Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet
About a month ago we were photographing at an event in Jefferson, TX, the Route 49 Motorcycle Rally. It was a fun event. Set nicely in a gorgeous location right on the bayou with some beautiful bikes and really nice people. We were focused on photographing folks with their bikes, and had set up what we felt were two really nice backgrounds for the bikes. One was a simple tree stump with our life size eagle on it, situated with a lovely section of Cypress Bayou in the background. The other was an 8’ x 10’ American flag. We would take a shot of the riders on their bikes in front of each background and we got some great shots. About half way through the day Saturday a gentleman came up with his bike wanting photographs so I went into an explanation of what we were offering. When I was done he smiled and said let’s do the bayou one, but I don’t know about the American flag. His answer took me by surprise because most of the bikers had been just the opposite, and without thinking I asked him why. ”Obama,” he said, without hesitating. “I don’t much like Barak Obama.”
“But Obama’s not America.” was my instinctive reply. He thought about it a minute, then agreed to take shots with both backgrounds. But the conversation stuck with me long after he left and has been on my mind ever since.
When I was a kid growing up the concept of what America is was clear in my mind and has remained so throughout my life. The foundation of this country is noble and the principals it has always stood for are good. In my mind, the essence of America is individual freedom, justice and the right of every person to choose for themselves what path they want to follow with their life. The concept of America is based on the innate goodness and intelligence of each and every American, and the concept that each of us is capable of being the guiding force for our own life. Our constitution was designed to allow us to decide what is best for us individually without having someone else decide that for us. And for it to work we must be willing to accept the consequences of our decisions, whether good or bad. It expects us to actually act like grownups.
America is a country “of the people” and sometimes people make mistakes. Not everything we do in this country, not all of the choices we make, are right. And like most families sometimes we bicker and disagree with each other. Sometimes, in spite of everything, we fall flat on our face and have to start fresh. We’re all human – it happens. But in spite of our fallible nature, 230 years after its founding America remains a beacon of hope for many around the world. To them it represents the opportunity to rise above their current circumstances and build a prosperous future for themselves and their children, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background.
Strangely enough, it’s often Americans themselves who appreciate this least. It becomes a case of familiarity breeding contempt. We are so accustomed to having these freedoms that we take them for granted. They become something we see as just a part of our daily lives rather than as a privilege paid for with the blood, sweat and sacrifice of those who came before us.
When I was a kid there was an ad on TV for Chevrolet cars. It got a lot of play around the 4th of July every year and I imagine it was a pretty successful campaign for Chevy Motor Company. The primary thing I remember about it was one line out of the jingle. It went “Hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” implying those were symbolic of America and the American way of life. It was very catchy concept, catchy enough that 50 years later it still pops into my mind whenever I think about the 4th of July. But there needs to be other things that come into remembrance as well, like freedom, justice, diversity and opportunity. Because of their intangible nature these are not quite as easy to hang onto so sometimes we latch onto things that seem a little more concrete such as the president or his administration. Then when we end up with a president who is more controversial or one we personally disagree with we tend to associate America as a whole with that individual. Thus the initial response of the biker at the Motorcycle Rally in Jefferson.
America is not just one person, even if that person is the U.S. President. It’s not even one group of people such as the Senate or House of Representatives. They do not define us. If anything, as representatives of the will of the people “We the people” should define them. But when we become so complacent or narrowly focused that we lose sight of the whole we are at the greatest risk of losing what we value most – our freedom as individuals to choose. For that reason it’s important for us to remember who and what America is and what it represents.
We have a country we can and should be proud of. I for one intend to spend my 4th of July this year celebrating everything my country means to me. I have lived overseas and even with a leading nation like Germany, it was a nice place to visit but I was happy to come home, back to the good old USA. Even with all our faults, I wouldn’t trade it for any other country in the world. I’m proud to be an American and you should be as well.
Written By: Patricia Hart, President
All Rights Reserved – Southern Moon Photography, LLC - July 1, 2014
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