Tag Archives: Independence Day

‘Monuments’ to traitors need to come down

Donald Trump had a chance to offer words of unity, of common purpose, of a common love of country to a nation in the midst of crises.

He didn’t deliver.

Instead, he stoked racial animosity and sought once more to divide us between those those who want Trump re-elected and those of us who want someone else to become president of the United States.

Trump stood before Mount Rushmore and delivered an Independence Day speech full of the red meat his base eats up. He stood behind the statues and other monuments to Confederate generals, proclaiming they are part of our nation’s history. Sure they are, but it’s a history that shouldn’t be saluted and honored.

Donald Trump cannot unite a nation he was elected to lead. He is incapable of delivering on the unity theme even while we are celebrating the creation of this extraordinary nation we all love.

Yes, I believe Donald Trump loves the nation, but he wants it to be something it cannot be ever again. We are a land in the midst of fundamental change. Trump doesn’t acknowledge the change in our racial and ethnic composition. He is fighting back against that change and in the process is managing to alienate Americans against each other.

This is the how he chose to celebrate our nation’s independence? Sadly, yes.

He barely mentioned the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Uh, Mr. President, that’s a big deal. It has been all over the news of late. Tens of thousands of Americans have died and we’re being sickened at an increasing rate every single day. A wartime president, which Trump calls himself, must recognize the gravity of the crisis. This guy cannot or will not do it.

Sigh ...

An election is on the horizon. I am hoping with extreme caution that we can change our course and begin a new journey toward a common goal. It has been abundantly clear from the beginning of Donald Trump’s tenure as president that he is unable or unwilling to lead us in that direction.

Immigrants, yes; also American patriots

The picture attached to this blog post is of three of my grandparents.

The woman on the left is my father’s mother, Katina; the gentleman is my mother’s father, George; the other woman is Mom’s mother, Diamondoula. I don’t know who snapped this photo; perhaps it was Dad’s father, John.

What do they have in common? For starters, they were immigrants. They came to this country from southeastern Europe. Dad’s parents came from southern Greece, while Mom’s parents came here from Turkey. They all were Greeks and proud of their heritage.

They had something else in common. They all loved the United States of America.

I want to honor them today to remind you about an immutable fact of this country: The U.S. of A. was built by immigrants. Whether they came her voluntarily, as my grandparents did, or were rounded up and transported here aboard slave ships, they all built this nation.

My grandparents were the proudest Americans you ever would want to know.

Dad’s parents brought seven children into the world, four of whom served in the military. Dad served in the Navy during World War II; one of his brothers fought for the Army during the Korean War, while his other brother saw Army duty in Europe between the Korean and Vietnam wars; one of his sisters served in the Navy. Mom’s parents produced three children; her two brothers both served in the military; one of them fought with Army Air Corps during World War II; the other served as an Army reserve colonel.

I want to salute my grandparents because they were Americans by choice. They forged a good life in this land. They honored the nation by flying the flag proudly. My maternal grandmother adored Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, keeping pictures of JFK in her home.

The current political discourse contains an unhealthy dose of anti-immigrant dogma. One of the president’s closest advisers is known to be anti-immigrant and has infused the president with the notion that we need a “merit-based” immigration policy that allows only those identified as potential high achievers into the country. Under that policy, none of my grandparents would have qualified … and the United States would have been made immeasurably poorer by their exclusion.

This weekend we’re going to honor the founding of this nation. We’ll celebrate it under a cloud brought to us by the pandemic. Still, we will honor our founders’ genius in crafting the framework that put together the world’s most indispensable nation.

I intend to honor — and recall with great fondness — the contributions that my grandparents made after arriving here from far away places.

They became the greatest of Americans … and played a major role in making America great.

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.