The first flag to which I pledged allegiance was one like that on the left; 48 stars. I still have one from my uncle who died in the 50’s. I have his army hat, too. I found it while cleaning out his sister’s house some years ago. Our Pledge back then had one less word than today. Two extra stars, one extra word. Progress.
Our pennies had wheat shafts on the reverse and some were ‘white.’ Magnetic too. Many bore the head of an Indian. Nickles had the image of buffaloes; quarters eagles. Dollar bills had a blue stamp rather than green.Two dollar bills were fairly common as were 50-cent-pieces and silver dollars. Today, most of those coins are in the hands of collectors and dealers. Time marches on.
Today is my 69th Independent’s Day. Blam! BOOM! Zip-Pop! Many of my neighbors are pyromaniacs; I was too as a kid. I must have lit a thousand fire crackers in my time and some of them were quite dangerous. Silver salutes, cherry bombs and M-80’s could have blown off any of my fingers and surely contributed to my loss of hearing today. For the past several nights, my neighbors and I found sound sleep difficult to acquire as ‘the folks’ were busy blasting the warm night air- ostensibly to celebrate our 235th anniversary. Surely tonight will be a repeat performance as will July 5, 6 and 7.
Wow! We love our independence. Oddly, today Great Britain is our bosom buddy, an ally in our never-ending series of foreign excursions. and foreign occupations. The irony of that is amazing. “He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature. ” The ‘he’ was King George, not President George W. Bush. “For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.”
No doubt in many quarters of this land of ours people will be using the phrase, “Protecting our freedoms.” That will be enough to justify the inception of and continuation of foreign invasions of other people’s land. Aggression with any candy-coating is still aggression. Protecting our freedoms. Powerful and simplistic. It flows easily off of the tongues of the dolts who have been so easily brainwashed. That line of Samuel Johnson by biographer James Boswell comes to mind: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Whatever Johnson meant is unclear, yet Patriotic Fervor throughout the ages has brought an early death to many citizens of many lands.
Two hundred thirty-five years is a long time ago, more than twice the life of centenarians. Quite a lot of candles on the cake. Lots of bombs bursting in air. And the rockets’ red glare. Bombs, beer, brats and bravado. Lots of bravado. And beer. Perhaps the two are in a symbiotic relationship.
The Revolutionary War veterans must have felt a deep sense of pride and satisfaction upon returning home. There is nothing quite as satisfying as the taste of victory and accomplishment. No doubt crowds roared as the Concord Minutemen marched past. Did my uncle feel the same after returning from Europe? Or my older cousin from Korea? What about my classmate upon returning home from Vietnam? What about those courageous yet ill-informed young men who enlisted after 9-11? Or the ones sent to Iraq to hunt for the WMD’s? The ones still there in both theaters?
When was our last worthy war, if there is such a category? What price has our nation paid for Patriotic Fervor? Was it worth the blood, sweat, tears and treasure? As I stand watching a 4th of July parade, I am often saddened when a group of veterans march past. The WWII vets are often driven in cars and the Korean Vets mostly hobble past. Many Vietnam Vets are absent. I did see a few young ‘Enduring Freedom’ veterans smartly step past to the clapping of the bystanders. These men and the Iraq Vets will be marching in subsequent parades for another half-century, long after the WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans are in their graves.
Will these be the last of the troops marching in Independence Day parades?
July 4, 1837
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When like our sires our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.
Ralph Waldo Emerson