"Liberty is their destination.
Born first thing in the morning, one day on
The fourth of July 1776."
— Poet Chris Lane
"He's a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
a Yankee Doodle do or die.
A real live nephew of his uncle Sam,
born on the 4th of July."
— From the 1941 musical, "Babes on Broadway"
"I was born on the fourth of July
No one more loyal than I
When my country said so, I was ready to go,
And I wish I'd been left there to die..."
— From the Tom Paxton song about a paralyzed
Vietnam War veteran
"John McCain. When you say that you want to
stay in Iraq for 100 years, are you counting on Alex? Because you
can't have him."
— Baby Alex's mother in MoveOn.org ad
Two days later, and my son Lance would have been born on the 4th of
July, 1964. Setting aside the usual cheapness of the MoveOn.org shot, I
can relate to all the above.
During the 1960s, my concern was that Red China now had "the bomb." I
was afraid the United States would be fighting China with her huge
advantage in numbers for conventional war, while we no longer had the
advantage in nuclear war.
Would China be as deterred by the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)
strategy as Russia was? Would Lance be forced to grow up in a mindless
Chinese communist "cultural revolution?" Mao Tse-tung, you can't have
I'd have said when he was 4: "You can't have him either, Lyndon Johnson,
with your military draft and undeclared war that you aren't fighting to
win. Unless," I would have added, "he chooses to go, like his father" —
a professional military man who was serving on a Navy carrier that year.
I loved the Navy, was proud of my husband's voluntary service; but had
my son been of draft age, I would have been marching in the streets with
college students against Lyndon Johnson's mismanaged war.
Of course, I'd have had this opportunity to stand up to the government
because of all the baby boys who grew up to fight in World War II, who
didn't want their baby boys and girls like me to live under Nazi rule.
I don't know if the war in Iraq, specifically, is going to keep my
grandchildren from living in a radical Muslim world; but whether in Iraq
or elsewhere, our country has to take on its enemies and win. If John
McCain is more likely than his opponent to protect the freedoms of
little Alex — and my Aidan and Mariah — he'll have my vote in November.
I was lucky. Lance came of age between wars, and I never had to go
through what the mothers of American warriors have gone through since
the first shot fired at Lexington and are still going through today. He
lives in a free America, thanks to so many giant sacrifices.
He and I enjoy arguing. Because my daughter-in-law does not, we debate
on vacation drives to the airport when she is not along.
But things have changed since the twins turned 7. This year, in the
middle of a lively discussion, a small voice drifted up from the back
seat: "Dad, why are you and Gram yelling?" And the other small voice:
"Daddy, you're not supposed to use that word (about Dick Cheney)."
Hey, get used to it, kids; the world is a confrontational place. But
actually, your father and I both take more adversarial positions when we
argue than we actually have, just from habit — which seems to be partly
based on partisanship that began when he decided to vote Democrat while
I continued to vote Republican. And we are not the only ones doing a
knee-jerk partisan thing, are we?
When we both calm down, we find we agree somewhere in the middle of most
issues. With the presidential campaign from hell scheduled for this
fall, what if we all ignored what the parties tell us is important, and
think instead about what really concerns us?
On the subject of war: Leaving politics out of it, don't we all want
freedom for ourselves and our descendants? Most Americans recognize that
this freedom must sometimes be fought for, at great cost to the patriot
warriors and their families. But some wars are more clearly defensive
and essential than others. Except when bombs are raining down on Pearl
Harbor, patriotic citizens can disagree on U.S. involvement.
While it seems to be mostly liberal Democrats who protest wars, it was
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who warned about "the
military-industrial complex." If we all started calling ourselves
independents, maybe we could have an intelligent discussion about the
"war on terror" during the fall campaign instead of a partisan "foolfest"
led by MoveOn.org and its "Armageddon is Us" equivalent on the right.
As we celebrate Independence Day, this is a good week to decide to be
united in support of defensive wars that have liberty as their
destination — because anything other than liberty must be unthinkable to
But we might also consider that our government may not necessarily have
our freedom as its first priority either, anymore.