Madame Marie, fabled Asbury Park boardwalk fortune teller, passed away at the age of 93 right before Independence Day. Her death was ironic since she became famous from Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”
Not that I’ve ever been a Springsteen fan – heresy, huh? – but growing up in New Jersey, I often passed Madame Marie’s Temple of Knowledge shack near the beach.
Asbury Park was once the palatial summer destination favored by presidents and potentates. Living there as a little girl, the place was paradise to me. My family moved away before Asbury’s sad 20th century decline.
Best-selling author David Morrell nails the faded resort’s iconic allure: “Asbury Park always fascinated me because it seemed a small version of America. It began with religious ideals, progressed to a huge casino and finally collapsed from natural disasters and riots that underscored the weakness in the culture. The city – now making a comeback – fascinated me enough that I set ‘Creepers’ there. The novel has a couple of pages about the city’s doomed history,” he emails me.
His remarks amplify a previous comment of his from Bookreporter:
I’m intrigued by [Asbury Park's] failed hopes – the collapse of the American Dream. It’s almost mythic. Asbury Park was founded in the 1870s as a bastion of Methodism, but 30 years later, there was a huge gambling casino at the end of a half-mile boardwalk. In an amazing contrast, the town became known as the crown jewel of resorts on the eastern seaboard. A fire in the 1920s destroyed the resort area, and they rebuilt. In 1944, a hurricane destroyed the resort area, and they rebuilt. But how many times can you have the strength to keep going? By the 1960s, the place was a haven for bikers, street musicians, hippies, and drug dealers. A riot in 1970 destroyed the resort area, but this time it wasn’t rebuilt. Bruce Springsteen played in some of the remaining bars, and his early songs about desperation and needing to head down the road are emblematic of the emotions of Asbury Park. Today, despite repeated attempts to refurbish the area, it looks like bombed-out Bosnia.
Those sentiments and Madame Marie’s passing got me thinking – why not a new American Revolution?
“In 1776 a bunch of rag-tag farmers and small businessmen set out to defeat the world’s number-one superpower – and succeeded! May the will of the people of these United States remain so steadfast and dear. May we never forget how fragile our government and way of life truly are,” observes Michigan attorney-author Michael Cort.
Then Rep. Dennis Kucinich – a rare voice of sanity and integrity in Washington, D.C., – e-mails this stirring Independence Day message: “Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, our nation was conceived in liberty. We have once again reached a moment of truth, one Lincoln recognized at Gettysburg – whether ‘this nation or any nation so conceived or so dedicated can long endure.’ Through the ashes of the civil war, Lincoln prayed ‘this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom … and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ “
Kucinich’s sense of urgency builds:
“This Fourth of July 2008 we face a different kind of war, trying our souls. This war’s based on lies. But with the power of truth and the power of the people we can achieve a new birth of freedom, standing up for what’s good in America, insisting on the rule of law, demanding adherence to the Constitution, and supporting the impeachment of a president who lied to take us into a war against Iraq. Please go to my website and sign the petition, which calls for impeachment. Please circulate word of this petition far and wide, to all your friends and family. It’s the one opportunity we have right now to actually change events in this country.”
Kucinich calls on each of us to “be the answer to Lincoln’s Prayer” and help support “restoring the rule of law in America. … As we once again celebrate our Independence as a nation, let’s celebrate freedom from fear and pledge our ‘government of the people’ will survive in this land we love. So let’s demand all those who have taken an oath to defend our Constitution keep their promise and protect our nation from the threat within.”
And you don’t need Madame Marie’s crystal ball to see how dangerous doing nothing is, either.