Monday, July 6, 2009

It Was the 4th That Was

We had a relaxing, and somewhat different, 4th of July this year that was a lot of fun, brought back some old memories and led The Ancient One to some thoughts about Independence and Freedom.

Of course, the morning walk took precedence and it was a beautiful day without the "marine layer" that seems to have been hanging over the peninsula for so long. A special treat came about because the city of Palos Verdes Estates moved their 4th of July Celebration from Malaga Cove to the grounds of Lunada Bay School. This resulted in a panoramic overview along the morning's route. (Unfortunately, the camera was not in hand). While my vantage point was from well above the site and from afar, the crowd and lines of flags could be seen. And voices carried well on the morning air as I listened to a young woman singing My Country Tis of Thee. . . and heard a couple of the orators holding forth.

Later in the day we joined some friends who were staying at the new, recently opened Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, less than 6 miles from our home. It was pleasant walking the grounds as Jim and Diane gave us the grand tour and then enjoying a wonderful dinner in one of the many restaurants before returning to our own home. It was at Terranea that old memories came flooding back.

This new resort is built on the land that was Marineland many years ago. When Alicia and Seth were pre-school age (she'll be 28 later this month and he's 26) we had season tickets to Marineland. We would often pack a picnic lunch and spend an hour or two there, generally seeing one of the shows (Orky and Corky were the resident performing killer whales) and always stopping by the marine hospital that cared for wounded sea life (especially sea lions), nursed them back to health and returned them to the ocean just below the cliffs. That was the pleasant part of the memories. The less than pleasant part came when the company that owned Sea World in San Diego bought Marineland and then suddenly shut it down, marked by the spiriting away of the many sea animals in the middle of the night. Folks around here have never quite gotten over that bit of corporate chicanery. It's nice to have this sparkling new resort but it isn't the same.

At various points during the day and evening, The Ancient One's thoughts turned to the meaning of the 4th of July, reflections on independence and freedom and what is happening in the world today. Now I appreciate the flying of the flag, the wearing of lapel pins and all the patriotic speeches as much as anyone. But they are only the out trappings of freedom and patriotism. When I look at the level of intolerance around me in this country it seems that there is a disconnect between the outward symbols of patriotism and what so many of our citizens believe. Some examples.

When referenda are passed that take rights away from a minority of citizens, we hear that it must be honored because we are a democracy based upon majority rule. But those majoritarians forget the other half of the democratic principle that guarantees inalienable rights to everyone, including minorities, regardless of what the majority wants. The drafters of our constitution added a Bill of Rights for that reason although it took a long time for that ideal to start to take hold and it generally has been the judiciary that has had to take on the mantle of defining and protecting minority rights.

The Ancient One is similarly puzzled when our citizens and some political leaders insist that it is our destiny to impose their definition of democracy on other countries and cultures. It seems to me that the heart of America's own fight for independence was to reject having someone else's system of governing imposed on us. Our earliest settlers escaped persecution and came to a land where they could live their lives within their own belief systems. In a line in the play You Can't Take It With You, Grandpa tells his granddaughter, "who says that they're right and we're wrong." I might add that the reverse is equally true, "Who says that we're right and they're wrong."

The essence of America ideally is tolerance, respect for others and their way of life. We believe in freedom. I remember an old saying that "one man's freedom ends when his fist reaches another man's nose." It seems to The Ancient One that this should apply to other countries as well. We no more have the right to impose our system on other nations than they have in trying to impose their systems on us. The ability to live together in a complex world and respect those whose beliefs are different than ours is the essence of patriotism.

Okay, time to get off my soapbox and get back to my daily life.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Leon! "The essence of America ideally is tolerance, respect for others and their way of life." - Amen to that! Now if we could just find a way to instill this belief into all Americans, this would truly become the land of the free that we talk so much about.

savannah said...

Thank You, Leon, for another wonderful post! xoxoo

(I remember Marineland, too!)

Darlene said...

I agree with everything you so eloquently said, Leon. A very good reminder that, although we are a great country, we have lots to answer for.

I visited Marineland with my son and daughter when she was ten years old. She is now 49 so it was many moons ago. I didn't know that about the sea life being taken away. I hope they ended up in the Ocean or at Sea World.

Leon said...

Thank you SOPHIE, SAVANNAH and DARLENE for your comments. I wish I had taken some pictures to show you the vista from the resort. It was one of the things we loved about Marineland all those many years ago,