Ocean waves are the perfect metaphor for how corrupt politics erodes away at our freedom. I had spent much of the night at our condo working on an editorial assignment for my new book Tail of the Dragon, which is a about a rip-roaring car chase through the heart of the south at speeds over 200 mph. It combines two of my passions, politics and fast cars. Without sleep, I was up at the crack of dawn summing up my latest writing project.
When I think of politics and racing together I think of a moment around this time of year in 1984 where President Reagan flew into Daytona Speedway, which is just an hour north of our condo, to witness the race and see Richard Petty win his 200th victory.
When people ask me what Tail of the Dragon is about, it’s hard to explain in modern terms because for me, even though I was a young guy, the book was born on the day when the two people I admired most back then were both having big days at the same time. This race, the Firecracker 400 with the iconic Ronald Reagan speaking in his usual way and Richard Petty winning with a cliffhanger solidified in me what America is all about.
Whenever I feel the need to get back in touch with what America is, in a modern sense, I think of this race when I was a young man staring at a static laced television set in a sweaty un air-conditioned house waiting for family to come over to my parents house to set off fireworks and grill hamburgers on the grill.
When I finally got my own drivers license I drove so fast that I earned the nickname Richard Petty, and other NASCAR names. One of my first jobs out of high school was a car salesman, which gave me access to the fastest cars built at the time. When I wasn’t selling cars to customers, I was taking cars out for lunch and test driving how fast I could make them go. Richard Petty to me always represented what winning was supposed to look like, and his casual attitude represented the best of what America had been and could always be.
So as we celebrate the 4th of July, the Founding Fathers are the first thing that should come to mind. But for me, memories of a more recent past percolate to the surface. And as I walked the beach this morning and looked north up the coast to where the Daytona Speedway waits for the famous Fourth of July race, which they call the Coke Zero 400 these days, I see the spirit of America alive and well.
When I finish the Tail of the Dragon, I hope to share that spirit with the rest of the nation so they can relearn everything that they’ve forgotten about American Pride, and as you can see from this clip compared to the exchange between Reagan and Petty, America as forgotten a lot.
We have a long way to go. The waves of corruption have been beating on our shores for a while now leaving us with hungry, patriotic yearnings for a president like Reagan. The first step is in realizing that the erosion has taken place, then we have to figure out what to do about it. Because left alone, the waves will continue to beat on us till there is nothing left but a sandy beach where once brilliant ideas existed and courage was commonplace.