Tomorrow we celebrate the adoption of The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. The day means many different things to many people. To the African-American PA at my doctor's office, it means very little, since her ancestors were not considered citizens or perhaps even 100% humans at the time. To people in "the business and by 'the business' I mean The Industry" (as an old acquaintance used to refer to Hollywood), it means movie openings, revenue streams, big-budget gambling. To the average Joe Sixpack and Jane Merlot American it means cookouts and perhaps parades and fireworks. To people like my brother in law enforcement or in the health care industry, it just means another day of work, with perhaps drunker people involved in stupider escapades.
Independence Day is a holiday rohrschach test. So if we could bring down the lights a little bit, have my maestro Burt Bacharach play some background piano music, and have the waiters and waitresses keep bringing the cocktails, I'm going to bore you with my bummed-out treatise on What July 4th Means To Me, in this age of insecurity and conflict.
1. An opportunity to love Scotland while loving the USA: A key passage in the Declaration, But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security-reminds me of the Declaration of Arbroath in the 1320's in Scotland. It was the first written document outlining the fact that, in Scotland, it is the PEOPLE who are sovereign rather than the ruler, ie, that the king was chosen by the people, not by God, and that it was the duty of the people to overthrow the king if he threatened Scottish sovereignty. One line in the Declaration of Arbroath that gives me a lump in my throat is, "...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself." That lump in my throat is best explained by Robert Burns' broadside against the Union of the Crowns in 1707 that brought Scotland and England together:
What force or guile could not subdue, Thro' many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few, For hireling traitor's wages.
...We're bought and sold for English gold- Such a parcel of rogues in a nation ! Short story long: you have to be vigilant to protect your freedom, especially from those who claim to be doing it for your own financial good, physical safety, or moral clarity.
2. An excuse to "desecrate the flag" by which I mean wearing a stars and stripes tank top (made in Vietnam) and one of those red, white and blue bobbly-antennaed head bands (made in Mexico) while holding sparklers (made in China). Well, at least my lawsuit alleging negligence by the US distributor of the head band when it catches on fire from my mishandled sparkler, will be Made in America.
3. Paying homage to the three things I grew up with in my hometown that make America great: Gun racks, butt cracks and six packs.
4. Most importantly, it offers an opportunity to truly go back and study what the Founders intended when they created this nation's great charters, and find some much-needed inspiration in what can only be described as depressing, challenging and frightening times:
TJ: "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
Ben Franklin: "Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
GW: "Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism."
TJ: "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive."
And one from someone I'd rather not quote but whose words illustrate where we are politically this July 4, 2006:
"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders...tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger." --Hermann Goering
Let's hope for a better Fourth of July, 2007. In the meantime, stay safe, wear repellent, cook the burgers all the way through, and minimize the beer goggling.
USA #1! ;)