Memorial Day 2016

This Memorial Day weekend I am thinking about the men and women who died defending this great country of ours. Men and women from all races and religions. Immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants. Descendants of the Mayflower and descendants of the first immigrants who crossed the Bering Strait 12,000 years ago. They died for a dream – America is not about what America is now, but what America could be and what it is progressing toward.

American Liberty is messy. American rights are messy. We have the absolute right to say whatever we want, regardless of who is offended. We have the right to be a member of whatever religion we choose, whether others call it a “cult” or not. We have the right to practice no religion – no one will burn us at the stake because we don’t believe in God. We have the right to have firearms. We can even wear them in public. We have the right to shut up and not to be compelled to confess to a kangaroo court. Our free press is the most powerful in the world. We are the only country with the right to pursue happiness. Our rights are indeed holy – the Declaration itself declares that Americans’ rights are “endowed by their Creator.” And to an American, the ideas of curbing the press or putting people to religious tests are blasphemy.

Our rights are messy. Our democracy is messy. Our democracy has always been messy – Mark Twain complained about congress 150 years ago. We’ve had ballot-stuffing, dead men voting, machine politics since the Republic began. And yet we’re here. The Republic is still here.

Our men and women went to war knowing that our Union is imperfect. And yet they went anyway, and they died for the America as it is now, and for the America it will become.
There is no greater sacrifice. And I thank them and their families from the bottom of my heart.

Song of the Queen Bee

This poem by EB White was published in The New Yorker in 1945. This is one of my favorite poems — funny, but with stiletto-sharp social commentary.

SONG OF THE QUEEN BEE
EB White

“The breeding of the bee, says a United States Department of
Agriculture bulletin on artificial insemination, “has always
been handicapped by the fact that the queen mates in the air
with whatever drone she encounters.”

When the air is wine and the wind is free
And morning sits on the lovely lea
And sunlight ripples on every tree,
Then love in the air is the thing for me–
I’m a bee,
I’m a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee,
That’s me.

I wish to state that I think it’s great,
Oh, it’s simply rare in the upper air,
It’s the place to pair
With a bee.
Let old geneticists plot and plan,
They’re stuffy people, to a man;
Let gossips whisper behind their fan.
(Oh, she does?
Buzz, buzz, buzz!)

My nuptial flight is sheer delight;
I’m a giddy girl who likes to swirl,
To fly and soar
And fly some more,
I’m a bee.
And I wish to state that I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

There’s a kind of a wild and glad elation
In the natural way of insemination;
Who thinks that love is a handicap
Is a fuddydud and a common sap,
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy-free,
The test tube doesn’t appeal to me,
Not me,
I’m a bee.
And I’m here to state that I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

Let mares and cows, by calculating,
Improve themselves with loveless mating,
Let groundlings breed in the modern fashion,
I’ll stick to the air and the grand old passion;
I may be small and I’m just a bee
But I won’t have Science improving me,
Not me,
I’m a bee.
On a day that’s fair with a wind that’s free,
Any old drone is the lad for me.

I have no flair for love moderne,
It’s far too studied, far too stern,
I’m just a bee–I’m wild, I’m free,
That’s me.
I can’t afford to be too choosy;
In every queen there’s a touch of floozy,
And it’s simply rare
In the upper air
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

Man is a fool for the latest movement,
He broods and broods on race improvement;
What boots it to improve a bee
If it means the end of ecstasy?
(He ought to be there
On a day that’s fair
Oh, it’s simply rare
For a bee.)
Man’s so wise he is growing foolish,
Some of his schemes are downright ghoulish;
He owns a bomb that’ll end creation
And he wants to change the sex relation,
He thinks that love is a handicap,
He’s a fuddydud, he’s a simple sap;
Man is a meddler, man’s a boob,
He looks for love in the depths of a tube,
His restless mind is forever ranging,
He thinks he’s advancing as long as he’s changing,
He cracks the atom, he racks his skull,
Man is meddlesome, man is dull,
Man is busy instead of idle,
Man is alarmingly suicidal,
Me, I’m a bee.

I am a bee and I simply love it,
I am a bee and I’m darned glad of it,
I am a bee, I know about love:
You go upstairs, you go above,
You do not pause to dine or sup,
The sky won’t wait–it’s a long trip up;
You rise, you soar, you take the blue,
It’s you and me, kid, me and you,
It’s everything, it’s the nearest drone,
It’s never a thing that you find alone.
I’m a bee,
I’m free.

If any old farmer can keep and hive me,
Then any old drone may catch and wive me;
I’m sorry for creatures who cannot pair
On a gorgeous day in the upper air,
I’m sorry for cows who have to boast
Of affairs they’ve had by parcel post,
I’m sorry for man with his plots and guile,
His test-tube manner, his test-tube smile;
I’ll multiply and I’ll increase
As I always have–by mere caprice;
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy-free,
Love-in-air is the thing for me,
Oh, it’s simply rare
In the beautiful air;
And I wish top state
That I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.