This is a 4th of July American love story straight from my heart. It doesn’t go where you might expect.
In 2014, I sold my controlling interest in the law firm I had created in 1990 and ran for state delegate because I was terrified by the emerging polarization of our country. I lost in a gerrymandered jurisdiction. I never had a chance.
As a child, I hitchhiked through 40 states and met strangers from endlessly different backgrounds and every walk of life.
Back then my rides often came from soldiers who had hitchhiked around the country themselves after the Second World War. They stopped their lives to offer me kindness with no thought of anything in return.
A ranking officer in a top-down convertible drove me into Paris Island, the US Marine training facility, because I could get a carton of Camel cigarettes for 15 cents a pack at the PX. The marching soldiers saluted the license plates as we entered and as he returned me to the road.
I came to understand the unspoken secrets of a country that preached justice and equality but had built its wealth with slave labor on stolen land.
Although we often agreed to disagree, my rides and I shared a national pride. This country had saved a dividing world from fascism and had recently passed legislation like the Civil Rights Act of ’64 in an attempt to correct our world at home.
As I traveled shotgun, I learned to listen. That was my job.
We talked and they would tell me about the joy and sadness and insecurity they could not tell their wives. I learned so much from them.
Every ride contained an unspoken understanding that we would never meet again.
The growing polarization that has been dividing us now for years has slowly broken my old hitchhiker’s heart.
This 4th of July, my children came home with their loved ones and their children. Last night, we decided to revisit an old movie which they loved to watch each year on the 4th: “The Sandlot.”
Because I’m deaf now, I sat in a chair up front facing the TV, my back to them, my face hidden from them as I looked up at the screen.
It is a baseball movie about kids growing up in the late ’50s or early ’60s. It is nothing but foolishness but it holds the beauty of a united America that believes in Babe Ruth, the innocence of juvenile behavior, and baseball as a national pastime and religion. James Earl Jones is the linchpin of redemption just because he is, not because it is politically correct.
Sitting with my children and their loved ones and their children behind me, I could cover up ever so gently my unexpected tears as they came.