How delightful: For the first time ever Country Thunder, a huge outdoor music festival, which has long played in just three states, is coming here to Calgary in mid-August. Yippee! And how nice that in mid-April I told a couple of older ladies of this, as I talked with them at the Country Thunder festival down in Arizona—and an hour later they excitedly told me they were coming up to the Calgary festival too! It’s a small world. And since one of the ladies uses a medical scooter, I’m sure I’ll see them in the disabilities section with my friend and me.
In Arizona they don’t have a disabilities section, but we were all in the very front row, on white plastic lawn chairs. A man who sees my friend with his father there every year came over to talk. From him I learned the two owners of Country Thunder are from Saskatchewan. The man had long hair, a Mad Hatter hat, and a detailed black T-shirt that said something on the back about veterans. He seemed Canadian; I didn’t ask; I know that thousands of Canadians served in Vietnam, with 69 killed there. Another man who came over to us had Vietnam Veteran written around the bill of his ball cap. According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, about 27,000 people attended daily.
What struck me was what other visitors to the U.S. have remarked on: the patriotism. To the average civilian here, a soldier is not set apart as a weird man from Mars, bizarrely risking death. No. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are brothers, sisters and cousins. And yes, the civilians would risk death too, to serve their country.
Now, according to one scenario, foreign natives are a hardy bunch who can march on a handful of rice a day, while Americans are spoiled and weak, lost without their couches and TV sets. Not so. Americans can fight. The reason they can fight better than the former Army of South Vietnam, or the current armies of Iraq and Afghanistan, comes down to motivation and “functioning.” (Not training) When an American crosses the wire to a base he is willing to sweat into shape and do what needs to be done. This while he knows his fellows are trying hard to be competent, and not be corrupt: Hence his ardor does not quickly fade or feel wasted.
It’s not rocket science: Even back in the days of Confucius we knew how to have a successful (functional) army: It has to be within a just (functional) society. The Chinese sage used to tell kings of small Chinese feudal-states that if they would give their peasants a fair deal then they would be unconquerable by any other king— But of course selfish oppressors have never been willing to embrace anything approaching democracy. Meanwhile, Americans come from a tradition where common farmers defeated the red coats of King George.
I never did see the face of a fan standing along the runway, (extended proscenium) his back to me, his T-shirt reading:
I once took a solemn oath
To defend the constitution
Against all enemies
Foreign and domestic
Be advised that no one
Has ever relieved me
Of my duties under this oath
I saw two middle-aged shorter-haired blond ladies in matching black T-shirts walk by me. I wonder if they worked on a base? I think I passed a couple little U.S. Marine bases near by, one for helicopters and one for a shooting range. The ladies’ shirts had a little globe and anchor on the front, for the U.S. Marines, and big letters on the back:
Pain is weakness leaving the body.
Many of the performers, during their chatting between songs, asked us to remember those in the service, and the police, firefighters and first responders.
The jolly man in a cowboy hat next to me had a T-shirt that read:
Rock of John
Praise to the Lord my rock
Who makes my hands for war
And my fingers for battle
There was a comic duo who often walked the runway during the half hour between acts (as the stage was being struck and reset) Once they had us stand for the national anthem; and yes, people put their right hands over their hearts.
After each group performed their final song the guitarists would often whip their guitar picks into the crowd. Once a lady came over and gave my friend a pick she had found on the ground from last year. Her T-shirt read:
What would Johnny Cash do?
Seated at the front, we could see people behind the fence below the stage, such as (with boxes to climb on) a movie cameraman, a county sheriff, and young lady: She looked like a wholesome confident “girl next door,” one of the festival staff I think, with a T-shirt for the Buckskin County Fire and Rescue, and fire academy #1. Her shirt pictured a high concrete dam, a river rescue boat, and scuba divers below. I loved the line at the bottom:
Best in the Dam County
In America the police see themselves as being nice and safe, honest and heroic. The festival was well staffed by Pinero County sheriffs in brown uniforms—one of them gave my friend a small sheriff’s badge; he made sure to wear it all festival. I was amused to see the police well festooned with special gear in special pockets. Perhaps because of needing to wear radio headphones with chin microphones, (loud music) all of the troopers had left off their usual Smoky the Bear (Boy Scout) hats.
In the second row sat an old man with a cane wearing a USMC T-shirt. Between acts, when the seats were mostly empty, I noticed him. He wheezed to his feet and shuffled over to the county sheriff by the fence. He simply shook the sheriff’s hand once, turned around, shuffled back and sat down.
God bless America.