As Candice and I were walking back from today’s July 4th parade in Takoma Park, we overheard two women—both wearing an “I Care Do U” sticker—talking about the diversity seen in this progressive enclave from the participants of this most all-American of holidays.

There’s your medical marijuana advocates, Christian evangelicals, 9/11 truthers, Republican and Democratic candidates for county executive, the First Panamanian Marching Band of Maryland, Doggie Washerette, the MAGA (Mobsters are Governing America) PAC, all the public works vehicles (love the lawn mower guy spinning around in circles), Boy and Girl Scouts, the Intergalactic Female Motorcycle Federation, the Silver Spring Yacht Club, and the Takoma Park Lesbians and Gays all mixed together.

And don’t forget about the Reel Mower Precision Drill Team.

Keep It Reel

The Takoma Park Reel Mower Precision Drill Team “Keeping It Reel”

There’s a lot of chatter in the right wing entertainment universe these days about political correctness shutting down free speech.  But today’s experience in Takoma Park shows that this narrative about the progressives not hearing from different voices isn’t necessarily true.  Everyone had their say, everyone was treated with respect (if some were treated a bit more enthusiastically than others), and it all happened in a celebratory, civil, and often humorous way.

MAGA meets Takoma Park

MAGA meets Takoma Park

I was thinking about this as I read Dana Milbank’s column in today’s Washington Post about the battle for freedom. Milbank notes that “Every 75 years or so in our history, Americans have renewed their commitment to freedom.” The first time was our Civil War.  That was followed some 75 years later by our emergence from the Great Depression and the entrance into WWII.  Now, we are just past 75 years from that fight, and Milbank notes that much of the country now fears the loss of basic freedoms as Americans.  In a call for us to rededicate ourselves to freedom, he includes:

“Freedom from…constant attacks on women, immigrants, people of color, gay people and Muslims.

Freedom to work and live without discrimination, harassment and violence because of your gender, race or religion.

Freedom to get medical care when you or your children are sick.

Freedom to earn a living wage, to attend college or get job training, and to retire in security.

Freedom from a rigged economy in which the top 1 percent own more than the bottom 90 percent combined.

Freedom to marry whom you choose.

Freedom to make decisions about your own body.

Freedom to send your kids to school without fear for their safety.

Freedom to breathe clean air, to drink clean water, to live on a habitable planet.

Freedom to elect your leaders without the rich, or foreign governments, choosing them for you.

And freedom to speak, to protest and to publish without the threat of violence.”

We’ve never been the country we—or our founders—imagined us to be.  But we can be dedicated to freedom and continue to push toward the type of country we hope to be.

Only in Takoma Park

Celebrating – and fighting for – freedom in Takoma Park

Happy July 4th.

More to come…



All the King’s Men…and the Health Care Debate

Broderick Crawford as Willie StarkOn Saturday of our vacation it rained hard all day as the remnants of Hurricane Bill sent showers our way.  With no opportunity for biking or canoeing, Candice and I pulled out the 1949 Academy Award winning movie All the King’s Men starring Broderick Crawford and settled in for an afternoon with Willie Stark, Sadie Burke, and Jack Burden.

I had a high school English teacher who loved Southern literature, so my first introduction to this powerful Robert Penn Warren novel came early in life.  I’ve read it on several occasions since then but it has been a long time since I’ve revisited the tale of political idealism gone wrong.  Seeing the movie – which won Best Movie, a Best Actor award for Crawford and a Best Supporting Actress award for Mercedes McCambridge as Sadie Burke – was a timely reminder that demagoguery is part of the American experience and not something new as part of the current health care debate.

Willie has many memorable lines in the movie.  One that I’ve always remembered is Stark’s cynical line when he pushes Jack Burden to go find some dirt on the Judge:

Jack, there’s something on everybody. Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption. He passes from the stink of the dydie to the stench of the shroud. There’s ALWAYS something.

But what hit me this time was Willie’s line to the effect that “If you yell loud enough and long enough, people will believe its true.”  In today’s current “debate” on health care, that seems to be the operative approach.  Yelling and shouting to drown out conversation can come in many forms. We’re all familiar with the nonsense that’s been orchestrated at the town halls.  But I also recall seeing Betsy McCaughey – the originator of the sham that the health care bill creates death panels (Palin’s words, not hers) – on The Daily Show earlier this week.  While Jon Stewart answered and undercut every one of her arguments, she just kept saying “I’m right and he’s wrong.”  No debate.  (For an interesting history lesson, read John Buntin’s story in today’s Washington Post about how big government once shut down death panels – which were set up by hospitals – just a few short decades ago.)

Of course, not all falsehood and demagoguery comes from one political party.  In the novel, Warren has Jack explain the more complicated realities of life:

And what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good and bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.

All the King’s Men. Still worth a read or a viewing during these most curious times.

More to come…