Garrison Keillor is an author and radio personality.
It’s enlightening to see that Brits can be just as dense as anyone else, especially for us old Anglophiles who venerate the dropped R, the broad A, the lift, the loo, the brolly, the banger and that ridiculous game in which the pitcher throws a bad pitch and the batter swings a shovel at it and runs the wrong way. Because the Brits produced Shakespeare and Sir Winston and “Pomp and Circumstance” and “I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,” we assumed they would do the right thing and then they go and cut off their nose to spite their face and vote to pull out of the European Union, a real shot in the foot. It’s like watching the bishop drop the baby in the baptismal font.
And will we be next? The Trumpster went around banging his dishpan, whooping it up for ignorance and superstition, and if he triumphs, then there goes Texas. Ted Cruz will restore the old Republic where citizenship can be restricted to the righteous and the cleanly and the Ten Commandments can be enacted into law and stoning can be a deterrent to heresy. And then goodbye, Kingdom of Vermont and Prince Bernie.
If it happened there, it can happen here. The embittered granddads outvoted the ambitious young, the old soaks at the Cock ’N’ Bull struck a blow for stupidity, and now cadres of suits and wingtips will have to negotiate a way out of the mess. Because you can’t vote Britain out of Europe any more than you can vote Minnesota into Tuscany. Britain is part of Europe. Twenty miles from Dover to Calais. Old fat men run farther than that in marathons. The death toll from European nationalism in the 20th century was upward of a hundred million souls. From carnage came the Union. You cannot go back to the plumed helmets of 1914.
Anyway. Now we shall turn to celebrating our Amerexit of 1776.
The Glorious Fourth honors the politicians who met in Philadelphia in 1776 and voted for a seditious document back when treason was punished by hanging and evisceration. Jefferson wrote the words and all of them thought long and hard about the gallows and wrote their names.
It ended well. Gen. Washington, with generous help from Gen. Rochambeau’s army and the French navy, cornered Cornwallis in Yorktown, and the Revolution triumphed. (Unfortunately, my ancestors in colonial Connecticut and Rhode Island were Loyalists and wound up impoverished in Nova Scotia, but never mind us. Had the British won, we would be living in splendor — or “splendour” — on vast country estates sipping French cognac, but don’t cry for us.) The Glorious Fourth honors the ill-trained, poorly equipped ragtag Continental Army that survived loss after loss and a high desertion rate, and in the end prevailed. And what came of their stubborn heroism was a democratic republic that has raised a beacon of humanism in this dark world. Against authoritarian empires, some of them evil, we have survived our own mistakes, our lack of discipline, our distraction by the horseflies of social media, and we stand today, as great as ever we were, despite the boys in the red caps, and with God’s help may our children repair the worst of our mistakes, our neglect of public schools, our cruel penal system, and so forth.
There is a new generation coming of age that is not so interested in race, sexual identity, ethnic origin, religion, all the hot buttons that demagogues have successfully pushed for years. While Britain tries to build back the old walls, the Northern Irish can join up with the Republic of Ireland and thereby rejoin the E.U., as they evidently wish to do.
That would be something to behold. Decades of sectarian violence, so brutal in our time, the bombings and assassinations, the children of Belfast raised amid hatred of Them vs. Us, can become a faded chapter of history, read with casual indifference, just as we enjoy reading about the Battle of Gettysburg. The demagogues who stoked the fires, the aging adolescents who stalked each other in the streets, the blind hatred, already is yielding to the lovely bourgeois idea of the peaceful life, the graceful home, supper in the back yard, no gunfire, nobody throwing stones. And so it goes.
Don’t give up hope. The Trumpists shall pass. God save America.
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