By Kevin Shannahan
Just in time for Independence Day, we have the manufactured crisis du jour. Colin Keapernick, his 15 minutes of fame having passed with all the permanence of an ice sculpture in the Sahara, decided to get back in the public eye. The sneaker company in question, whose recently acquired tireless dedication to social justice owes more to a cynical devotion to its billion dollar bottom line, propagated by an advertising campaign more P.T. Barnum than Che Guevara, pulled its new line of sneakers off the market. The sneakers, adorned with the Betsy Ross Flag, were so craptastically ugly that Keapernick and the company may have done an unintended favor to the memory of the Founding Fathers by taking them off the market. Politicians and the commentariat from every part of the political spectrum reacted with all the charming spontaneity of a rocket launch. Racist! Unpatriotic! The insults flew with the only clear winners a third string quarterback, various pundits and politicians and a billion dollar sneaker company to whom there is no such thing as bad publicity. The word “contrived” comes to mind.
My inner curmudgeon was then treated to a news report in which the Army was trying to figure how to get 120 tons of freedom in the form of two Abrams tanks up Pennsylvania Avenue without causing undue damage, or looking like a bad remake of Seven Days in May. One should be grateful, I suppose, that the Air Force wasn’t told to bring a Minuteman ICBM or two along. I have to admit it was difficult to be sanguine about this development. Pennsylvania Avenue is neither Red Square nor Pyongyang. An Independence Day parade should feature high school bands, veterans and local people. The tanks belong in Fort Hood.
The signs of our nation’s decline are all around us, or are they? A day spent watching the news, or in the more excitable corners of social media would make one think our country is the Wiemar Republic with Wi-Fi, but time spent in the real world gives a more hopeful picture.
A few weeks ago, I left work and drove to Garland Scout Ranch as I have done every year since I retired as Scoutmaster. I always visit my old troop and bring along a treat for the Scouts and their leaders. As in any healthy culture, there is change and continuity. The youngest boys are away from home for the first time, learning independence and responsibility along with merit badges. The climbing tower and waterfront teach self-confidence and courage. The young men and women on camp staff, all teenagers, were as impressive as always.
This is America right here, not in the fever swamps of the political class of whatever type. In my time as Scoutmaster, Troop 60 sent 4 young men into the Marine Corps. One of my Scouts is in basic training with the Army. One young man is working at the mill, another earned a nursing degree from NSU. Several of them earned engineering degrees. One is in Law School. I’ve been to several of their weddings. I’ve greeted them as fellow veterans when they were home on leave. All of them are the kind of hard working, decent young men that hold this nation together. Some of them had hair past their shoulders, some had buzz cuts, the Scout uniform makes trivial externalities as moot as they should be. It has been one of the singular honors of my life to have been privileged to watch them grow from boys into men and to have had a part, however small, in that process.
This July 4th, marks the 243rd year of the independence of the United States. Turn off the TV. Put down your phone. Fire up the grill. Be with your family and remember those whose duty to our nation mean they cannot be with theirs. Honor the memory of the men and women who will never return home. Be the kind of American worth fighting for. There is work to be done, let us get to it!