“with lifted head singing so proud”

Happy 241st birthday to the United States of America! This one’s special; turns out that the most common isotope of the universe’s greatest element– Americium– is none other than Americium-241. It’s used in spectrometers and certain types of smoke detectors. True story.

Also, happy 145th birthday to Calvin Coolidge.

I started writing some stuff and then it occurred to me that the general sentiment of my post had been far better put by Carl Sandburg a century ago in his poem “Chicago.” I don’t think we’d have seen eye-to-eye on matters of politics and economics, and the poor schlep died before I could straighten him out, but his poem defended a then-young metropolis against critiques from the East Coast and the Old World. The sins and the hardships are different today, but take a gander at Sandburg’s Chicago and maybe you’ll see our America:

      Hog Butcher for the World,
      Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
      Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
      Stormy, husky, brawling,
      City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
      Bareheaded,
      Shoveling,
      Wrecking,
      Planning,
      Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
                        Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

God bless our country.

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