Tim Timmons | Crawfordsville, IN

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May 6, 2021

Hammer on future of US of A

Since we moved into the historic Athena Center a few weeks ago, it's crossed my mind once or thrice that my buddy John Hammer hasn't been by on a Saturday morning. I swear I was just thinking this (on a Saturday morning, no less) when the phone rang.
"Where the hell are you, Timmons?" the gravel-laced voice of a man called Hammer boomed.
I smiled.
"S'matter, John? Haven't kept up on the news? We moved almost a month ago."
Got to admit, I took a little satisfaction in that.
"I know you've moved Timmons," Hammer said. So much for satisfaction. "I'm at Athena. Where are you?"
How does Hammer always manage to stay ahead of me?
I told him to come in the main entrance off Jefferson Street. Pretty soon his massive frame filled my doorway.
"You watch sports much, Timmons?" he asked.
Now here was a subject near and dear to me. After all, I'm an old sports writer and probably always will be one at heart. I was getting ready to-
"Don't spend much time on it myself," Hammer said. "But I caught the beginning of something the other day and they were singing the National Anthem. When they got to the end, it got me to thinking. Ever listen to the National Anthem, Timmons?"
"Of course, John. I've probably sat through thousands of-"
"I mean really listen, Timmons. Most of the time it looks to me like either the singer is trying to reinvent the song or people are clapping way before it's over."
If I've learned anything with Hammer it's to listen more than talk. He had a point to make - usually a good one. So I shut my yap and opened my ears.
"We all know the words," he said. "Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
He stopped.
I was missing something.
"When did it change?" he asked.
I knew for sure I was missing something.
"Would you really say we're the land of the free? Or the home of the brave?"
"Of course we are, John," I started. "We are the greatest nati-"
"Yeah, yeah, I get the sentiment. Thing is, Timmons, are we still the greatest nation on earth? Our people are as divided as they've been since the 1960s. Our government is a dysfunctional mess. Greatest nation? There's no doubt that we our grandfathers and their fathers fought and bled and died for the right to say that. But are we holding up our end of the bargain, Timmons? That's the real question, isn't it? We have problems. We've had problems in the past. But in the past we did something about those problems. Now, we just want to whine and bitch and bellyache. And if there's a big problem, we want the government to take care of it for us. When did that happen? We have a government that grants itself exceptions to things the rest of us have to live with. We have a government that's run by career politicians who've never held an honest job a day in their lives. We have a government that's best work is character assassination of the opposite party. That's who we turn to?"
Hammer took a breath. His shoulders were slumped. I'd heard him gripe before, but not really like this.
"I still believe we're a great nation, John," I said.
"I believe we have great people," he answered. "I believe we have a great history. But unless we make some changes, I'm worried that we can hold onto to it."
He's a hard man to argue with.

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