America is a place of turmoil. While I was growing up in Newport Beach, there were TV stories of fire hoses spraying black people and race riots in Los Angeles. Then there was war in a place called Vietnam and my parents worried I would be called up and killed.
None of it was real until my friend Bob Gendron was killed. In high school, he had a blazing fastball and was scouted by the pros, but he enlisted instead and his helicopter was shot down.
Along the way, we’ve seen assassinations and attempted assassinations. The names are a blizzard. The presidents and would-be presidents spun through like a slot machine. The political machines came and went. King makers, self-proclaimed and smug with their arched expressions, said it all: only the spin mattered.
TV found “reality” except we all knew it was another sham with fabricated drama, but it saved us from real life, which was a bummer featuring a Supreme Court stealing a presidential election. Alongside it grew cable TV and hundreds of choices and the scattering of any so-called center.
Then the horror of 9/11 and the rush to another war, equally stupid and costly but this time outsourced along with the rest of the American employment dream. But hey, like Vietnam, the political establishment rolled over.
Then came the No Drama President who would bring us all together but once in office, he stood over in a corner waiting for us to come to him as though it was our duty. Jesus.
I should be sick of it all. I should be sick of red states and blue states and a United States that is so thoroughly dysfunctional high-tech companies — our growth engine — hire offshore because too many politicians are afraid of anti-immigration fools who preach racist cant.
So let me say one thing about being “neutral.” It sucks. Being “neutral” is for people who want to “fit in.” It is for Newport Beach wannabes who think they are slick. Hey dude, to get along, go along.
On this Fourth of July, I will be celebrating yet again our country’s founding. It was hardly clean. It was chaos in slow motion. There were too many variables and if you had a family to feed, what then? Consequently, it unfurled in a cauldron of uncertainty, want, draft dodgers and opportunists.
The turning point, the real beginning, came with the Second Continental Congress. It started meeting in May 1775. The Colonialists wanted to discuss their options. It did not end until more than a year later with the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. During the first sessions, only the radicals wanted war. They were shouted down. Most members wanted to find a way to re-embrace King George.
Finally though, it was emboldened by one man, George Washington. He had invented his own general’s uniform and had the majestic grandeur—indeed hubris—to wear it during sessions. There he strutted and announced in manner, words and absolute presence: I am not neutral.
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach. He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.