Whose Broad Stripes

(OUT OF MY HEAD By Bill Burnett – June 22, 2017)


We’re coming up on Independence Day again and that of course means the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, our flag being still there.

Last year my family and I didn’t go to any particular fireworks display and instead went to a BBQ down near the beach.  That had us driving home to the east side just as all the fireworks in all the towns, barrios, sections and unincorporated communities of Los Angeles were going into their big show-stopping, ear blasting finales.

It was quite something to behold.

We couldn’t really hear the explosions except as distant pops and fizzes, but we could see them popping up like fiery geysers in every direction. BOOM! over here.  KAPOW! over there. BIFF! BAM! SKREEE! WHOOSH! Surrounding us!  It was beautiful and it  certainly was impressive. 

But it was also a tad depressing for me. 

For one thing, I couldn’t help thinking how much these displays were costing. An average one goes for about $2000 per minute, or $20K for a typical small town celebration. The bigger ones cost hundreds of thousands.  And there are thousands and thousands of fireworks displays across America on 4th of July.  That adds up to perhaps $1- 2 Million that the USA spends on 20 minute patriotic oo-and-ah generators every year.  Pyrotechnics meant to emulate real bombs.  That’s right, they are symbolic munitions.  They are “the rockets red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air.”

And THAT led me to think how there are REAL bombs going off all over the world.  Real rockets taking real lives and turning real people’s environments toxic and unlivable at way more than $2000 per minute. And our country is dropping a lot of them. 

And we’re paying for it.  Just like we’re paying for those fireworks displays.

So I started thinking, what could we do here in South Pasadena that would bring the whole community together, and celebrate our Independence, and give our great country its much deserved birthday party, WITHOUT firing off fake and expensive munitions which vanish into the air like…well like fake expensive munitions. And I came up with this:  A musical called WHOSE BROAD STRIPES (because as near as I can figure that’s the only line from the National Anthem that has NOT been made into a movie or play.)  WHOSE BROAD STRIPES will be an upbeat George M. Cohan type show featuring Brad Colerick and his Motley Musicians; Howard Spector and Lissa Reynolds of SPARC providing sets and costumes,  the South Pasadena Music Conservatory marching band; performances by the students of the South Pasadena School District; and Food  from the FRAMERS Market.  (Note that little play on words, huh?) We’ll put it on in the constantly vacant lot at Fremont and Mission and live feed it through Facebook to the world.  THIS is patriotism.  THIS is democracy, THIS is eclecticism.  THIS is SouthPas. That will be the message.  OUR message.

Who’s in?

Bill Burnett is the Creative Director of South Pasadena’s Good Citizen Media Group.