The Reluctant Townie | How to ID4 when you're just not feeling it

The Reluctant Townie | How to ID4 when you're just not feeling it

"I can hear da bugs chompin' on me," said my 3-year-old, near the end of a two-day commune with nature.

For my birthday this year, my wife planned a camping trip for our young nuclear family. I am happy to report it turned out to be the inverse of our camping experience on my wife's birthday last year, in which I famously manned the helm on an expedition of almost universal failure, one so physiologically taxing that it left my wife with a lasting six-month battle with vertigo. (True story!)

To say that there was a moment of hesitation before embarking on round two of Jacksons vs. Nature would be an understatement. The memory of our past failure was fresh and painful, and while lessons were learned and put to use in the planning stages, there was always the underlying assumption that things would ultimately implode in a spectacular fashion.

But as it turned out, there was no reason to worry.

The weather, again, was the inverse of our previous experience. The two days we camped fell in the calm eye of unfortunate weather conditions — we missed torrential downpours by a day, and left the campground on Friday morning, before the temperatures climbed to record-setting levels.

If not for the mosquitoes, which resulted in an average of 75 bug bites per square inch of exposed flesh, the trip would have been picture-perfect. The preceding torrential rain had flooded the majority of campsites and driven away the crowds, so we were left mostly to ourselves in one of the nonflooded, high-ground campsites under the pines.

Time spent in nature is good for the soul, especially if you forget your phone charger.

As my birthday lands at the end of June, and often serves as a lead-in to a July 4th holiday weekend, I usually conflate the two into one long celebration to maximize the chill vacation vibes.

This year, with July 4 falling midweek on hump day, I felt abnormally disconnected from the holiday. But it's inconvenient placement on the calendar wasn't the only reason for our estrangement.

I am writing this on the morning of the Fourth. At present, all of my fingers and eyebrows remain intact — if not my peace of mind. By the time you read this, America, you will have turned 242 years old. Happy belated. Here's to 242 more.

But if we can get real for a minute, I'm worried about you. You've gotten weird in your old age, America. You seem angrier, and meaner, and more willing to pick a fight than just a few years ago.

Is this just a phase you're going through? Or is it a more troubling sign of deteriorating mental health?

While you've always had your problems — hello, slavery, Native American genocide and the KKK — for a stretch it seemed like you were putting in the work to fashion yourself into the best version of you possible. As a country, we may not have been better than this, but we have the ability to be better than this.

That was something worth cheering for and waving flags about. It was something to believe in.

What does patriotism look like in the age of Donald Trump?

On July 3, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its assessment of the 2016 election interference, siding with U.S. intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in our election with the intention of helping Donald Trump secure the presidency.

On the same day, it was announced that President Trump would be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin the following week in Helsinki. In a highly unusual move, Trump will be taking the meeting without any American aides present.

It will be his second one-on-one meeting with Putin without national security officers or American translators. (The first took place after a G-20 dinner last year, and was unknown to the public until the New York Times broke the story nearly two weeks later.) This is in addition to the meeting with Russian ambassadors in the Oval Office, also taken one-on-one, without any American witnesses.

The president's refusal to bring his own aides into his Russian meet-ups means there will be no official transcripts of what is said during the meetings.

In a normal world, that might set off some alarms. But we have been trapped in Biff Tannen's alternate 1985 timeline for so long, beat about the head with Covfefe and distracting Twitter faux pas, that it barely registers with the American public. As the old saying goes, if it looks like treason, and smells like treason, it must be fake news.

And while children sit caged in abandoned Walmarts at the southern border, as the result of a zero-tolerance immigration policy enacted by the current administration, it feels a tad obscene to rah-rah the team Trump leads.

If the president is truly committed to making you great, America, he's got a long way to go. It would also imply he knew something about what made you great in the first place, an assumption of which I am deeply skeptical.

Instead, this Fourth of July, I practiced patriotism by reminding myself of the men and women who gave their lives in service of the lofty ideals we should strive to live up to, regardless of current leadership. Trump isn't forever. As one generation fades, another will bloom. We can either learn from the past or repeat it.

It's important to keep focus and work toward becoming who we proclaim to be: the land of the free and the home of the brave, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Or something like that.

Ryan Jackson donated his birthday wish to Robert Mueller, and he can be reached at

Sections (1):Living