Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Day

This Mac computer, which already feels too hot under my wrists, had been turned off since Friday.

Our Fourth of July was quiet, J's and mine. In the early morning while the house was still cool he read the Declaration of Independence out loud as I walked up and down the living room, my bare feet on the carpet.

He read from the booklet containing The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and The Constitution of New Jersey, which I had received at graduation from Junior High School along with the engraved "Certificate of Promotion to the Senior High School." The Board of Education gave us--in lavish blue and gold with ribbons--this gift to officially welcome us to the Republic. Not that I thought in those terms on graduation day. Yet many of my teachers had already schooled us by example and by drawing us out with questions, in Civics class, and in the regular classroom. They raised questions; we answered; sometimes we fumbled; we thought. Most of our teachers had come down from New England, unmarried women--that was the rule when they were hired--to work in New Jersey. Hazel Putnam, descendent of the Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam had taught me about the Republic.

I had been nervous about letting J. touch this gold-stamped memento and artifact of another time and a past life and I made him promise not to "slop it up." I administered the oath--"I promise, I swear . . . "--and he took it. You see, earlier he had tried to read from the print facsimile in the New York Times and found it unreadable even with a magnifying glass, so I had volunteered my treasure and then took the risk. It was worth it, and the documents are still in good shape.

We both loved the inditement section in which the crimes of George III, King of England, are rolled out one after another, gathering force, in 27 succinct paragraphs beginning mostly with "He." He the king had done this; he had done that. He had gone too far. His acts, his crimes, had piled up. Enough!

Our founders indited a king.

"A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

The passage in which the founders' recounted their unsuccessful appeals to their "British brethren" lit up for me and J:

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpation, which would inevitable interrupt our connections and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity.

Consanguinity: with blood, with common blood. Blood brothers: English to English.

Don't we all have blood in common, aren't we all commoners? Blood when it shows in my veins through my pink skin is blue, which does not make me and others like me superior blue bloods as distinguished from darker-skinned people who do not appear blue-veined. All blood is red; when it dries it is purplish. Royal purple, common red: all of us. Red, white, and blue, etc., etc. Bring on the colors! But flag raising is not to my taste.


  1. 'This Mac computer, which already feels too hot under my wrists...'

    Mim, I love this image!

  2. Thanks, nmj. Here's to immediacy.

    Hello from Mim in the States

  3. What a memento to keep! I confess to feeling a little bit of jealousy over how the US celebrates freedom. Even though what came after wasn't all good. But at least that was the beginning. Yes, you indicted a king, how brave is that? :-) I guess that's still a thorn on her Majesty's side. She's bound for New York today.

    Greetings from London.

  4. Reading the document is a great thing to do especaily focussing on the middle section listing the specific complaints in clear language. This document was the death warrant for the signers should their effort fail. But I find your discourse on blood PC and off the point. The authors are referring to the cultural bond they hoped for among fellow Englishmen -- not the red stuff.

  5. Hello, Cuban in London--
    Unfortunately the US is now doing some of the bad things George III and his ilk did.
    The Queen comes to New York. I'll follow the story on the news. Oh, those hats.
    Do you know the sly, amusing book "The Uncommon Reader"? In it Queen Elizabeth becomes a passionate reader, which changes her life. Author, Alan Bennett.

  6. Mim, thanks for the recommendation; I think I wll resd this book about the queen. It's translated into german, and lazy me will read that version :-)
    I was in the states when I was 14 to 15, and so I had the possibility to celebrate the independence day once; I rememeber me being totally surprised, because we, at that time, didn't have any celebration like that in germany. Now it changed a bit; the fall of the Berlin wall is quite a big event every year. But still not in those dimensions.

  7. Smilla, I think "The Uncommon Reader" will make you smile. Though I once loved the July 4 fireworks, in these times the big displays turn me off.

    Bluedog: I hear you and share your appreciation for the inditement section of the Declaration but disagree about "the red stuff." I like my little riff on blood brotherhood especially in light of the distinction between Tories and Commoners.

  8. I love your paragraph about blood, Mim -- esp. the idea that when it comes down to it, we are all of us royal and common, common and royal. It's the things that distinguish us as individuals that make us just like everyone else in the group?

    I have Alan Bennett's 'The Uncommon Reader' on my TBR pile... nice to find your recommendation here!

    Thanks. L, C x