A Patriotic Message From the Annals of the Justaminutemen
As I watched the fireworks this July Fourth Weekend over The Meadows, as the real estate establishment in my neck of the woods has taught us to call the swamps — with the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting overhead, a number of thoughts occurred to me.
Such is the enthusiasm for this great moment in our history, the cannonading actually started on July 2, the true date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and continued until the end of the weekend (July 6). It must sound to the older residents of my town like the British are coming all over again. New Jersey, most Americans don’t realize, was the land on which the majority of battles were fought. It was the Belgium of The Revolution.
The combined noises from the outburst of patriotism which we usually so proudly hail on these nights must deafen the poor mosquitoes who normally live peacefully and undisturbed in their native habitat. You should know that the mosquito is the New Jersey state bird. They become so disoriented over the July Fourth Weekend they wind up biting each other in the confusion. Mosquito rights groups might look into this infringement of their rights to live free.
I had some other darker thoughts about what the fireworks are supposed to be celebrating, although these pages of history have been lost or never known or cared about by most celebrants, lovers of sound-and-light shows or repressed pyromaniacs, whatever else they might be.
In this introspective mood, by dawn’s early light, I began drafting an oration to be delivered to the Justaminutemen July Fourth weekend 2015. I am a slow writer.
My fellow Americans:
A question I often ask myself at this time of year in this the 238th year of celebrating the throwing off the yoke of the evil King George the Mad: were we ready for self-government in 1776?
Was the revolution premature, the work of a bunch of romantic idealists, and hotheads, mostly lawyers, speculators, real estate barons and other white men of business, not totally free of self -interest?
While doing research for my two books about the founding of the nation (“The Making of the Prefident 1789” and “George Washington’s Expense Account”), I found that the people were divided on the issue. One third supported the King who protected them from the landlords and lawyers; one third favored the revolution, which would unburden them of Ye Stamp Act and other intolerable acts; one third were for neither, including the “don’t knows” or “don’t cares.” “Oh, just pay the damned tax,” may have been a prevailing sentiment amongst the fence sitters, according to respected armchair historian Martin Fridson. It isn’t that we really mind your quartering troops with us, Fridson further speculated, the colonists might have said to King George, if there was Twitter or other social media, “We’d just like them to be more careful about wiping their boots.”
Thus, a majority of our forefathers can be said to not favor the revolution. The issue might have been clarified if a vote was taken. Not that a plebiscite would have been that reliable in the early days of our democracy. It was risky being a Loyalist Tory, although not as bad as being a dissenter during the French Revolution a few years later. All we did to those who disagreed with the revolutionistas was tar and feather, ride them out of town on a rail, and burn their houses down. The Sons of the Revolution were the Brown Shirts of their day.
But I digress. There is abundant evidence to support my thesis that the revolution was premature.
We have gone from Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison in our leadership to Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and the two Bushes. And before that Coolidge, Harding and Hoover.
Evolution, in the name of progress, usually means going forward. What we have had politically is devolution, or as it has been defined in the arts, going backwards into the future.
If you think I sound like a Reaganite—a disciple of the revered president, who astounded political scientists in the 1980 presidential campaign by accusing Jimmy Carter when he mentioned the record of a numbskull California governor, “There you go again, bringing up the past”— look at the choices we will be having to make in the 2016 presidential campaign.
On the Democratic side, we will have Pres. Clinton— I apologize to those who think Hillary is peaking too early – versus whom? Joe Biden, the Blabbermouth-in-chief?
On the Republican side, we will have such notable idiots as Sen. Cruz and Rubio, as well as the cast of characters from the 2014 touring road show, including the Ricks, Santorum and Perry who by now has memorized the three departments he will close down. A dark elephant in the race may be Chris Christie, if he can convince the Republican base he isn’t a Trotsky who believes in bipartisanship.
Look at the courts! When the Founding Fathers wrote of “We the people” were they referring to the John Hancock Insurance Company and the other corporate entities of the noted tea smuggler? Or Ben Franklin’s printing establishment? Our founding media mogul has never been appreciated for establishing the USPS as a means of improving circulation of his Philadelphia newspapers.
If corporations are people in this new virtual world being erected by the Supreme Court, did the Founding father mean we should be holding elections with Google running against Facebook for seats in the Senate or House?
And what of the real people, so many of whom still don’t vote at home, despite all the wars fought abroad to make the world safe for democracy.
Our basic freedoms are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, still not fully understood since their ratification in 1791. My granddaughter was telling of her discussion with a fellow high school graduate who argued that his right to carry a gun to graduation was guaranteed by the First Amendment.
We are free to say anything under the First Amendment, but it seems to need to apologize the next day.
If the Bill of Rights, rewritten into idiomatic English that even a high school graduate could understand, and put to as vote, only three or four of them would be passed. The first to not make the cut would be the Fifth. Anyone who takes it is automatically thought to be guilty. Why else wasn’t he speaking up? And forget the Ninth and Tenth, which virtually anybody knows.
Privacy rights, one sacred to the Founding Fathers, have withered away, as Internet companies and the government race to find out more than they ever wanted to know about us the people.
We have achieved industrial strength dysfunction in governance. A budget can’t be passed without the danger of shutting down the government. Alexander Hamilton was right in distrusting the people in what is commonly known as democracy.
I tested my thesis with a proposal that we approach the Colonial Office now and apply for readmission under the Rule of the Right to Return, widely heard today. A trial balloon was launched before a venerable responsible body – the editors of Punch Magazine at their weekly luncheon meeting (this was before The Internet closed their doors)
They listened politely as I presented the evidence above justifying giving us a Mulligan for the actions of a minority of their “revolting cousins,” as some purists still refer to us.
They looked down in their glasses of port. Finally one said, “Why would we want you?”
There was a round of “hear, hears” and pounding on the table.
I then made a counter proposal: that England become the 51st State, since we have so many closet monarchists who love to watch British TV shows on PBS. The proposition lost unanimously. They seemed to want nothing to do with us.
At any rate, this is all foods for thought –and I hope not indigestion. A merry July Fourth to you and yours. And keep your powder dry for the fireworks.
It is comforting to know, in the words of my friend Abe, “Waiting for true democracy is like waiting for the Messiah.”
July 6, 2014