Advertisement

The leaders we need

July 5, 2021

We all knew a kid in school who just had to run everything. Remember the classmate who insisted on picking the games you’d all play at recess, where you’d go after school, even who was “in” or “out” of your group? In high school, that kid had a compulsive need to be the leader of every student organization. You just wanted to say, “Hey! You’re not the boss of me!” Whatever happened to those kids? I wouldn’t be surprised if most ended up in government. We certainly have no shortage of people there who think they know how to live your life and spend your paycheck better than you do.

I’m convinced the world is divided into people who just want to live their own lives and those who, for some reason, have an uncontrollable urge to tell everyone else how to live. Unfortunately, to that latter group, government seems like the ideal place to work, and at the moment, they are getting 99.9% of all the attention from the media. As more of them gravitated toward government, Congress abdicated much of its legislating authority to unelected bureaucrats. Their bureaus grew like kudzu, and so did their regulations with the force of law (but no input from the people.) Then one day, we looked up and discovered we had a crushing national debt and were paying huge salaries to an army of people who enforce how big your soda should be and who couldn’t be fired and who is allowed to come into your daughter’s locker room. That’s when sane people realized that government is the LAST place these out-of-control control freaks needed to be.

The temptation for government to overreach is hardly new. In fact, it stretches back to the beginning of recorded history, and I bet even earlier than that. There’s a story in the ninth chapter of the book of Judges in the Old Testament about Gideon’s son Abimelech, who craved leadership and stature - not to serve the people but to control them and make them serve him. He said, “Give me dominion over your lives, and I will simplify your existence.” Wow, does that sound familiar? It’s basically the entire 2020 Democratic platform. Our government has taken us pretty far down that same road, but does your life seem any simpler -- or just a lot less free?

Anyway, back to Abimelech. He had a very smart younger brother, Jotham, who came up with a clever tale about three trees: an olive tree, a fig tree, and a vine tree. All three were fine trees that produced lots of fruit. All were offered the exalted position of “King Of All Trees,” but all three turned it down. The plant that wanted to be “King Of All Trees” was the bramble bush, a weak plant that produces no fruit at all. Jotham’s point was that only the weak and nonproductive have the desire to rule everyone else. Does that lesson not resonate like a gong right now?

When anyone aspires to a position of power, take a long, hard look. If that person seemingly crawled out of the cradle with an ambition to be President, then beware! Anytime someone talks about “running the country,” alarm bells should sound. No one – not the President, not Congress, no one person – “runs the country” or should aspire to. That’s why the Founders took such pains to divide and limit federal power, and why we need to reinstate those limits that have been blurred in recent years, whether by Presidents ruling via executive order or out-of-control judges legislating from the bench or unelected bureaucrats abusing their power to try to influence the results of elections. If we allow any one person or entity to ignore those limits and assume the power to run everything, we won’t be able to stop them when they run America into the ground.

We should pick leaders who resemble the trees in the Bible story that don’t need or crave power but that have shown they bear good fruit. As it is said, by their fruits ye shall know them. Government has more than enough nuts already.

Leadership 101

July 5, 2021

Pundits on the left still puzzle and argue over how Donald Trump could have been elected and why he has such strong support. They would know if they’d read my book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” which was published shortly before Trump even entered politics. It explained how the elites of politics, academia and the media had sealed themselves into such an airtight echo chamber, they had no idea what the mysterious natives of that vast “flyover country” that they looked down on, literally and figuratively, were thinking.

What they were thinking was that they were fed up to the gills with a two-tiered system that gave the politically-connected a pass for things that would land them under the jail. They were sick of being ignored and insulted for voicing legitimate complaints about how their lives were being adversely affected by government policies, disregard for the Constitution and selective enforcement of laws. They were tired of being called racists or xenophobes or immigrant-haters if they thought the welfare of suffering Americans, such as homeless veterans or people put out of work by illegal immigrant labor, should take priority over solving the problems of everyone else in the world.

And on a visceral level, they were tired of the grating combination of ignorance and arrogance (a trait we’ve recently seen turned up to 11 since Democrats have retaken power.) It’s that condescending attitude of elitists (politicians, Hollywood stars, news media figures, Silicon Valley tech/social media denizens) who are convinced they are the smartest people in the room – so smart, in fact, that their ideas are the only ones that should be allowed to be expressed -- even though the results of their ideas throughout history prove that they don’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about. They think they know how to run the entire planet, but have fewer practical skills than the average apprentice plumber.

The poster boy for arrogant ignorance was New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, whose brief, doomed presidential bid was exemplified by his clueless claim that all it takes to be a farmer is to throw some seeds in the dirt, add water, and “up comes the corn.” Down went DeBlasio, and for good reason. He proved he knew even less about being a farmer than he does about being a mayor.

During the Obama years, a lot of young leftist wonks with massive egos sailed triumphantly into Washington only to go slinking back to academia after seeing their precious theories shatter on the rocks of reality. Yet since then, they’ve learned nothing and become even more cocksure of themselves and the inevitability of their failed socialist ideas. Now, they’re back in Washington and watching those ideas fail even faster and more spectacularly. So what can all those Ivy League hothouse flowers learn about problem-solving from a lowly former Arkansas governor and business owner?

Well, the most important tip I could offer is this: Very big problems are usually not solved with very big solutions. A 2000-page bill or a massive ten-year “plan” like the Green New Deal only creates a whole new set of problems. If you want to turn a problem into a catastrophe, the recipe is simple: just add lots and lots of bureaucrats and taxpayer money.

When you have a big problem, Step #1 is to break it down into little problems. Then put someone in charge of each problem who actually knows how to solve it. It takes an experienced, executive decision-maker just to decide which decisions to make and which ones can be safely left to someone else. (This is something that doesn’t require political experience; anyone who’s ever run a successful business knows it instinctively.)

Next comes the hardest part: prioritizing. We’ve all seen executives who are constantly bustling and shouting. They look busy – some people are even impressed by their constant bustling -- but they never really get anything done. That’s because they’re trying to do everything at once, instead of focusing on issues in their order of importance.

I’ll let you in on another secret: the importance of an issue is not determined by how important the people closest to it think it is. You might have to disappoint or even anger people by telling them their pet issue isn’t your top priority. Sorry, that’s part of the job.

I once had a professor of religion who said one of the wisest things I ever heard about management: “Don’t use all your water to put out too small a fire.” If you use up all your resources and credibility overreacting to a small crisis, then what do you do when a big crisis comes along and your fire extinguisher is empty? (We’re seeing this a lot in the media these days, when every little controversy becomes a hair-on-fire CRISIS, and every piece of fake news becomes a “BOMBSHELL SCANDAL,” and then gets dropped the second the next one comes along. All this has accomplished is to erode their own credibility.)

Another essential skill is choosing the right employees. If you have important jobs to fill, find people who’ve mastered every aspect of their current job and are happy there, but ready to move up. Someone who wants a promotion because he’s not comfortable where he is won’t be any more comfortable higher up.

You also don’t need an idealistic dreamer who leaps in from academia to reinvent the wheel. Advanced degrees and high grades in school are admirable, but often, real world experience and common sense are far more valuable. When you need to put out a fire, you call a firefighter, not a Ph.D. in combustion theory. When you’re dealing with violent rioters, you need cops, not sociology majors (as shocking as that might seem to certain blue city politicians.) And as we learned from the FBI and the Mueller team, you don’t put people in charge who let partisan zeal prejudice the way they do their jobs or deal with the public.

That’s what you should learn on day one of “Leadership 101.” So how come so many of our leaders, and those jockeying to become our leaders, still haven’t learned it?

I’ve been astounded recently by the way the left has been so successful at using the phrase “hate speech” and the fear of school shootings to convince young people to demand that their own First and Second Amendment rights be taken away.

Somehow, they have managed to bamboozle a large slice of the young generation into simultaneously believing that they are wise and mature enough to start voting and even writing laws at 16; yet they are so childish and irresponsible, they can’t be trusted to touch a firearm until they’re 21, or to hear an opposing opinion without rushing to a safe space to cuddle a puppy and schmoosh Play-Doh.

When young people don’t know their rights, where those rights came from, and how much was sacrificed to secure them, it’s easy to convince them to trade them away for empty promises of comfort and security. This is the basis of all those quotes warning not to sell your birthright for a mess of pottage, a bit of advice so ancient and universal that it dates back to Esau in Genesis 25: 29-34. But leftists are still counting on young people not knowing it (no wonder they want to ban the Bible from schools.)

These days, students are taught an ugly, twisted and totally negative perversion of American history. They’re taught to hate their own magnificent heritage, and they don’t learn the most basic facts (or even what the word “pottage” means), let alone all the great stories you discover when you dig into real American history. This seems like the perfect week for a lesson in how America came to be born. And I’ll try to put it into terms they can relate to.

Maybe – possibly – today’s students vaguely recognize the name Paul Revere (although they might believe he was a slave trader. I certainly doubt they had to memorize the poem, the way we did.) But how many know there was another heroic midnight rider who warned that the British were coming, only this one was a teenage girl from Duchess County, New York?

She’s just one of many American heroes that kids don’t learn about because modern textbooks scrub history of everything interesting or inspiring in favor of leftist social and political agendas that downgrade America. They depict it as a land of nothing but racism and oppression, not as a land where people of goodwill have struggled and sacrificed for generations, constantly working to improve things by establishing justice, securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity and creating a “more perfect union” (in the original foundational document, the writers made it clear that nothing’s perfect, but we would strive always to keep working together toward perfection.)

Kids, American history is not a list of personal grievances against people who’ve been dead for 200 years. It’s everything that ever happened to everyone before you came on the scene. Seek it out. Trust me: it can be pretty interesting, and you can actually learn things from it.

For instance: listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of…Sybil Ludington? As the oldest of 11 children, Sybil had to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age. She was barely 16 on the night of April 26, 1777. She had just tucked all her siblings into bed when, suddenly, there came an urgent knock at the door. It was a messenger, coming to warn her father, Col. Henry Ludington, that British troops were invading.

His troops weren’t expecting an attack and were scattered all over the countryside. Gathering them meant a dangerous ride over pitch-black roads, through enemy soldiers, wild animals, and hostile Indians (sorry: “Indigenous Peoples.”) Understandably, the messenger refused an order to go. But Sybil volunteered. Her father protested, but she pointed out that only she knew where all his men lived. As any father of a strong-willed daughter (especially one named Sybil!) will recognize, he’d long since learned that arguing with her was futile. So Sybil mounted up and rode off.

It was a rainy night. The British had already set nearby Danbury, Connecticut, on fire, and the flames cast an eerie, red glow on the fog. It spurred Sybil on as she galloped from house to house, banging on doors and shouting that the British were coming. According to legend, at one point, a highway robber tried to intercept Sybil, but she raised her father’s musket and sent him running. Yet another reason why teenagers should think twice before demanding that the Second Amendment be taken away from them.

By dawn, Sybil and her horse were cold, wet and exhausted. She’d roused over 400 troops, who joined the Battle of Ridgefield and helped drive the British all the way back to Long Island Sound. Gen. Washington personally honored Sybil for her heroism.

Today, there are historic markers all along her route, and statues of her in New York and Washington (if they haven’t been torn down by historical illiterates.) But I’ll bet most young people never even heard of Sybil Ludington, a teenager much like them, except she knew what really happened during the American Revolution. Maybe it’s because nobody wrote a famous poem about her midnight ride -- even though her ride was over twice as long as Paul Revere’s. Let’s hope someone turns her story into a hip-hop musical.

Fourth of July Jukebox

July 4, 2021

I know many of you will be playing patriotic songs this weekend, everything from “God Bless the USA” to “California Girls” to “Living In America.” But I thought you might like to expand your patriotic party playlist to include some songs that you don’t hear too often, or ever. Some were hits that don’t get played much anymore, others are obscure singles and album cuts, but all will make you proud to be an American. You can make a Spotify playlist or use the YouTube links below.

 

 

From our “Huckabee” musical guests:

Some of our “Huckabee” guests have blessed us with terrific new patriotic songs, and here are two recent examples. Country legend Clint Black performed a new song he wrote with Steve Wariner called “America (Still in Love With You),” and you can hear him perform it with Tre Corley and the Music City Connection right here:

 

https://youtu.be/ULdyopjYM6o

 

We had the astonishing George W. Bush impressionist John C. Morgan on recently. He’s also a singer/musician, and he has a new song out to counter all the efforts to divide Americans on racial lines. It’s called “America…My Brother and Me,” and you can catch the video here:

 

https://youtu.be/afjFsPxr-iI

 

Now on to some oldies but goodies…

 

“Johnny Freedom” – Johnny Horton

Johnny Horton’s career was cut short at age 35 in a tragic car crash. But he left behind a legacy of great songs, many inspired by historical events, such as “Sink the Bismarck” and the immortal “Battle of New Orleans” (which inspired the hilarious Homer & Jethro parody, “The Battle of Kookamonga.”) You can learn more about American history from Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits than you can from a public high school these days. Here’s a patriotic Horton tune for the 4th that you might not know, “Johnny Freedom.”

https://youtu.be/612iJ_YFp0E

 

 

“The Americans” – Gordon Sinclair

Gordon Sinclair was one of the most unlikely recording stars of all time. A Canadian writer/reporter, he was so annoyed in 1973 at hearing that the Red Cross was out of funds, he wrote an editorial about all that America does for the world. He didn’t think it was anything special, but public reaction was overwhelming. WWDC-AM in Washington, DC, started playing a reading of it with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in the background, which inspired the release of Sinclair’s own recording, a 45 on Avco under the title, “The Americans (A Canadian's Opinion.)” All proceeds went to the Red Cross. It rose to #24 on the charts, making Sinclair, at 73, the second-oldest artist ever to make the Billboard Top 40, behind 75-year-old Moms Mabley’s “Abraham, Martin and John.” It was revived for a bit after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrinia, but it needs to be heard again now.

https://youtu.be/z4i3LmR0K74

By the way, you might be more familiar with this version by Byron MacGregor of CKLW radio, which got higher on the charts. It was an unauthorized version that Sinclair wasn’t happy about. Still, the sentiments can’t be repeated too many times.

https://youtu.be/z4i3LmR0K74

 

 

“Back In The USA” – Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers

Everyone loves Chuck Berry’s classic original that lists all the cool things we've got here in the USA, but this low-fi version is one of my favorite records of all time. Linda Ronstadt had the hit, but I always thought hers was kinda stiff. This version captures the freedom of playing in a garage band with your friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon as hamburgers sizzle on the grill nearby. It’s so spontaneous, you can hear Jonathan turning off-mic and directing the band as he goes along. This is just over two minutes of the pure joys, large and small, of being an American. If you can listen to this without smiling, I don’t want to know you.

https://youtu.be/c32QoKNW2Pw

 

And for the purists, here’s Chuck Berry’s original. This actually has 10 thumbs-down on YouTube. I assume they’re all communists:

https://youtu.be/XVukAcLqHFI

 

 

“Paul Revere” – Johnny Cash

How can we salute America in song without including the man who is known as the voice of America, Johnny Cash? So much to pick from (the obvious choice might be “Ragged Old Flag”), but here’s a cool obscurity from his 1970 LP, “America: A 200-Year Salute in Story and Song.”

The album covers everything from the Revolution to the Space Age, including songs about the Alamo (whose defenders were HEROES!!!), the Gettysburg Address and possibly the only song you’ll ever hear about the assassination of President James Garfield. It’s all great, but for this week, what could be more appropriate than Johnny Cash singing the story of Paul Revere?

https://youtu.be/yiVw8OSUFBI

 

 

“Rockin’ In The USA” – KISS

Typically for KISS, the lyrics aren’t very profound, but they make the indisputable though grammatically-puzzling point that there’s nowhere else you’d rather stay than rockin’ in the US. If you’re surprised that these shock rockers would do something so unabashedly patriotic, then you probably didn’t know that Gene Simmons is an Israeli immigrant, the son of a concentration camp survivor, and very grateful to America for his success as a music entrepreneur.

https://youtu.be/j7vdL6MLOis

 

 

“America, Why I Love Her” by John Wayne and “Pledge of Allegiance” by Red Skelton

Since these are both patriotic recitations by beloved 20th century showbiz giants, I thought I’d make them a two-fer.

The iconic 1973 album “America, Why I Love Her” by John Wayne has its own chapter in my book about celebrity records, “Hollywood Hi-Fi.” There are other celebrity connections as well: the words were written by John Mitchum, the actor/writer brother of Robert Mitchum, and the idea of Wayne recording it came from Forrest Tucker ("F Troop.")

Mitchum had a role in Wayne’s 1970 movie “Chisum,” and during a break, he read his co-stars his tribute to the US military, “Why Are You Marching, Son?” Wayne was moved to manly tears, and Tucker said if he liked it that much, why didn’t he do something about it? So on a handshake deal (more binding than a contract when it’s the Duke’s mighty handshake), they agreed to make an album.

It took Wayne three years to finish the recording (he’d lost a lung due to his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit), but the results were worth it. The LP of patriotic recitations sold 100,000 copies in its first two weeks, scored a Grammy nomination, inspired a companion book, and became a hit all over again when it was reissued after Wayne’s death in 1979. It finally fell out of print, but a revival of interest after 9/11 helped Mitchum’s daughter finally get it rereleased on CD. The entire album is now available 24/7 on YouTube, Amazon and other digital platforms.

I particularly wanted to share this on the 4th of July because of the recent whining from the snowflake brigade about some non-PC things Wayne said in the early 1970s. The Duke is the only deceased star to rank in the Harris Poll of America's Top 10 most popular movie stars every year, even 40 years after his death. The crybullies think they can cancel John Wayne. That’ll be the day!  

https://youtu.be/j5ZGz7h0epU

On January 14, 1969, Red Skelton performed a recitation that he wrote himself on his CBS variety show, “The Red Skelton Hour,” which you can now stream on Amazon Prime when the current TV offerings seem as funny as a root canal. It relates how a beloved teacher once explained the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to his class. Trivia: The backing music is titled “Red’s White and Blue March” and is one of Red’s many compositions.

After it aired, CBS was flooded with 200,000 requests for copies, and a month later, it was released on a Columbia 45. Red performed it for the rest of his life, including at the White House for the newly-inaugurated President Nixon. It has become an American classic and been used as a teaching tool for many years by schools that aren’t afraid of being sued for exposing students to the words “Under God” or, now, even saying the Pledge of Allegiance.   

https://youtu.be/hJNL_rhGDq4

 

 

“What Is America To Me” – Frank Sinatra

In case you’ve never seen it, this is a link to "The House I Live In," the entire 10-minute short film that this song came from (it begins at the 6:45 mark, for those with Internet-shortened attention spans.) This film was produced at the end of World War II to help fight anti-Semitism, and perhaps should still be required viewing for certain Democratic Congress members. The notes on YouTube have a lot of interesting history of the film and song, if you’d like to know more.

https://youtu.be/UpO6mpYvyqQ

 

  

“Bumper of My SUV” – Chely Wright

This song written and performed by country singer Chely Wright is about a snotty person's rude reaction to the Marines sticker she put on her SUV in honor of her brother who was serving in the Middle East. It was extremely personal to her, but it was universally embraced by the troops when she performed it during a series of shows in Iraq. This brings home how some people are intensely ungrateful for the safe, comfortable lives that they owe to the US military, as well as their freedom to be obnoxious, ungrateful jerks. I’m linking to a live clip where she tells the story of how the song came about before singing it. Any US Marine vets will especially appreciate this.

https://youtu.be/4mtVU_IcL8M

 

 

“Only in America” – Jay and The Americans

A moderate hit in 1963, this ode to the American Dream was originally intended for the Drifters but seems a better fit for a band called “Jay and The Americans.” This was from a time before the left made people think it was shameful to want to succeed and get rich. The singer informs us that only in America can a boy become a millionaire, get a classy girl and maybe grow up to be President – or if you’re Donald Trump, all three.

https://youtu.be/BWrCRPldVZk

 

 

 

“American Faces” – John Conlee

Nashville has sadly forgotten what real country music sounds like, or else one of the most distinctive country voices of all time, John Conlee, would still be topping the charts. Known as the singing mortician for his pre-music career, Conlee landed 32 singles on the charts between 1978 and 2004. Fourteen made the top 10, including “Common Man,” “Backside of 30,” “Lady Lay Down,” “Miss Emily’s Picture,” “Busted,” and one of the greatest country songs of all time, “Rose Colored Glasses.”

Fans should know that he recently appeared on “Huckabee” and he’s still out there touring (Laura and I have tickets to see him in September.) You can find his tour dates, music and merchandise at http://www.johnconlee.com. You should also check out his latest CD, “Classics 3,” which includes a very powerful pro-life song called “Unborn Voice.”

For the 4th of July, here’s the moving title track from Conlee’s 1987 album, “American Faces,” a salute to some of the unsung people in “Flyover Country” who make America what it is.

https://youtu.be/AUoYOdLfkfM

 

  

“Red, White & Blue” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

There are a lot of seemingly patriotic rock songs that get played on the Fourth of July, like Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” whose creators actually meant them as critical or sarcastic and who get bent out of shape when they are “misconstrued” as flag-wavers. To them, I say, “Get bent.” Here is a rock song that is unambiguously pro-American, by the ultimate working class band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. This is by the post-crash version of the band, from the 2003 album, “Vicious Cycle.”

https://youtu.be/1mxQCGjKxC0

 


“Ask Not Waltz” – President John F. Kennedy

Finally, my writing partner and fellow musicologist George Gimarc and I were very pleased to be able to haul this record out of obscurity for both our celebrity records book “Hollywood Hi-Fi” and its companion CD on Brunswick. This record was historic on a number of levels.

Not only does it set one of the most inspiring and iconic speeches in American history to a tune you can really skate to, but it was also one of the earliest examples of what later became mainstays of pop music: sampling and rapping. The idea was hatched by “Bullwinkle” writer George Atkins and Nashville producer Hank Levine as they were sitting by the pool, trying to come up with an idea for a JFK comedy record. Levine told us that in those pre-digital days, setting JFK’s actual words to music required a massive, painstaking tape editing job.

The album (“Sing Along With JFK”) was released in summer, 1963, but radio resisted because it was disrespectful to the President (can you imagine such a thing?!) But college stations started playing it and it was climbing the charts until November when JFK jokes suddenly became verboten. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying it, though, because Kennedy family insider Peter Lawford said it was the only JFK comedy record that JFK actually liked.  

https://youtu.be/fAt0S09RHjs

 

 

Happy Independence Day and happy 245th birthday to the United States of America! No, this nation was not born in 1619 when slaves first arrived, no matter how many trinkets liberal “journalists” award themselves for creating bogus history. It was born on July 4th, 1776, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which officially kicked out the previous regime and kicked off history’s greatest experiment in freedom.

Today is when all Americans celebrate our freedoms. But sadly, too many young Americans have been miseducated to feel no gratitude for the titanic struggles and sacrifices made by those of previous generations to secure and preserve those freedoms. As the recent pandemic proved, even those who recognize how lucky they are to be Americans are often too willing to trade away their freedoms in exchange for hollow promises of security. As the great philosopher Joni Mitchell once said, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”

That’s why the Founding Fathers took such care to lock our most important rights safely within the First Amendment to the Constitution. There are more freedoms guaranteed in that one short sentence than people in most nations can even dream of. That’s why for centuries now, people from around the world have risked their lives to come to America (by the way, why do the same people who think America is the worst nation on Earth also demand open borders to accommodate all the people who want to be Americans?) It’s also why legal immigrants are often more patriotic than natural-born Americans: they’re aware of how unique America is and truly grateful the freedoms too many of us take for granted.

The Founders understood how precious and rare such freedoms are. When the framers of the Constitution first met in 1787, many feared that if they created a strong federal government, it would trample the rights of the people, just like the British king they’d fought to break free of. So to make sure the people’s rights would always be protected, they added 10 amendments - although George Mason thought they were so important, they should come first, as the Preface to the Constitution!

Now, in case you’ve never heard it or have just forgotten (as too many federal judges and a few Supreme Court Justices I could name apparently have), here is the First Amendment, in its entirety. Don’t worry, this really won’t take long:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Yep, that’s it. This was before government needed a 2,000-page bill just to ruin your health insurance or put $2 trillion on your credit card. Only 45 simple words were needed to protect our rights…

* To speak freely without fear of government retribution...

* To publish those words so that other Americans can read and debate them (even if they disagree with the views of the people who own Facebook and Twitter)…

* To band together with like-thinking Americans and protest peacefully without fear of arrest (Note: protesting peacefully does not include rioting, arson and looting, but it should include simply stepping inside the Capitol when the door is open)…

* To petition our leaders to change their policies…

* And to be free from having an official state religion forced upon us, but also from government interference with the free expression of our personal religious beliefs (like telling us that going to church is nonessential and banned, but going to the liquor store is essential.) A lot of people celebrate the first half of that religious right (no state religion) but pretend the second half (no state interference in religion) doesn’t exist. The Supreme Court even seems to be reticent lately to make clear that it means what it says, even though it takes only six words to say it: “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Also, note that the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. In other words, trying to ban religious people from public office and expressions of faith on public property is not supported by the Constitution.

These are the rights that together create the free American culture that those of who know real history celebrate today. The Founders thought they were all so important that somehow, they found a way to list every single one of them first.

Then, just to be certain that no future government ever tried to take those rights away, they made the very next amendment the right to bear arms. And having just fought a bloody Revolution against the most powerful military force on Earth, they certainly never intended to limit gun ownership only to military members.

And perhaps most importantly, they emphasized that these rights are given by God, not government. So no matter how hard some people are trying to scratch some of them off of the parchment, it won’t make a lick of difference. You can’t edit God.

Usually around the Fourth of July, we hear a lot of songs about all the great things about America: “God Bless America,” “God Bless The USA,” “America the Beautiful” (although you might not have heard them this year because of some people whining that hearing God’s name or praise for America “triggers” them.) But before them all, even before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” there was the original American patriotic anthem, “Yankee Doodle.” However, it didn’t start out as a celebration of Americans, but as a mockery of them.

Since 1776, the song “Yankee Doodle” has been as much a symbol of America as the flag. Every child learns it from the cradle (or used to.) But many of us grew up without ever knowing what it really means. Like, why did he call his cap macaroni? Did he use cheese for hair mousse? (I’ll bet a lot of recent college graduates actually believe that and think he was a speciesist exploiter of cows.) Well, I’ll answer those questions and more.

“Yankee Doodle” dates back long before 1776. It most likely started as a German nursery rhyme, since “dudel” is an Old German word for “fool.” It first became associated with America when British soldiers made up their own lyrics to it to mock the ragtag American Revolutionaries. That baffling line – “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” – makes sense when you know that a macaroni wig was one of those ridiculously large powdered wigs that dandies of the time wore. The Brits were ridiculing Americans as a bunch of hayseeds, so dumb they’d think sticking a feather in their hat would make them look sophisticated. Imagine a Huffington Post article about Trump voters from Alabama, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of just how much arrogant condescension they intended to convey.

Unfortunately for the British, it turned out wars weren’t settled according to who had the spiffiest uniforms (in fact, red coats just made you an easier target.) Those unfashionable Americans were fighting for their homes, their families and their freedom. So they did what Americans have done ever since: they took the ridicule aimed at them, threw it back in the faces of those who mocked them, and got the last laugh. “Yankee Doodle” was the Babylon Bee of its time.

The Americans took the song that was meant to belittle them and adopted it as their anthem. They marched to it in the streets, sang it in bars, and made up their own new lyrics to promote the cause of freedom and glorify leaders like General Washington, “upon his strapping stallion.” It wasn’t long before the British learned to dread the sound of that tune, especially when it was played on a fife and drum, accompanied by American militiamen. A Boston newspaper reported that Minutemen who captured two British officers forced them to dance to “Yankee Doodle” until they collapsed. After that, the Brits admitted that that mocking little song didn’t sound so funny to them anymore.

Well, now you know how “Yankee Doodle” came to be the unofficial American battle anthem that later inspired another great patriotic song for this time of year, George M. Cohan’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” As Cohan proudly sang, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a Yankee Doodle, do or die…A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam, Born on the Fourth of July!”

Of course, Cohan was actually born on the third of July. But that’s another story for another day.