- Fireworks have been exploding loudly in the evenings all weekend, three days of colored flashes and sudden bangs. The wildlife seems to take it in stride _ what are those crazy humans up to this time? Just about all the boats that have a prayer of being used this summer are now in the water, after frantic activity at the marinas and ramps. Beaches have been jammed in spite of cool breezes and hazy sunshine. Today will be filled with scents of burning meat from shortly before noon until after midnight. And, of course, somewhere all day someone will be intoning how solemnly this day should be celebrated ….
- I’m actually as patriotic as the next guy. This country has been good to me _ I’ve lived a life much more complete and pleasant than almost anything I have read about in history or travel. Our United States and its ideals has been something special in the world, and I hope it will continue so. The anger, moans, and groans of today may yet transmute into some interesting pathway into the future. For if our country is anything, it is about experiment, and letting individuals together try different ways of thinking and living. As for me _ well it’s unfortunately come down to less great thoughts and more grilled hamburgers and sunscreen. Some of the fun in life is once in a while to have no deep thoughts at all.
This land was nothing under ice
Then glaciers left huge rocks and sand
As seas retreated from the land
Forests grew as seeds were spread
By wind, or birds, or human tread
This land was here before the strife
Of English, Dutch, German, French
Before disease and wars left stench
Of rotting corpses, blood and gore
From all who had lived here before
This land was here as it was torn
Cleared to graze or grow rich grain
Filled with farms again, again
Leveled, ploughed, dammed and worst
Waters polluted as if cursed.
This land was here when I was born
Although I did not know it then
I’ve heard fine tales of other when
Much has changed to elder eyes
While all lament lost paradise
This land is here while I sing song
Still glorious when sun shines bright
Luxuriant from storms at night
Stuffed with traffic, beaches, stores
Yet still the youngsters cry for more
This land will not be here for long
As water rises topping waves
Will overflow roads, houses, graves
And all will be as once had been
Perhaps pre-fated, from our sin
- Mathematical considerations and Newtonian mechanics split the year into 4 equal seasons, controlled by orbits and axial tilt. But nowhere are seasons exactly equal, neither within a year nor between years. Huntington is rather normalized, but spring sometimes ends abruptly somewhere in May, while winter may arrive in late October. This year, the more shocking aspect is that signs of autumn have sprung forth because of drought almost before the flowers of spring began to transmute to seed and fruit.
- No matter, people ignore all that anyway. Summer traditionally and narrowly unfolds between July 4 and September 7 or so. For my childhood family and friends, this was our unique vacation _ nobody took a week or two off any other time of year to ski or fly south. Happily, as promised and expected, full summer has finally brought high temperatures, humidity, lots of green and increasing insects. Wonderful times for beach and sunsets _ even though earlier nightfall and these pesky reminders hanging on ailanthus trees murmur subconsciously that what seems endless time has not actually paused.
A bunch of us were gathered outside the library, waiting for the parade to begin. Ellen had been a teacher and was complaining “The young folks today don’t know any real history about the Founding Fathers or anything else.”
“What?” asked Jeff, eyebrows raised. “They don’t remember George Washington leaps the broad Potomac in a single bound?”
“I forget,” said John, picking up the thread. “Was that before or after he single-handedly cleared a path through the Allegheny wilderness with a machete for Braddock’s troops?”
“Nah, that was after,” chimed in Mary. “First thing, he killed a bear when he was only three.”
“Don’t forget about him blowing over his father’s cherry tree orchard with one mighty breath.”
“Ah, Washington, Washington,” Anita remarked disparagingly, “what a wimp. The real hero in that bunch was Hamilton. After all, who plowed the Erie Canal, straight as an arrow East to West, Albany to Niagara Falls?”
“With his mighty blue ox Babe!” shouted Tom.
“In just one day!” chirped Mary.
“Oh, yeah? What about Jefferson? He cleared the forests of Virginia for his friends, started the French Revolution, and wrote the Encyclopedia Britannica when he retired.”
“The kids,” Ellen interjected darkly, “have no idea what an encyclopedia is.”
“Then how will they ever find out that Franklin electrocuted Philadelphia while he was inventing the steamboat and automobile?”
“Me, I prefer my heroes a little more human,” mused Karin. “Take John and Abigail Adams. Forcing the British out of Boston with brilliant legal maneuvers in Faneuil Hall.”
“Happy Fourth of July anyway,” laughed Dave. “And we should never forget the brave men who fell at Waterloo this day to keep our country safe from tyranny.”
- Hot, humid, occasional thunderstorms. Wildlife seems not to notice, although there appears to be a shocking lack of insects this year. Will swallows and terns starve? People at the beach are grateful for less bites. They remain afraid to swim because of declared high bacterial levels.
- Bacteria, of course, rule our world, both in numbers and sheer biomass. They are far more helpful companions in our biosphere than antagonists. In any case, the harmful ones are largely kept in check by salt water. These beachgoers are presumably the same people who worry about “chemicals” in their food, not realizing that all food and they themselves are nothing but chemicals. I wonder if any of the sunbathers worry about no insects? I’d like to believe it’s just a local phenomenon, but I fear that “local” is increasingly identical to everywhere else.
- As Lincoln pointed out, the real American Revolution was not in establishing a constitutional republic, but in acting on and holding sacred human rights as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Yes, such ideas were a common theme of eighteenth century intellectuals, but nowhere had a body of people acted on them as the reason for their nation and government.
- Why, exactly were the notions of “self evident,” “all men created equal,” and “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” so shocking in the context of rebellion and foundation of government?
- In spite of latter-day evangelists hanging on the word “Creator” with all their might, the very notion that anything could be “self-evident” is non-religious. “Self-evident” implies lack of authority from experts or writ, each person as interpreter of the meaning of the world, the protestant idea run amok. The notion that anyone can make up their own mind about meaning and righteousness continues to annoy and frighten rulers and the wealthy.
- Debunkers of the American Myth denounce the phrase “all men” as limiting. What about women, slaves, the poor, the ugly? But the key is in the selection of a huge group. “All men” has a far different connotation than “all kings” or “all nobles” or “all priests.” “Men” in this context is inclusive almost to the point of meaninglessness. It invites expansion, and resists narrow definitions.
- That everyone must be granted equal self-determination is explosive fuel. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” sparks the ignition. In spite of libertarian contradictions, this phrase is harnessed because all the others in society have the exact same rights _ no more and no less _ than anyone else, however certain they may be of their own ideals or however much temporal power they have accumulated.
- America has warts, as all societies do. But its devotion to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence _ and not to any of the other dinky procedural claptrap in the Constitution and Bill of Rights _ is what made America great, and what continues to make it exceptional in the world.
- An easy interim period for most plants, enough water, sun, warmth _ winners have won their struggle. Animals,
on the other hand, are having it harder. Young birds, mammals, and fish are watching their companions being hit by cars, eaten by cats, devoured by bigger fish, and dying in countless other ways. Older specimens are already beginning to lose the edge they need to survive the winter. People may worry about faraway news and distant concerns, but for everything else in our environment survival is real, instant, and constant.
- Our natural companions are probably not attuned to our inner concerns and thoughts. One of the most surprising things about us humans is that the more secure we become, the more neurotically we consider what might go wrong. Evolution on Earth planet did not get this far by thinking ahead. Sometimes, we might be better off paying attention to what is, and less engrossed in what might be.