Recollection of a Man Who Knew What It Was Like Not to Have Freedom

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

A poignant and compelling commentary read in today’s print issue of the Chicago Tribune inspired this Independence Day 2017 post.

The opinion piece by Chicago attorney William Choslovsky ran under the headline, “We the people have a democracy to celebrate.”

Take a moment to read the thoughts from Mr. Choslovsky.

Done?

Okay back to my thoughts on this day, our nation’s 241st birthday.

Image of Stan Borys, a true freedom fighter, courtesy of his website.

Mr. Cholovsky notes how he gained a newfound perspective on America and the democracy the Founding Fathers created during a trip to the Middle East. There, a shopkeeper noted that in many nations, even those thought to be “democracies,” freedom — as guaranteed by our Constitution — really does not exist.

That thought brought back memories of my old friend Stan Borys, a Polish-born musician and actor I knew way back in the 1980s and 1990s when he lived in Chicago.

As a freelance writer for the Illinois Entertainer and other local periodicals, I got to interview some fascinating (and some not-so-fascinating) musicians for feature articles and profiles. Stan was one the most memorable and engaging.

During one conversation, I recall Stan noting that — and I paraphrase — “American musicians sing about not having freedom. I know what it’s like to not have freedom.”

What he was referring to, of course, was having lived in the Poland of the Cold War era, the years before the Solidarity trade union (or Solidarnosc in the Polish language) set the wheels in motion to break free from the Soviet bloc.

Stan made his thoughts about living under a Communist government known in his music, which as noted in this online report, often got him into trouble.

(Another recollection: Stan said he played Ray Charles music over the camp audio network one morning while completing required service in the military; yes, that got him into trouble.)

Like the shopkeeper remembered by Mr. Choslovsky, Stan’s comment about freedom will make me cherish the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America — especially on this day.

Given the mammoth challenges we the people face in the years ahead, it’s our right to freedom that will ensure the nation can celebrate its 242nd birthday.

One Image, One Question: July 4, 2016

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

A morning stroll through Avondale and Logan Square this Independence Day was tranquil in its own way.

As you’d expect, I encountered only a handful of people, and there were few cars on normally busy Diversey Avenue and Logan Boulevard. Aside from the occasional barking dog or chirping bird, the only disruption to the quiet were the squawking chickens — yes chickens — owned by a family down the block.

Even with the beverage can discarded in the street, one could find tranquility on George Street this Independence Day.

Even with the beverage can discarded in the street, one could find tranquility on George Street this Independence Day. Unfortunately, that’s not the case on many other Chicago streets.

On George Street, tranquility for me is embodied in the image on this page. Yes, this is not at all bucolic in the conventional sense, in light of the mature trees; but for a thoroughfare in the heart of one of America’s largest and greatest cities, one could enjoy the quiet of a summer holiday morning by sitting quietly on George Street.

From our front porch, we partake in this activity regularly.

Many other blocks in Chicago may look like George Street in the Avondale neighborhood this morning; but many, far too many, are not at all tranquil. Too many streets have become urban battle zones plagued by gun-driven violence that has reached levels not seen in decades.

As noted in this Yahoo news report, the monthly homicide rate this year in Chicago can be equated to the horrific mass murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

So, on to the question:

What needs to happen to quell the heartbreaking outbreak of shootings that has shredded the very fabric of some Chicago communities?

If this is any sign of “progress,” through enhanced policing “only” two people were fatally shot and 30 have been wounded by gunfire so far this long weekend. An online report from DNA Info provides the details.

Wishing all who read this a safe and Happy Independence Day.  Also, wishing for realistic answers to my question this July 4, 2016.

Greetings on a Firecracker Hot Independence Day

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

On this blistering hot Independence Day — the mercury just hit the 100-degree mark here in Chicago and across much of the nation — there’s not much to do. Except stay cool, that is.  Wish we had friends who owned a pool.

So with an iced drink in hand, I decided to offer a few thoughts about our nation’s birthday:

We’re a Little Late, Sort of.  According to this post from Wikipedia, the 13 original colonies actually voted to break away from Great Britain on July 2, 1776.  The Declaration of Independence, was signed two days later.  So, perhaps we really need a three-day national holiday — from July 2 through 4!   And why not:  We’ve cheapened and bastardized just about every other holiday.  Or do you really enjoy hearing Christmas carols minutes after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey is put away?

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary…”

Are There Any Independence Day Songs? Besides Those from Sousa? Think about it: Have there been any American composers, or foreigners for goodness sake, that have penned music that shouts “Independence Day” from the mountaintop, other than John Philip Sousa?   Listen to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and your patriotic zeal will boil.  And, on a day like today, it won’t take long for anything to boil.  So, come on American musicians — be you a rocker or a rapper, a folkie or a jazz cat — write a song about July 4th.  (Note: Must include references to fireworks, parades, hot dogs and beer.)

Don’t you want to join John Philip Sousa as a composer linked to Independence Day?

Do We Really Need to Celebrate with Fireworks? Call me a spoil sport, but I just don’t see the value — or allure — of fireworks, especially around Independence Day. In the hands of kids or idiots, they become very dangerous weapons.  They leave reside in the form of spent bottle rockets and shredded paper, and I trust I’m not the only one who finds the scent of sulfur to be quite unappetizing. And, really, do you enjoy being startled at all hours from an exploding cherry bomb?

That’s my take on Independence Day 2012, the nation’s 236th birthday.  Stay safe out there, and if you have a moment, share your thoughts on what the holiday means to you.

 

 

 

Maybe with the Washington Monument in the background, but otherwise fireworks are not a fun way to spend Independence Day.

Happy 235th Birthday, USA

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Today, in backyards across this great, sprawling nation, with its hodgepodge of cultures and landscapes, Americans in all 50 states will spend the day grilling food, consuming all kinds of beverages and igniting fireworks (mostly illegally) as a way to honor the birth of the United States of America.

Of course, there were only 13 original states, or “colonies,” as our former owners the British called us, back around 1776.  Yes, 13 is an unlucky number; but so far, we’ve turned out pretty well as a country and people when compared to the rest of the world.

Some of our domestic and foreign policies have not been looked upon too favorably by our neighbors around the world.  Starting an unprovoked war and an unparalleled thirst for fossil fuels are just two reasons why the USA gets bashed and bashed some more on the global stage.

(Note: If you disagree with me on the following two points — or any other — that’s certainly your prerogative.  What truly makes this nation great, along with baseball, apple pie and hot dogs, is the fact that we can disagree and live to disagree again without fear of ending up getting bashed on the shins in a windowless room.  The PRDude wholeheartedly encourages dialogue.  This is a blog after all!)

But decades ago, our countrymen (and women, I guess) were tagged with the term “ugly American” as a reference to perceived arrogance and boorishness.  The term actually was coined from a 1958 political novel that was made into a movie starring Marlon Brando; the setting is a fictional nation in Southeast Asia, which of course was the location of some pretty awful stuff in the decades to follow.

Have you heard the phrase “ugly American” today?

Actually, these days we’re called a lot of nasty names by people from various cultures  — names that are much worse than what’s inferred by the “ugly American” moniker.  Some even consider us the modern Satan, or Beelzebub, Lucifer or one of the other names for the real Bad Guy.

But despite our (perhaps) diminished status on the world stage, we’re still pretty popular outside our borders.  Some statistics I found on Wikipedia reveal that in 2006 the USA accepted “more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined.”  Is this true today?  If you have stats to share, please send them my way.  I’ll bet those newly-minted Americans don’t consider themselves “ugly.”

Perhaps what we need today — and I’m not a fan of more government, especially on the Federal level — is an office or department or bureau of Public Relations.  Perhaps our various government bureaucracies can assign a skilled public relations practitioner — preferably one with the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR credential, which I proudly hold — to develop a real PR plan for the nation.   The key goal would be to enhance our reputation for all the good that the USA does here and internationally.

Have it based on the four steps in a real plan with measurable results:

1. Define the opportunity or threat

2. Conduct research and define publics

3. Communicate — execute the plan

4. Analyze results and make revisions

Apple pie-in-the-sky?  Maybe.  But it’s assuredly a lot less costly than a war or some of the nation-building exercises we’ve engaged in recently.  What do you think?

So get out and celebrate Independence Day.  Today’s national birthday celebration — our 235th — should be honored with parades and fireworks, brats and beer.  Or doing just about whatever you want to do, as long as it’s legal and doesn’t bother your neighbor.