Happy Fourth of July? Yes, Despite All

It’s a weird time for America, isn’t it? It just feels so dismal. Two wars that feel like one fetid, ever-growing quagmire. A dollar that feels more like bad Kleenex than good money. Stranded polar bears having to figure out how to use sun screen. A pervasive media that screams at us all day like a coke-crazed banshee starring in the new reality show that’s hot, hot, HOT!! called Let’s Degrade Everyone!

It’s so depressing. These are depressing times. I’m so depressed I may not even use my spellcheck before I post this piece to my bloog.

Tomorrow, on the very Fourth of July, I am going to visit an old high school teacher of mine, Rick Hornor, whom I’ve seen three times lo’ these thirty-two years gone by. In a posting last year, I wrote this about Rick:

“In high school I had an absolutely brilliant, wildly popular English and theater teacher named Rick Hornor. It’s no exaggeration to say that by taking me more seriously than anyone had ever taken me before, Mr. Hornor saved my life. He consistently took precious time out of his 12-hour days spent teaching and directing plays to make sure that I understood that I was special, that I had talent, that I was worth infinitely more than I thought I was. It is his genius that he made a lot of kids feel that way about themselves.

“Mr. Hornor’s unstinting love and belief in me forced me to change my image of myself. The way he lived his life (he was and is a Christian — which at the time I counted against him) forced me to change my deep cynicism about people.”

Tomorrow Rick, his beautiful wife Susan, my beautiful wife Catherine, Rick’s beautiful daughter Rachel, Rachel’s husband David (whom I’ve met but once, but I feel safe asserting is pretty darn cute) and I’m guessing other guests will all gather atop the roof of Rachel and David’s condo building in downtown San Diego, where we’ll watch the fireworks out over the bay, and ooh and ahh, and in general feel teary-eyed about the fact that, whatever else might be true about it just now, America is still the greatest, strongest, most generous country in the world.

And I am sure that at some point during our visit, when he does not know that I am doing so, I will gaze for a long while at Rick, and fall into a reverie remembering how, when I was the teenager whose life and mind he was doing so much to shape, I believed in nothing so much as I did the future.










This is Rick last year, when he was teaching and establishing a theater arts program at Daystar University, a Christian college in Nairobi, Kenya.

(P.S. It is a dismal time in America, for sure. But, to my mind, any and all dismalness is utterly obliterated by the fact that America is now seriously considering electing an African-American for president. My wife’s father is black. When she was a kid, the informing story in her house was how during the Korean War, when her father, then an officer in the Air Force stationed in Washington, D.C., dressed in his uniform to go to the movies, he had to sit apart from the white audience, back in the segregated balcony. Say what you will about America, but that it can change so much, in such a short time, is all I personally need to feel very optimistic about it, indeed.)

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  • John,

    What makes America great in my opinion is such God-honoring residents as your teacher Rick and you who strive to show God's love and peace to others in abundance.

    What would make America greater in my opinion is a renewed social conscience seeking justice for all in way that lifts up and empowers both the poor and poor in spirit.

    The civil rights movement can never be considered "over" until all men are civil toward one another.


  • Ross

    People forget that in '96 the presidency was Colin Powell's for the taking, had he wanted it.

    It's unfortunate that the first black president will be a far left inexperienced political hack who makes nebulous speeches about hope and change and on occasion thinks we have 57 states. And he'll probably win because numerous white voters will believe that voting for him is act of virtue on their part. Jimmy Carter redux.

    For me Alan Keyes, JC Watts, Shelby Steele qualify as black politicians that would actually be good for the country.

  • David Barach


    Thank you for not remembering how I actually look and asserting that I'm pretty darn cute. It's safe to say though, that no matter what I do, I will never look as cute as my remarkable father-in-law does in a dress, as the photo you so graciously posted attests.

    I love reading your posts. Thank you for your comic, optimistic cynicism. You are likely the most cheerful and positive curmudgeon in the world, and I respect that.

    I'd also like to say about Sam's comment: "yeah, what he said."


  • David:

    You lie. You know you're muchily delicious.

    But wow! What a lot of kind things you've said here! Thank you so much! That's really sweet of you. Thanks.

    I think the next photo I'll post of Rick will be an older one I have of him in which he's wearing a bright red miniskirt, stilleto heals and fishnet stockings. But I thought I'd show him that photo before I posted it, just on the off chance that he has enough money to persuade me not to.

    Wait. Did you say you sensed CYNACISM in any of my posts? Oh. Shoot. Well, now tomorrow I'll have to accidentally push you off the roof of your building. Bummer. But what can I do? Don't you know I'm the funny, LIGHTHEARTED guy??? I hope you'll think about that tomorrow as you're plumetting downward toward the top of a bus.

  • Elizabeth

    Happy 4th, JS!!! Have a great time with your former teacher… Wish that I could meet up with some of my own former teachers… Like you, I was blessed with some fabulous teachers… But I haven't a clue as to where they all are now.

  • I can tell Rick is cool just by looking at the picture. A fuchsia Kenyan wrap-thing? Yes! Cool!

  • John,

    I've been feeling a nostalgia similar to yours this 4th of July weekend. I'm always thankful to be an American and always an optimist but, among other things, the callousness and lack of critical thinking of which I see examples daily can depress me. I think a little depression is a healthy thing though. Without it, we'd probably never indulge in the important and enjoyable exercise of nostalgic reverie.

    This is the first time I've seen your blog and I'll be back. I also look forward to reading your book, "I'm OK-You're Not." I'd seen it written up somewhere on the web, but now that I've had a taste of your ideas, I'm interested. Now if only I could find my junior high English teacher, Mr. Rathgeb.

    Diane L. Harris

  • Hey, guys! Yeah, I saw my teacher, his (most excellent) wife, one of his daughters, her husband (who took the tilty, scarily-close photo of me that now adornes/wrecks on my front page) one of his sons, and sundry other lovely folk. It was great.

    Diane: Thanks for visting my blog, and for your kind words about it. I hope you like "I'm OK." If you do, it's because I'm a genius. If you don't, it's because I listened to too many people telling me what it SHOULD be, and then wrote it in about three weeks. So we'll see.