Aesop (620–564 BC.) was a slave in ancient Greece who told morality tales. Aesop’s fables generally used irony and experiences from everyday life to illustrate their lessons. Negro spirituals provided the same type of psychological relief for slaves in America. Each Fourth of July as we celebrate our country’s freedom from Great Britain in 1776 we honor the principles of democracy handed down to us by those brilliant and courageous ancient Greeks. But the Greeks from c. 2500 years ago and our Founders from 245 years ago were seeking a perfect society, not establishing one.
Athena was claimed to have sprung full-grown from the mind of Zeus and the United States is often claimed to have been born free and equal when we adopted our constitution. However, the goddess of justice and justice in America were ideals not reality. We know there is more work to do and we are doing it. Independence Day celebrations are a good time to reflect on the hard work remaining.
Each Fourth of July our family, probably much as your family Gentle Reader, get together to renew and reminisce. This year we are gathering at the Constantine Theater in Pawhuska, Oklahoma on July 16 and 17 during the wonderful Cavalcade Rodeo event. Shirley (Smith) Redwine has graced our family for well over half a century after she competed as a queen contestant and barrel racer in the Cavalcade. You can see her in the painting she created. You go Cowgirl!
Shirley’s husband and our eldest sibling, C.E. Redwine, is a wonderful professional musician and is coordinating a family jam session at the Constantine. We will have saxophone, ukulele and guitar players of various persuasions as well as singers and talkers. We will not pay you to attend nor will you have to pay to come visit with Pawhuska High School graduates from 1954, 1955, 1960 and 1961 on July 17th from 2-4 p.m.
This same group got together at the Constantine in 2011 when we showed the movie we made of my historical novel JUDGE LYNCH!. That horrific tale of injustice and its brand-new sequel Unanimous for Murder involve the legacy of slavery, segregation and integration in Posey County, Indiana and Osage County, Oklahoma. Those sad stories also involve an Aesop-type irony from 2011. It reminds me of the bittersweet years when we had Colored Folks and White People.
When Peg and I wrote JUDGE LYNCH! I borrowed, with his prior permission, the name of one of my childhood friends. Travis Finley is a sports legend, minister and former Pawhuska City Councilman. I used his name for a character in JUDGE LYNCH! When we returned to Pawhuska from New Harmony, Indiana in 2011 to show the movie we made we invited Travis and his wife Edna to attend the premier. As I was up on the stage of the Constantine explaining the book and movie, I looked out in the audience to find Travis and Edna; they were not visible. After my introduction I searched the downstairs of the theater then went to the balcony. There, just the two of them, sat Edna and Travis. I went up to them and said, “What are you doing up here?” They reminded me of what America has been and what it was meant to be when they answered, “When we were kids we weren’t allowed to sit downstairs so now we don’t want to. Besides, you can see better from up here.”
Happy birthday, America. Let’s keep perfecting!