US birthday maunderings
- Apropos of nothing particularly in discussion, here's something I sent
someplace else; in that forum a few regulars are teens, and they're
Good Kids™ (despite my presence ;). There's surely some subtle
propaganda here, but you know, I don't think it's *bad* propaganda.
I titled it "Freedom = Independence = Responsibility".
This is way off topic but what the hey.
So it's July 4th and for Americans, the day is special — it signifies
the beginning of our national identity.
229 years ago, America didn't exist as a nation. What was in Arizona
was primarily a cluster of cliff- and hut-dwelling cultures to whom the
Clovis Point was still relatively recent in terms of the arms race,
even though it was several thousand years old by then. The Spanish had
certainly made their mark in South and Central America, but this far
north most of the lands were under the influence of people who had
never seen a European.
Meanwhile, on the eastern coast of the north American continent, some
colonies settled by political refugees had begun to flourish and
thrive. Well, "thrive" in a relative sense. Voiced people were
primarily Caucasians, males, those who owned land. American aborigines
were not doing as well as could be hoped, though they'd signed some
treaties by then and even traded plots of land for material goods —
most notoriously, Manhattan island for some beads. No one with black
skin was considered a man, so they weren't counted by the measures of
In a short time the Revolutionary War would start. Eventually it would
birth America, but before then, prison ships anchored in mud flats off
New York would house nearly as many prisoners of war (American) as the
numbers fighting in the revolutionary war — and of those prisoned, four
in five would die in those ships of malnourishment, disease and
Young bucks, hotbloods such as Thomas Jefferson (in his 20s) would join
forces with aged statesmen such as Ben Franklin (in his 60s) to forge
not one, but two seminal documents — the US Declaration of
Independence, signed and ratified by a majority of colonies on 4 July
1776 in Philadelphia, and later the US Constitution and Bill of Rights
(the first 10 amendments) in the 1780s. It was the American Revolution
that seeded the French Revolution of the late 1700s, and which would
serve as an inspiration for other nations to form in later decades and
centuries. The genie, let forth that hot summer's day in Pennsylvania,
could not be rebottled.
In the last two and a quarter centuries we have seen and been in wars
of independence. We've helped a few and made a few happen that
otherwise would not have. We're caught now in trying to liberate yet
another nation, possibly prematurely. Over two centuries, we've sent
thousands — hundreds of thousands — to die in the name of freedom, on
such battlefields as Gettysburg and Normandy; and we've killed
thousands — hundreds of thousands — in the name of shaping the world to
our vision, in places such as the American plains or Baghdad.
Suffering is a pervasive fact of life. It cannot be escaped, and the
more time goes by, the more I look at history and news, the more I
think that it is our first duty to relieve suffering wherever it might
be found. This also means not adding to suffering, not making more
bleed than currently are, especially in the name of imposing an ideal
that some might not share.
Freedom is wonderful. Without it, we would not have the internet, Web
or this forum for discussion. But it comes at a heavy price, too often
levied in quarts of blood. And as much as it makes sense to us, there
are some for whom it's a disturbing idea. Not wrong; not evil; just
For instance, imagine that, at eight years of age, your parents had
given you the keys to the house, the car, and a credit card, and told
you to fend for yourself. What would have begun as a lark would have
quickly disintegrated into chaos; too much freedom when you are not
ready for it is frightening and can quickly turn to disaster.
Similarly, there are peoples and cultures today to whom our idea of
freedom looks a lot more like anarchy, total social disorder, an
experiment running rapidly toward disaster.
Maybe that's possible. Maybe, if we don't exercise responsibility,
awareness, wisdom and diligence in our decisions as citizens,
individuals, free men and women and voters, then yes, maybe we're in
trouble. Or maybe we're not.
We must behave responsibly, intelligently and with insight and
foresight; these are the seeds of wisdom. Wisdom is not a component of
age. You don't get suddenly more wise when you're 60 or 70 or 80; you
just get older, that's all. Wisdom requires thought and consideration
and depth of thought and intellect, and is not given at any arbitrary
Similarly foolishness is not the bourne of the young; it is possible to
be very old and very foolish at the same time.
Be young, be free, but be wise and responsible. That is what our nation
signifies best to the world — the eternal hope of youth, the brash
willingness to be free in the face of overwhelming odds; but the wisdom
also to show restraint and self-control, to not spread sorrow where it
does not need to take root.
Fireworks glow and as they do let them kindle your breasts for this
ideal, and let's not forget the men and women now and before who have
put themselves in harm's way for all of us — soldiers, yes, but
civilian hereos too, from firemen to traffic cops, scout leaders to
citizen militiamen, paramedics to scientists.
Freedom, independence, means we must be responsible; it means we must
be careful and wise. Those who are most wise are the least independent
— and that is what makes them so free. *
* I know that sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo, but it's actually true.
Warren Ockrassa, Publisher/Editor, nightwares Books
Current work in progress "The Seven-Year Mirror"