Dependence Day
By R. D. Flavin


Good morning.  In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world.  And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.  Mankind—that word should have new meaning for all of us today.  We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore.  We will be united in our common interests.  Perhaps it's fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution—but from annihilation.  We're fighting for our right to live, to exist.  And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!  We will not vanish without a fight!  We're going to live on!  We're going to survive!”  Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!
From ID4 (1996), written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich; Centropolis Entertainment.

     We balance our independence with dependence like kids on a seesaw (var. “teeter-totter”).  Our freedoms, be they hallowed liberties or hoary illusions of certain “rights,” are tempered by needs both necessary and frivolous.  As citizens, we are warned against not wearing seat-belts or texting while driving, spanking children, pets, or certain women, and voting more than once in the same election regardless of how much one giddily supports the candidate or proposed resolution.  Meh…  Last month, with awkward absurdity, our Supreme Court ruled that when someone is advised of their right to remain silent during a law enforcement interrogation or investigation that the “right” only begins when the person invokes the right unambiguously.  That is, keeping silent is no longer sufficient and now a person has to speak before they shut-up (or be really good at sending telepathic messages).  We depend on laws to guide and protect us.  This July 4, 2010, I suggest we celebrate Dependence Day with attention to the “letter” of the law, as the “spirit” seems (at least for now) to be more than just a tad abstruse.

     When I was younger in that America of so long ago (i.e. pre-D&D, home video-games, and the "Internets"), I would play ‘House’ with the girls and either ‘Cowboys and Indians’ or ‘Cops and Robbers’ with the boys.  Sometimes I was an “Indian” or a “Robber” and, ouch, sometimes the girls would send me on my way for some perceived poor behavior.  I’d guess this is why I started playing sports as a kid…  Rules and regulations are great for competition.  Laws are enacted and enforced to protect the innocent from the guilty (and also to provide economic and employment opportunities to cops, lawyers, judges, and bail bondsmen).  Laws are generally a good thing, until such a time as society changes and certain laws are no longer fair and just (such as the 1991 “luxury” tax on beer).  We need better laws.

     America is often alleged to have been colonized to foster a freedom of religion, but this is an encouraged fiction.  As they say, …follow the money.  After several failed undertakings, two British colonies were attempted in America in 1607, Jamestown in Virginia and the Popham Colony in Maine near the Kennebec River.  Jamestown survived, while the Popham Colony lasted only a little more than a year (Cave 1995).  Yet even in failure, the Popham Colony managed to build a 30-ton ship, load it with furs and sarsaparilla, and sail the survivors back to England.  The riches of the New World awaited and private companies alongside the Crown (King James I) desired to inhabit the Atlantic seaboard, though technically the region was claimed by the Spanish at the time.  Emboldened by both 1607 attempts, the so-called “Separatists” (var. “Puritans,” later “Pilgrims”) along with non-religious others (“The Strangers”), were hired by the same company that funded the Popham Colony to build a whaling and fish-drying station in northern “Virginia.”  [Note: Many accounts cite “near the mouth of the Hudson” as the destination, though this was clearly the “New Netherlands” and controlled by the Dutch at the time.  Perhaps immediately south of “New Netherlands” was meant.]  A difficult Atlantic passage, a landing at Cape Cod, depleted supplies, a fast approaching winter, and a further arduous journey south past “New Netherlands” combined to inspire Separatists and Strangers alike to forsake their quasi-legal patent (as the Spanish would dispute the legality), turn back around Cape Cod, and eventually settled at Plymouth.  While still at Cape Cod, on November 11, 1620 (Gregorian), 41 adult male Separatists and Strangers affixed their names to what later became known as the “Mayflower Compact,” which is regarded by some as the earliest social governing contract in America.  Phooey!  They violated their patent, indirectly disobeyed the Crown, and were attempting to protect their butts…  Ah, America!  And, there are those wonderful opening lines when Samoset, the Abenaki sagamore, greeted the colonists at Plymouth on March 16, 1621 with, “Hello, welcome Englishmen!  Do you have any beer?”  Good times, good times…

     Shortly afterwards, others began to arrive in America with the majority being sponsored by England.  Through agreements with Native American tribes, the Dutch, French, and Spanish, large territorial colonies (var. "states" and "commonwealths") began to emerge eventually numbering thirteen.  During the 1750s at the West Church in Boston, Massachusetts, a preacher began to repeatedly deliver a message to his congregation that it was unfair the American colonists had no voice before the British Parliament.  The rallying cry of “No taxation without representation” took hold and eventually there was open revolt with the incident known as the Boston Tea Party on the night of December 16, 1773.  British reaction was tyrannical with the passing of four punitive laws in 1774, collectively known as the Intolerable or Coercive Acts, all directed against Massachusetts (i.e. the Boston Port Act, Massachusetts Government Act, Administration of Justice Act, and the Quartering Act).  War became inevitable.

     It’s customary to list the April 19, 1775 Battle of Lexington and Concord along with the June 17, 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill as the start of the American Revolution (though I personally favor honoring the fallen of the Boston Massacre and prefer a date of March 5, 1770).  With open warfare emerged an obligation to make sacrifice worthy and the United States of America was born of hope and justice.  It was a difficult birth and there were many problems.  Remember the It Takes a Village controversies with attribution credits, thematic positions, and common political and philosophical pettiness?  Well, it took a ‘nation’ to organize, draft laws, fight and die, and triumph.  It was the right time and place to make history …and laws.  The best laws ever!  [Note: Insert inexpressible emoticon combining irony and charity here.]  Any cheer of “Go USA” should be mindful of the heroes and geeks, laborers and entrepreneurs, men of faith and of science, the good, bad, ugly, and all manner of sizes, shapes, and dispositions in between to envision, construct, and maintain the United States of America.  With open warfare arose the need to provide structure for the future – laws!  We’ve always been a nation of mutts and always will be.

Cut it out! Cut it out! Cut it out! The hell's the matter with you? Stupid! We're all very different people. We're not Watusi. We're not Spartans. We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts! Here's proof: his nose is cold! But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw "Old Yeller?" Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end?  Nobody cried when Old Yeller got shot? I'm sure.  I cried my eyes out. So we're all dogfaces, we're all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We're mutants. There's something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us - we're soldiers. But we're American soldiers! We've been kicking ass for 200 years! We're 10 and 1! Now we don't have to worry about whether or not we practiced. We don't have to worry about whether Captain Stillman wants to have us hung. All we have to do is to be the great American fighting soldier that is inside each one of us. Now do what I do, and say what I say. And make me proud.
From Stripes (1981), written by Len Blum, Daniel Goldberg, and Harold Ramis; Columbia Pictures.
 

     Those who we refer to as “The Founders” of America, those good men and women (De Pauw 1975; Roberts 2004, 2008) who stewarded liberty and made the most difficult of decisions, simultaneously created government and defended it.  With open warfare demanding blood, American patriots united in mid-1776 to draft two essential documents of intent, “A Declaration by the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled (var. United States Declaration of Independence) and the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.  The first document spoke to the world, while the second (ratified by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777) was composed just for Americans (Stampp 1978).  Though joined in the just cause of independence, the thirteen colonies sought different laws of government and several “state” constitutions were passed locally, thus necessitating a single, federal compendium of standards, rules, and laws.  Some of the local constitutions sought to reserve the right to designate a state-established religion, though eventually this idea of stupendous moral pettiness produced the required debate to formally separate any 'church' (or religion) and 'state' (i.e. the United States of America).

     The United States formally separated itself from Britain with the September 3, 1783 signing of the Treaty of Paris which ended the American War for Independence.  Four years later, the Constitution of the United States of America was completed and agreed upon, becoming national law on March 4, 1789.  And, ever mindful of perpetual adaptation and predictable change as it might as well be unconstitutional to be constitutional (i.e. a "Living Constitution"), additions to the new Constitution (called “amendments”) were near immediate, with the first ten (known collectively as the United States Bill of Rights) becoming law on December 15, 1791.  With the First Amendment, written with more attention to civil security than civic grammar, Americans could depend on their elected government not to do certain things, such as: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  The law of the land had come full crop-circle and “freedom of religion” was replaced with a freedom from religion if a citizen chose such.

     American law, at federal, state, and local levels, has changed often as the United States has grown and matured as a nation.  It hasn't been one long exposition on profound jurisprudence, mistakes were made and corrected, and with increased complexity comes great responsibility (and many political lobbyists).  We depend on each other as kindred adventurers pursuing life, liberty, and justice.  Sure, sometimes the local cop is a jerk, or the postman is annoyingly late, or your state representative won't answer any of your alcohol-fueled e-mails, etcetera, but Americans depend on the right to change laws (or at least to try really damn hard).

     We espouse unity through diversity, yet many American citizens continue to be discriminated against because of antiquated and unjust laws.  America's youth are grossly misrepresented and age of consent laws need thoughtful re-evaluation, sexual orientation and partnering options are for individuals to decide upon and not just snarky talking points at the next meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and our drug laws, though a beheading and a firing-squad better than some countries are barbaric and self-destructive as current anti-drug laws create more violence than they prevent.  So many laws need changing, some need to be toughened and some softened, and wrongs should be righted sooner rather than later.  And, of course, new laws won't please everyone, but America has to try.  Gosh, Auntie Em, it just has to!

     Our successful fight for independence from a monarchy, our pledge to defend against any and all theocracies, autocracies, and other forms of cruel government, has allowed us to participate in a grand union of democracy, egalitarianism, and humanistic futurism.  We've chosen to become dependent on each other, to trust and rely upon, to be subordinate to the people's elected or appointed authorities, but without the metaphors of blindfolds or hearing-aids.  Unlike submission in totalitarian regimes, we depend on some to give orders, some to take orders, and the rest of us to do our best to stay out of the way.

     This Dependence Day with backyard nature obeying backyard natural law, I hope July 5, 2010, or ASAP afterward, we return to trying to make better laws for a better America.

Bibliography:
Cave, Alfred A.  1995.  “Why Was the Sagadahoc Colony Abandoned? An Evaluation of the Evidence.”  The New England Quarterly.  68, 4:
  625-640.
De Pauw, Linda Grant.  1975.  Founding Mothers: Women of America in the Revolutionary Era.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Roberts, Cokie.  2004.  Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.  Norwalk, CT: Easton Press.
Roberts, Cokie.  2008.  Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.  Norwalk, CT: Easton Press.
Stampp, Kenneth M.  1978.  “The Concept of a Perpetual Union.”  The Journal of American History.  65, 1: 5-33.


Maybe tomorrow I'll have a cup of the Long Island Iced variety of tea,
Rick

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