event on its ear

What in the name of Fourth of July tradition is Donald J. Trump doing to this year’s Fourth of July celebration?

Every Independence Day since, oh, perhaps The Flood, the nation’s capital has conducted a celebration aimed at inviting the public to cheer the birth of the United States of America.

It has been free of politics and, more importantly, of politicians. Spectators listen to music, poetry delivered by celebrities and, of course, fireworks. They cheer and shout and celebrate the nation we all love.

This year? Well, the president of the United States is going to take center stage. He will offer a “Salute to America” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. What’s more, there will be limited seating reserved only for reserved guests pre-approved by the White House; they will be seated from the Lincoln Memorial to halfway along the Washington Mall. The fireworks launch site has moved from The Mall to the Tidal Basin; vision will be partially obscured.

Perhaps the most unseemly aspect of all this will be the presence of the president. Tradition has kept presidents away because of security concerns. Not this year. Donald Trump was so smitten by a Bastille Day event he witnessed in Paris that he wanted to replicate it here. It’s the opening remarks that hold the greatest potential for this president saying something so totally inappropriate that has many of us cringing at the thought.

Do you think it is at all possible that Donald Trump would turn that opening event into a political campaign speech touting his re-election? Well, I do believe it is possible … if not probable that he would do that very thing.

I am willing to be proven wrong. If he delivers the kind of speech the Lincoln Memorial steps, then I will be glad to offer props for the president. I fear, though, that something quite inappropriate might be in store for us on the day we are supposed to celebrating the nation, not the individual who resides in the White House.

Prove me wrong, Mr. President.

How to celebrate The Fourth

I read the other day that Irving, Texas planned to place flags in front of every residence, business, house of worship, government building today to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day.

To which I say, “You go, Irving!” What a fantastic way to celebrate this birth!

The gold standard for community celebrations that I have witnessed up close remains Kenosha, Wisc. My wife and I took our then-infant son there in 1973, where we visited my wife’s Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joe.

Fourth of July that year allowed us to see how the city decks itself out. Kenosha did it right 45 years ago. We returned there in 2000, but it was a non-Fourth of July visit.

We drove around Kenosha in 1973 and noticed patriotic bunting hanging on thousands of dwellings and businesses; flags flew in front of thousands of those buildings.

The night of the Fourth, we went to the shore of Lake Michigan, where we witnessed a spectacular fireworks display in Kenosha and a bit north in Racine.

Oh … my.

That memory will remain with me forever.

Happy birthday, America; you’re still great

Happy birthday, America.

You look pretty good for being 242 years of age. Allow me these brief thoughts as we light some fireworks, grill some chow outside in the summer heat and toast your ever-lasting and enduring greatness.

I want you to disregard the blathering of our current president, who campaigned for office and then took office vowing to “make America great again.” He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You’re still great. You’ve always been great.

And, yes, the 45th president isn’t the first occupant of that office to make such a claim. Others have done so. But this guy keeps harping on it. He wears that goofy “MAGA” hat at campaign rallies.

Now, even though we celebrate your greatness, America, I must concede that you haven’t been perfect. The founders said at the beginning of the Republic that “all men are created equal.”

They were short-sighted. Women weren’t allowed to vote. That right didn’t come until 1920, for crying out loud. Furthermore, many of the founders were slave holders. They held men, women and children in involuntary bondage.

You’ll recall, America, how we waged a bloody Civil War over slavery. We killed hundreds of thousands of Americans to preserve our Union and, yes, to free those enslaved families.

Civil rights battles have ensued. We marched in protest against wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We endured a Great Depression. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor and then we went to war against tyranny in Europe and Asia.

We let our guard down on 9/11 and were attacked yet again by terrorists.

In spite of all that, we remain great. We allow people to complain openly about the government. We allow freedoms that other countries have emulated. We are free to worship as we please — or not worship at all if that’s what we choose.

We allow “due process” under the law. We grant liberty and freedom.

And despite what that president of ours insists, we remain a beacon that attracts immigrants from those around the world.

I am proud to be an American. I am proud of my country, warts and all. Believe me, America, you’ve grown a few more of them in recent years. However, I salute you.

Let’s all have a happy birthday, America.

Love that patriotic pageantry!


I am a serious sucker for pageantry.

I love the sound of bagpipes in a parade; the sound of “Ruffles and Flourishes” when the president enters a room; I love the red, white and blue.

We’re flying our flag again today. We join millions of other Americans in displaying the colors as the nation celebrates its 240th birthday.

Think of it: It’s been 40 years since the Bicentennial! Holy cow!

I’ll admit I usually stay close to home during the Fourth of July holiday. We don’t usually travel much. Whether it’s back in our hometown of Portland, Ore., or in Beaumont, Texas — where we lived for nearly 11 years before moving to the Texas Panhandle — or here in Amarillo, we enjoy seeing the colors waving.

Once when we were first married, though, we did travel from the West Coast to the Great Lakes region to visit some members of my wife’s family.

Her Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joe lived in Kenosha, Wis., which sits on the western shore of Lake Michigan, just a bit north of Chicago.

We were there on the Fourth of July, 1973. It was hot and humid as the dickens.

But my memory of that community is stark, vivid — and indelible.

If you walked though neighborhoods, you saw row upon row of homes decked out in Fourth of July finery. Banners hung from front porches. Flags flew in what little breeze there was from windows. Streamers hung from trees. “Happy Birthday, USA” signs could be seen everywhere.

Man, oh man. I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved seeing these displays.

Sure, I get that we should always demonstrate our love of country in this manner. Maybe we should at our home, too … although we do display a red-white-blue banner in our dining room window from Memorial Day through Sept. 11 each year.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not a love-it-or-leave-it kind of guy. I acknowledge the many problems our nation has brought on itself. I will complain about them from time to time. It’s our right as citizens to do so.

We all should recognize, thought, that there’s much more good about America than that which is not so good.

It’s the good we celebrate today.

Bring on the pageantry!

Who are the true-blue patriots?


Have you ever pondered whether the most patriotic Americans are those who are born here or those who chose to live here?

I have wondered it on occasion. I’m doing so right here and now.

You must understand where I’m coming from.

I am the grandson of immigrants. All four of my grandparents chose to move right after the turn of the 20th century from southeastern Europe to the United States of America to search for a better life.

All of them found that better life.

My dad’s parents were John and Katina Kanelis. My mom’s parents were George and Diamandoula Filipu. You know about my Yiayia and my Papou John. I’ve written about them both.

Indeed, my Yiayia was among the greatest Americans I’ve ever encountered. She died 38 years ago on the Fourth of July, 1978. Given her unabashed love for the United States of America, it seemed only fitting that she would depart this world on our nation’s birthday.

Remembering a great American

I remember all of them during this Independence Day weekend mostly because of who they were and the families they brought into this world. I also remember them because of the current political climate in the United States, which to my mind and heart has turned toxic as it relates to immigrants.

I know what you’re thinking: Hey, man, we’re talking about illegal immigrants, the folks who break U.S. law by coming here without the proper paperwork. And we’re talking about the scoundrels who come here to commit crimes.

True enough. This debate, though, usually has this curious way of morphing into a broader area to include all immigrants. There are those who call themselves “American patriots” who keep insisting that we’ve got enough immigrants in this country. They bristle at the idea that “foreigners” are pouring into the country and are upsetting what they believe is the “unique American culture.”

Actually, what historically has made our culture unique has been our open door. It’s been the principle of welcoming others to our shores.

These days we hear talk about building walls along our southern border. Or about banning people from overseas simply because they worship a certain faith.

What would my grandparents think about that? They would be appalled.

My memories of most of my grandparents are quite vivid; my maternal grandfather died when I was about a month old. All of them became great Americans. They loved their country with as much zeal and passion as anyone who ever was born here … of that I am quite certain.

I know my story isn’t unique. Other immigrants have come here to make their dreams come true. Their descendants are as proud of them as I am of my immigrant grandparents.

He was a great man

My grandparents didn’t achieve greatness in the way we too often measure it. They came here and followed the rules and the laws of their adopted home country.

They were true-blue American patriots.

I will honor them this weekend — and always.

Flag takes on more significance


This flag is flying in front of our home this morning.

We fly it for all the “patriotic holidays.” An Amarillo Boy Scout troop puts the flag up for us and we display it until the Scouts — and/or their parents — remove it at the end of the day.

Given that today is Flag Day, we’re displaying Old Glory in all its splendor.

This year, in light of recent tragic events half a continent away, it seems more appropriate and fitting than ever to salute the flag and what it means.

I refer, of course, to the massacre in Orlando, where 49 people were gunned down by a monstrous murderer, who then was killed by police. (As an aside, I’m going to follow the lead of several media outlets and from now on decline to mention the gunman’s name — out of respect for his victims.)

The flag stands for many principles. One of them is especially poignant today. It’s diversity.

The nation came into existence because people risked all they had — including their very lives — to escape repression. They came to our shores and established a New World dedicated to the notion that they could be whatever they chose to be without interference from a higher government authority.

They celebrated their true independence by creating a nation dedicated to that, and other, founding principles.

We are still looking for answers as to why the gunman did that terrible act in Florida. Did he hate his victims because they were gay, given that they were dancing in a gay nightclub? Did he act out of some allegiance to a perversion of a great religion?

I don’t know.

I do know — as we all do — that our country has been stained once again by senseless bloodshed.

With that all said, today we fly our flag in honor of the principles that created our great nation. Our spirit has been bloodied, but we must always remain strong and resolute against hate … no matter its form.


Two memories: distinct yet related come to mind

Once in the bluest of moons strange thoughts cross my mind, involving distinctly different memories but which somehow — oddly — are tied together in my heart and mind.

My late grandmother and my hometown newspaper have come to my mind this evening.

I got word today that The Oregonian is going to shut down its presses, darkening the production operation in downtown Portland, the city of my birth and where I came of age. It makes me sad.

And on July 4, tomorrow, I will mark the 37th year since my beloved grandmother, Diamontoula Filipu, passed away. She died on the Fourth of July. I think of her almost daily. I think of her on Independence Day because Yiayia, as we called her, was a great American, a loving matriarch, the best cook who ever lived and was a proud American. She chose to live in the United States and never took for granted — not for an instant — the blessings she accrued when she moved here from Turkey not long after the turn of the 20th century.

My wife told me that Yiayia likely timed her passing just to be sure that we’d remember it. Boy, do we ever.

OK, so how are these two things related?

Here goes.

My wife and I hadn’t been married all that long. She was working in the circulation department on the ground floor of The Oregonian building. We had produced one son already; he was about a year old. Then we learned we were pregnant again.

With this news fresh in our minds — and with little time to inform anyone of it — my wife went to work one morning and told a colleague of hers about our big news. Well, it turns out that her friend’s grandmother was a good friend of Yiayia’s. This friend, apparently, told his grandmother later that morning in a phone call. Her colleague’s grandmother than reportedly called Yiayia to congratulate her on becoming a great-grandmother again.

One issue, though, arose: Yiayia didn’t know about it until her friend told her.

Later that evening, my wife and I walked into our little rental house. The phone rang. It was Yiayia.

She was “mad” that we didn’t tell her first about our big news. She proceeded to “scold” me, telling that she had to be kept informed before anyone else when the news involves something so huge as the impending birth of a new family member.

She then laughed and told me she loved me.

That was Yiayia. Was she a busy-body? Sure. But old-country women are entitled

It might be a stretch to combine these two memories, but they’re in my heart tonight as I think of a longstanding tradition in my hometown going away — and of one of the many happy remembrances I have of my beloved Yiayia.

I miss her every day.