A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

Happy Fourth

Hi everyone,

Welcome and thank you to those several who signed up after, I assume, reading my review of Dax-Devlon Ross’s new book in Sunday’s Boston Globe. The piece went up online Thursday night; here’s my tweet about it.

I’m proud of this review, as it involved a tricky bit of criticism. I didn’t feel I could give the book an absolute rave, but it raised important issues that I wanted to foreground. I tried to do that by opening with an anecdote (one I’ve used in other pieces of writing), to demonstrate a connection with the book — and my distance from the experience of so many Black Americans.

That distance is still mostly unreckoned with. We can see it in the reaction to the Fox News bogeyman of Critical Race Theory, an academic lens with which kindergarteners across the country are not being outfitted.

The people making fools of themselves at school board meetings are mostly protesting the idea that their children won’t be given American history as they were — a parade of heroes now concluded.

To teach, instead, that the American ideal is not something we have kept alight since 1776 (or at least 1865), but is something that has in fact never been wholly attained and whose requires our constant attention and effort should be the bedrock of any civic education.

Trying to keep it short this week, and there are lots of places to read about this absolute waste of time, but a sentence from James Baldwin (writing in his case about desegregation) summed up my feelings on it neatly:

“This is a criminally frivolous dispute, absolutely unworthy of this nation; and it is being carried on, in complete bad faith, by completely uneducated people.”

But back to mythmaking: Music Poll! What’s the best song about the Fourth of July1?

There are hundreds of songs with “Fourth of July” in the title or name-checked in the lyrics. The finalists below are the first five I could think of off the top of my head. Vote for your favorite — or nominate an overlooked song! — in the comments below.

For me the L.A. punk band X is the frontrunner with this song by Dave Alvin.

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If you went to high school when I did (shout out to the Class of ‘97), you had this Nirvana album, which had this Meat Puppets cover:

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My daughter’s still at camp — and I also think she’s over Katy Perry — but this song is forever seared into my brain:

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Ever since first hearing this song on Kansas City’s 94.9 FM (Oldies 95), I’ve been chewing on the lyric: “I think it was the Fourth of July.” You think it was the Fourth of July? Might there have been any context clues to distinguish it from other park Saturdays?

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I’m legally obligated to include a Bruce Springsteen song on this list:

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With “Fourth of July” in the lyrics.