Thursday, July 5, 2018

Two For Independence Day 2018

     [A couple of reposts for you today, both of which first appeared at Eternity Road on July 4, 2008. The first was written by my young friend Duyen, who was only 33 years old at the time. It displays a degree of wisdom a lot of others in the Right have yet to attain. Among the things we have to celebrate in this Year of Our Lord 2018 is that the clock is moving once more – and in the right direction. -- FWP]

The Stopped Clock

     When you know a man to be upbeat and forward looking, when he's been that way for all the years you've known him, it can be terribly hard to endure his fits of melancholy. We all have them -- yes, even me -- but the contrast makes his particularly gloomy.

     Fran and I were chatting yesterday evening, as we often do after work. I had wonderful news to share: my dear friend Amber, whom some of you have read about, has left the porn trade and taken up far more wholesome work. She's enthusiastic about it; it's her first "regular job" since high school. I expected Fran to celebrate along with me.

     Well, he didn't. Not that he regards it as a bad development; he's simply too low emotionally for anything to register with him in a big way. He expressed approval, congratulated me on my contribution, and trailed off. His lack of reaction left me feeling very sad.

     I tried to probe a little. I know, it's often the exact wrong thing to do, but I couldn't help it. (It's a girl thing.) It turned out to have a lot to do with today -- Independence Day.


     I don't pay much attention to politics, but even I know things aren't going very well for people who just want to be left alone. As bad as they can seem here, the world beyond is in even worse shape.

     The wars America fought throughout the twentieth century were all intended to promote freedom. If you were unaware of the outcomes of those wars, from the state of the world today you'd hardly believe we won them. From the state of the nation today, it would be easier to believe the Nazis conquered us.

     I say "us," even though I'm less than two decades an American. I love this country with an intensity that verges on worship. But until fairly recently, I didn't think much about why I love it so. Yes, I came here to be free, and I'm as free as I can imagine being. (All right, taxes could be a lot lower.) But until you think seriously about why Americans are pretty much free, and why just about no one else anywhere is free at all, you can't really appreciate it.

     Here's what Alexis de Tocqueville had to say about it:

I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. [Democracy in America]

     Goodness is our greatest national asset. It's hard to see it that way, because you can't heap it up in a mound for people to gawk at, or make a pretty photograph out of it, like a Space Shuttle launch. But it's out there, in quantity, in the hearts of millions of Americans. They respect one another's rights. They insist on justice. They come to one another's aid when it's the proper thing to do. And they don't sit quietly when they see an injustice or an atrocity; they say and do what they think they should. That's the only sort of people that can sustain freedom: good people.

     But there are other people working on that goodness -- to destroy it. And we're cutting them an awful lot of slack.


     We're not a country full of wimps. We still rear up on our hind legs when it's the right thing to do...most of the time, anyway. But we're letting more and more offenses slip by unpunished. Here's an example from my personal site: [That piece is unfortunately lost -- FWP]

     I didn't think much of the incident at the time, beyond how badly it upset me. It only occurred to me much later that I'd made myself part of the problem by not counterattacking with all the resources I have. Those two viragoes wouldn't have dared to raise a hand to me. Bullies are always cowards. If I had lashed back at them in my best style, I probably would have sent them running for home. When they next saw a woman in a fur, they would have thought twice about their tactics. As it was, they probably congratulated themselves on a successful foray for their cause. They're more likely, not less, to do it again...or worse.

     When a good person confronts evil that way, he has to give at least as good as he gets. I didn't. I failed my responsibilities.

     There are a lot of bullies roaming around, these days. They're more numerous and more various than ever before. Muslim bullies. Environmentalist bullies. Homosexual bullies. Union bullies. Anti-Catholic and anti-Christian bullies. Victimist bullies -- like the irony in that? Educationist bullies. Bullies who want to disarm you and bullies who want to suck you dry. You can hardly avoid them, especially if you live and work in a large city.

     They're as many as they are because we failed our sacred responsibility as the gardeners of fertile soil: to pull the weeds before the roots go too deep to dig out. We told ourselves that it was our duty to tolerate even the most blatantly evil nonsense. Instead of punching back, we held our tongues. Look where that got us.


     I feel a little naughty, writing about this today. This is the secular holiday nearest to my heart. Besides, Fran's the political animal here, so I'm sort of trespassing on his jurisdiction; I'm supposed to write about love, sex, chess, and shoes. (Good thing Eternity Road isn't a union shop!) But if the state of things has got him down, I can only imagine what it's doing to other good people who lack his resilience.

     I'm not telling you how to live your life, or how feisty you should be towards people of un-American views, or even how to deal with them when they "get in your face." I'm as averse to confrontation as any of you. But right now, the country is suffering from the proliferation of bullies, all of whom want you to bend the knee to their notions, and the only way to stem the tide is to fight back. I'm going to get to work on that for myself.

     Sometimes, your local bully will be someone you've been told you have a duty to tolerate, even respect. A duty to tolerate or respect a bully? Why on Earth? Enough of that BS; I mean to find out if he can take a punch. I don't know what will come of it, but it's a good person's responsibility to try. Anyway, it has to be better than silently allowing them to run over our freedoms.


     I discussed this with Fran before I decided to write about it. He had an interesting angle on it.

     "We're at a stopped-clock moment in American history," he said. "There's a lot of trouble and anxiety out there. Most people are holding their breaths, awaiting developments, instead of forging ahead with their lives and their ambitions. Only the statists and the Cause People are really in motion, and that's exactly the reverse of how it ought to be."

     "How do we get the clock started again?" I asked.

     "By fostering goodness," he said. "De Tocqueville wrote that America is great because America is good. He grasped the essence of the thing long before any other European did. A good people can be free, and can hold onto freedom, but a free people who cease to be good will sooner or later be enslaved. If we want to avert a new enslavement, we have to become good again -- good enough to insist on goodness, to fight for it wherever it's threatened, and never, ever to give an inch willingly. We'll lose sometimes, but if there are more of us than there are of them, we'll eventually win."

     "Are there more of us than there are of them?" I asked.

     "I don't know," he said. "I used to think so, but these days I'm no longer sure."


     Cheer up, America. If there's a fight to be fought, let's not pre-defeat ourselves. I mean, look at all we have to protect!

     Happy Independence Day.

     [The following piece, which shall stand as my emission for today so I can get to the rest of my Honey-Do list, first appeared at Eternity Road on July 4, 2008, immediately after Duyen’s piece above. Happy memories of a memorable and very happy evening, Duyen, and Happy Hangover Day to you, Gentle Reader. -- FWP]

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, And...?

     Fran here. In college, I was a semi-professional musician; that is; I got paid for playing and singing in public. Never fear; I don't do it any more. But it was then that I learned a number of home truths about relating to an audience. The one most germane to the present moment is this: When you've been upstaged by the opening act, you mustn't attempt a counterstrike by stretching beyond your limits. Just relax, do what you came prepared to do, and hope your listeners derive some pleasure from your efforts.

     (I'll get you for that, you diminutive cutie, you!)

     Today is, of course, Independence Day, the quintessentially American holiday. In a way, it's misplaced, for independence was ratified by a unanimous vote taken on the Second of July, 1776; the final wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved on the Fourth, and the signatures of the majority of the delegates were affixed to it on the Second of August. Down the decades that have passed since then, historians and others have speculated as to why the delegates waited nearly a full month to sign Thomas Jefferson's immortal document.

     Actually, people "in the know" have simply refrained from letting the information get around. It was too embarrassing. It would abrade too many sensibilities. The national psyche could be mortally wounded. Nevertheless, the time has come for full disclosure. The delegates to the Continental Congress refrained from signing the document on the Fourth for the best of all reasons.

     They were drunk.

     You've been drunk at least once, haven't you? So you know what it's like to awaken gummy-eyed and dry-mouthed, feeling as if you've been knocked down by a dog and run over by a truck. There's this pain somewhere behind your eyes that suggests that your sinuses have been invaded by a regiment of Desiccators from Death Valley. Your joints feel as if someone opened each one up and poured in a handful of sand. When you first sit up, you get a distinct feeling that the world ended during the night, and for your sins you've been named to the cleanup crew. Coffee doesn't really help; it only awakens you still further to the magnitude of your self-inflicted agonies.

     And that's if you remember the night before.

     Anyway, the ratifiers of our Declaration of Independence surely understood the gravity of their decision. At that time, Britain was the preeminent military power in the Western world, while the American colonies could barely muster an army. To sign the Declaration, putting one's public stamp of approval on a win-or-die rebellion against so powerful an empire, must have evoked intense fears...especially among those delegates who'd have to explain their decisions to their wives. Beyond all question, after the Declaration was approved, the delegates trooped in a body into the nearest watering hole and did their damnedest to drown their anxieties in ale.

     (You didn't really think Samuel Adams's name was famous for his insurrectionist activities, did you?)

     And a mighty drunk it must have been. For whenever a delegate returned to partial sobriety, he needed only to glance at his partners in rebellion, snoring around him, to remember why he'd embraced Bacchus so fervently the night before. That was more than enough impetus to call for another round.

     That classic binge gave rise to one of the most important features of the new republic: the national debt. For the delegates had been sent to Philadelphia by the state legislatures; they were on expense accounts. And when was a politician's claim of "entertainment expenses" ever put to serious scrutiny? Of course, eventually the tab exceeded the delegates' means, at which point the innkeeper rousted them all out. That allowed them to sober up sufficiently to sign the Declaration a mere twenty-nine days after actually ratifying it.

     That wasn't quite the end of the affair. The innkeeper harried the delegates from place to place, demanding compensation for their multifarious uses of his establishment. Their frequent relocations owed as much to his wrath as to the danger from the Redcoats. Ultimately, the imperative of national unity compelled a Second Continental Congress in 1777, where their gargantuan bar bill was appended to the war liabilities of the federal government in a "closed" session. They proceeded to draft the Articles of Confederation and, still being hung over, guaranteed national insolvency by neglecting to give the newly formed federal government the power to tax. Thus was the Constitutional Convention of 1787 made inevitable, and the phrase "not worth a Continental Congressman," unfortunately shorn by overprotective historians of its last word, coined.

     Happy Independence Day, America. Hoist one or two or six for me, would you please? I'll be sure to do the same for you. For we are all truly blessed...and in my case, in more ways than I can count, but one meriting special mention today: the friendship of a certain brilliant and extremely well shod American-by-choice, whose contributions to the maintenance of my mental health are greater than I could ever say.

1 comment:

Linda Fox said...

The vote on approval of the Declaration wasn't the important part. That was a GROUP decision.

The signing was more vital - it required that they NAME themselves, and INDIVIDUALLY take responsibility for their decision.