Independence Day 2008
Several reporters from The New York Times board the Q train at DeKalb Avenue during the morning rush and marvel at the diversity of the 128 passengers in a single subway car and see “all the homelands, all the ages, all the professions” that comprise “New York City in the summer of 2008.”
The Stiletto offers her own tribute to our nation’s diversity on this, the 232nd anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from monarchal tyranny – especially the diverse ways in which we choose to pursue happiness (or not) - with this collection of articles:
† Couch Potatoes (and those forced to spend the holiday weekend close to home because of stratospheric gas and airline ticket prices): You’ll appreciate The Washington Post’s round-up of classic TV show marathons.
† Foodies: Vegetarians try to convert red blooded Americans to their cause by citing research linking red meat eating to erectile dysfunction. Here’s something else red you might want to eat along with your ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs: watermelon. The flesh and rind of watermelon contains citrulline, which is converted to the amino acid arginine in the body. “Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it,” Texas A&M researcher Bhimu Patil tells The Associated Press. But The Stiletto wonders whether you’d have to eat so much watermelon to manufacture enough arginine to equal the potency of Viagra that your coitus will be interrupted by numerous trips to the john.
† History Buffs: Writing in The New York Times, Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library at
The Declaration originated as a spoken thought, expressed on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, a delegate to the Second Continental Congress … A written version was produced on June 28, primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson …
Then, on July 4, the rest of the text was approved.
That same day, the Congress ordered that the document be distributed — for what is a declaration if no one can see it? … Irish immigrant … John Dunlap … spent much of the night of July 4 setting type, correcting it and running off broadsides - perhaps 200 in all. There is evidence that it was done quickly, and in excitement - watermarks are reversed, some copies look as if they were folded before the ink could dry and bits of punctuation move around from one copy to another. …
Over the next two days, the Dunlap broadsides were sent around the colonies - now states - and to dignitaries like George Washington, who ordered the Declaration read to his troops. … These first printings may look less dramatic than the manuscript we know and love, but they were created closer to the germinal moment than anything known to exist.
Widmer is not the only historian who is unconvinced the Declaration of Independence was, in fact, signed on July 4, 1776. George Will cites Peter de Bolla of King's College,
He is fascinated by Americans' fascination with the fact, such as it is, that their country had, as few nations can claim, an "originative moment." But what, and when, was it?
The Declaration of Independence was not signed that day by the 56 persons whose signatures would eventually adorn it. Perhaps no one signed it that day; the evidence is murky. Still, uncountable millions believe otherwise because they have seen John Trumbull's painting, in the U.S. Capitol's rotunda, depicting Thomas Jefferson, at the center of six colleagues, holding "his" Declaration on July 4, as though for signing.
What Congress actually did that day was agree to print and publish the Declaration authorized two days earlier. So, was July 2 what de Bolla calls the "punctual moment"? John Adams thought that day "will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America."
What was voted on July 2 was, however, really decided on July 1. But on June 28, Congress considered
And if you’ve ever wondered why we set off fireworks on July 4th – the backyard version of those “rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air” – it was all John Adams’ idea, according to Bolla. Here’s a snippet of The Wall Street Journal’s review of his book:
In early July 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, about a momentous day during the proceedings of the Second Continental Congress in
William Kristol’s “The Choices They Made,” quotes from Thomas Jefferson’s June 24, 1826 letter to Roger Weightman, and suggests that the enlightened leadership of our Founding Fathers is a uniquely American brand of noblesse oblige:
The fate of equality, Jefferson makes clear, also depends on those who see further than, and act first on behalf of, their fellow citizens. In the letter,
So the signers of the declaration made the bold and doubtful choice for independence. Their fellow citizens ratified the choice. But they might have been slow to act if the worthies had not moved first. …
The people are conservative.
Finally, writing in the WaPo, Pepperdine University professor Edward J. Larson describes the tactics used by the Federalist Attack Machine (The Stiletto kids you not) to smear Thomas Jefferson.
† Sports Fans: What could be more American than a “big sandwich?” How about a big flag? No, make that a ginormous flag. The New York Times reports that field-size or court-size flags during the national anthem or other sporting rituals have become de rigueur:
On the field before the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball plans to assemble the largest gathering of Hall of Fame players in baseball history. And as fans salute their heroes, the former players will join the crowd in saluting the American flag — one that is roughly 75 feet by 150 feet, as long as a 15-story building is tall, spread horizontally over the Yankee Stadium turf.
That is a relatively small flag by big-event standards in American sports these days. But it will signal the latest can’t-miss blend of sports and patriotism, a combination increasingly presenting itself through gigantic American flags, unfurled by dozens or hundreds of people in an attempt to elicit a sense of awe and nationalism in the surrounding crowd. …
The trend began nearly 25 years ago, spiked after 9/11 and now seems simply part of the cultural backdrop in American sports. Where there is a big game, there is a big flag, often the size of the playing field itself. …
“People go ape when they see it,” said Jim Alexander, a retired Coast Guard commander who runs Superflag, the company that basically invented the industry.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels as lucky and blessed as The Stiletto and millions of others whose forebears came to this country over the course of two centuries to enjoy the freedoms that Americans consider their birthright – and have gone to court and to war to protect. Case in point:
[W]hat will history think of us, of how we responded to our great challenge? Sept. 11 was a hideous evil, a grievous wound. Yet, truth told, it has not summoned our better angels as often as our worst.
Tell that to the Marines – especially to the family of Polish immigrant Dawid Pietrek, a 24-year-old Marine, who loved this country so much he gave his life for it in
Pietrek came to the
Pietrek's mother [Dorota] wanted … him to be buried at
Pietrek joined the Marine Corps in June 2007 … In just over a year, Pietrek had received numerous awards, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
Shortly after his deployment in
Every morning at 10 a.m., before it allows customers to set foot inside its flagship store on
Playing the national anthem each morning has become a ritual at Lord & Taylor. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the same whether it’s a Wednesday in mid-March or a holiday like Memorial Day, which honors those who have died in service to their country.
Setting out the folding chairs just inside the revolving doors is another ritual. Lord & Taylor does that to give early birds a place to wait until after the final chord has soared over the whoosh of the escalators and the soft jazz has come back on.
The Times reports that Lord & Taylor’s “is probably the longest-running daily ritual that can be traced to the 444-day
Editorial Note: WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson points to Colin Powell and Rev. Jeremiah Wright and asks us to “consider, as we celebrate Independence Day, how steadfast and complicated black patriotism has always been.” He adds:
The subject is particularly relevant now that the first African American with a realistic chance of becoming president, Barack Obama, has felt compelled to give a lengthy speech explaining his own patriotism. …
It seems that some people don't want to give Obama the benefit of that assumption, however, and I have to wonder whether that's because he's black. And then I have to wonder why.
Robinson apparently missed Jonah Goldberg’s column, “Obama's Real Patriotism Problem”:
Barack Obama has a patriotism problem that even Monday's flag-waving trip to Independence, Mo., can't squelch. And it doesn't have anything to do with his lapel pin. …
During the debates over the
Not to sound too much like a Jewish mother, but some might respond, "What? It's not great now?"
This sense that
[I]n the American context patriotism must involve not only devotion to American texts (something that distinguishes our patriotism from European nationalism) but also an abiding belief in the inherent and enduring goodness of the American nation. We might need to change this or that policy or law, fix this or that problem, but at the end of the day the patriotic American believes that
And then there’s this: Singer Rene Marie was hired to perform the national anthem at
May we forever stand,
True to our G-d,
True to our native land.
This is a pledge of loyalty to Africa, not to
The Stiletto Blog Was Also Founded On Independence Day
July 4, 2008 marks the start of The Stiletto Blog’s third publishing year. It’s not just technology that makes this blog possible – the Internet, YouTube, user-friendly publishing tools and so forth – but the First Amendment. Even our neighbor to the North has a far different concept of free speech than Americans do.
A recent TownHall.com column by Robert Knight, director of the Culture & Media Institute at the Media Research Center descries Canadian-born columnist Mark Steyn being subjected to a hearing before British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal for violating the province’s Human Rights Code Section 7(1)(b) - “A person must not publish, issue or display … any statement, publication … or other notice that is likely to expose a person … to hatred or contempt” – following a 5,000-word excerpt from his book America Alone that was reprinted in Canadian magazine Maclean October 20, 2006. The so-called hate-speech kicks off with this “common sense observation”: “The Muslim world has youth, numbers and global ambitions. The West is growing old and enfeebled, and more and more lacks the will to rebuff those who would supplant it. It’s the end of the world as we’ve known it.”
New York Times reporter Adam Liptak describes the article’s tone as “mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States do not say every day without fear of legal reprisal” and notes, “Things are different here. The magazine is on trial”:
The First Amendment is not, of course, absolute. The Supreme Court has said that the government may ban fighting words or threats. Punishments may be enhanced for violent crimes prompted by racial hatred. And private institutions, including universities and employers, are not subject to the First Amendment, which restricts only government activities.
But merely saying hateful things about minorities, even with the intent to cause their members distress and to generate contempt and loathing, is protected by the First Amendment. …
Jason Gratl, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists, which have intervened in the case in support of the magazine, was measured in his criticism of the law.
“Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech,” Mr. Gratl said in a telephone interview. “We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas. Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat.”
For his part, Steyn tells Liptak in a telephone interview:
“The problem with so-called hate speech laws is that they’re not about facts. They’re about feelings. What we’re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins. Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.”
Unfortunately, too many in the MSM who rely on the freedoms guaranteed them by our Constitution are not willing to stick their necks out to defend free speech wherever and whenever it is imperiled (second item) or denied (third item) – even in this country.
Editorial Note: Having won a nod of approval from The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences in the political blogs category during its second publishing year, The Stiletto Blog invites lurkers to become regular readers and readers to become subscribers. She also hopes commenters will engage each other in spirited debate. Finally, please tell family, friends, neighbors and co-workers about The Stiletto Blog!