Independence Day, 2009. USA

My wife, Sue, and 14 year old daughters Caroline and Heidi, their classmate Ellen, and Ellen’s mom, Estelle, embarked on an adventure on 1 July. They have crossed on foot, from France into Spain along the “French Way” route of the ancient El Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James). This was the most important pilgrimage in medieval times, and has been traveled ever since. For the girls, it will be 500 miles (800 kilometers) and more than a month. As an aside, oddly enough, in 1779, John Adams and his sons, while on a mission to get money from Paris, had to make emergency port in Finisterre (The End of the World in medieval times). They ended up following the Way of St. James in the opposite direction all the way to Paris!

In many regards, a walk on such an ancient route can give one pause to reflect. Think of all the mini-rulerships along the way and over the course of history, from small local castles, to Caesars, to local Kings, to remote Papal Kings, to dictators, to elected officials. The American experiment was such a unique opportunity to throw off the shackles of “heredity” and part ways with the past. America had no “past” to speak of. There were no generations of Kings and fiefdoms that had been fighting each other over the centuries for reasons no one could scarcely remember any longer. To learn from the past — yet forge ahead without being tethered to doing things “just because we always do them that way” — this was the opportunity facing the colonists in 1776.

For 233 years, the spirit of America continues, though for certain today, it is under assault from those elected and appointed officials who seem not to be able to think with the remotest levels of common sense or posterity. Our Founding Fathers laid their lives on the line (literally), to break away from the all-powerful dictatorship of the British Throne. They had posterity at the core of their thinking. They theorized that a government founded from the wellspring of its Creator — and not the random (at best) gene pool of Kings — to preserve the God-given freedom that *is* man’s natural course, would be the best course to set the young nation on its best path. They even knew that specific religion mattered not, but rather there was strength in having varying points of view — but certainly Godlessness was not among them. The bigger point being that human rights do not come from a King or the Government. We are naturally free, as any creature born unto this earth. We the people bestow the rights to a select few to govern. And, we the people can revoke that gift when ever we see fit. Usually on a cycle of agreed-to election times. But this is not a necessity should our elected officials go too far at destroying our way of life too quickly. After all, there is the provision for impeachment of any elected official for just such circumstances.

I urge all citizens of the world to read the Declaration of Independence. A truly amazing document that unleashed the ability of an entire nation to thrive, grow, prosper, and become the world’s protector and defender of freedom in all reaches of the globe. As if that was not enough, America became the beacon of hope that is still alive in the oppressed and less fortunate of today.

Our leaders today, our government-run educational system and universities, and our major media, are good at indoctrinating those too weak to learn for themselves, about how horrible the USA has been and continues to be. Some of our elected officials and others in power truly think the American form of government must be changed — “remaking America” — as President Obama pledged in his inaugural address. I for one, do not. The only remaking that I would like to see is a return to Common Sense, and a lessening of the stranglehold that Government is shackling us all with. I pity thou who doth not brace for 20+% inflation and truly rough times when all of the foolishness comes due in a few years.

No. We need not the remaking of America in the eyes of Progressives — that was done in the first part of the last century with fascistic groups of thugs, propaganda ministries, annexing of private land in the name of betterment for all, back-room deals that controlled the banking industry, control of what you could sell, what you could drink, and rounding up of hundreds of thousands of citizens. You say that sounds like Fascist Italy or Germany in the 20s and 30s? Brace yourself. Sit down. This was all done by administrations of Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and FDR. The rounding up? It was for committing a “crime” no greater than being of Japanese descent.

Think it can’t happen in America when a President and Congress are out of touch and seemingly drunk with power? Spending us into oblivion? Increasing the monetary base by 100% (3 times the record increase that occurred during WWII) and lying about the true deficit — it is closer to $100 TRILLION. Think again. It has happened.

Beware the urging of quick political action at the behest of an emergency. Thomas Paine’s words of warning in 1776 ring just as true today as ever.

Thank the educational system for ensuring folks think fascism was not practiced in America. Thank the educational system and Hollywood for equating fascism solely with evil and death camps. Thank the educational system for allowing the Communist painting of fascists as being right-wing to stick to this very day — when fascism is a plainly liberal phenomenon around full State control. Liberal Progressives (of the kind that Hillary Clinton happily proclaimed allegiance during the debates) truly believe that the State knows best. That the average citizen is not equipped to know enough to make the proper decisions about important topics.

Our leaders spout great rhetoric, but then do the opposite. Our normal checks and balances — a key part of our Founding Father’s vision — of a curious and skeptical media and free press is only alive in a few outlets. Even Pravda is jealous of the cozy relationship between mainstream media and the American administration.

So, on this 4th of July, heed not only the calls for “another burger” or “another beer”, gaze skyward not only for the display of fireworks, but give some time to pause and reflect on the true meaning of freedom. Pause to reflect on what our Founding Fathers sacrificed and the legacy they left to generations that followed. Pause to consider if our elected leaders at all levels are doing what is good for America’s future – for your children and their children… Pause to consider if there is more that you can do if the answer is “no.”

And finally, pause to give thanks to the soldiers serving today, unable to be with their loved ones and friends back home. For it has been on the backs of great men, like my father, who served selflessly to preserve our freedom and our way of life.

God bless America.

Return To Forever

went to see Chic Corea and Return to Forever last night at the Mann Music Center in Philly.

the show was unbelievable. these guys didn’t skip a beat. al di meola still moves his fingers faster than humanly possible. stanley clark — who i think basically invented slap bass/lead bass — blew me away. they had their instruments either identical to the late 70s, or — in Chic’s case — modern marvels are able to replicate the precise sounds of some of those no-longer-in-existence keyboards and synths.

bela fleck was the opening act. these guys are awesome and have one of the premier bass players in the world. but RTF made the flecktones seem amateur in skill (and believe me, they are not! bela and the ‘tones are an incredible mix of 4 virtuousos)

i just kept shaking my head in disbelief at what i was witnessing up close and personal. first row, center, just behind the orchestra section of seating thanks to my friend Clay and his VIP pass! i think we had the best seats in the house. close enough to see all the detail, but not too close where you miss the wider aspects of the whole band.

you could see utter joy in the band member’s eyes as they hammered out the songs. in a jazz setting, and sitting close, you can really see the tremendous on-stage communication that goes on between the band members. it was especially fun when they would do the classic guitar-piano duels, or bass-piano duels. Chic would slam down an incredible riff, then stanley or al would follow up with a mimic, and “up the ante” maybe with a bit more. back and forth they would go until i figured their instruments — or hands — would be on fire.

though they were all very appreciative (and humbled) of the audience and the cheering throngs, they have it wrong. i believe (for me for sure), that it is we, the fans, that are truly blessed and thankful to have been in their midst for at least one night. an unforgettable evening of music genius that just does not come around too often in one’s lifetime. it would be like hearing mozart live. (and i don’t say this lightly.) i am so very grateful!

oh, and i won a prize during the trivia game! the 2008 tour book (or whatever you call it — thing with photos and their tour dates). quotes like:

* “It was a moment… the four of hadn’t been together in the same space since the 70s. But when we get into the throes of playing, it’s right back to that zone. It feels pretty fresh.” — Chic Corea

* “This reunion is going to really be nice. All of us have been practicing… because the music is demanding even at this point to me.” — Stanley Clarke

* “So many years have passed since we last played together. I’m a different person and play differently. We all do. In fact, when we sat and listened to our old albums, there were times when even we, ourselves, couldn’t believe some of the things we were physically pulling off. There’s something to be said about youth and envy.” — Al DiMeola

* “Playing together again was like riding a bike. It sounded great from the first rehearsal. We had to re-familiarize ourselves with the notes — we haven’t played them in 25 years.” — Lenny White

it was truly amazing music. every song got a standing ovation. some of the most demanding music you would ever hear — or see. and the crowd knew it and appreciated it.

i continue to bask in the soul-stirring glow of the immeasurable grace and beauty of the RTF notes left hanging in the stratosphere. thank you!