We’ve often heard that on July 4, 1776, King George III of England wrote in his diary that “Nothing important happened today.” However, it turns out, old George never kept a diary. Seems to be a misattributed or legendary reference. However, the truth is, a great importance did happen on July 4, 1776.
On that date, the Continental Congress voted for the Declaration of Independence, but it didn’t acquire all those John Hancocks until later. In fact, the last signature, that of Matthew Thornton, didn’t jot along until November of that year. So the vote for the Declaration was a defining moment on the 4th of July but the great paintings showing all the participants lined up to put the Big Bad Wolf on notice is a fabrication, a legend. An equal legend on par with the diary entry. Still, kind of a big deal.
But ya know what’s even kind of creepy? Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4th, 1826 – within hours of each other. That was exactly fifty-years after the vote for the Declaration.
Ya know what else happened on July 4th? My favorite book was published. On that day, in 1865, Lewis Carrolls, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published. And Mr. Carroll (or, rightly, Charles Dodgson – real name) has been under paedophilia suspicion ever since. The book has been banned from some classrooms since it’s publication, on charges of masturbation references, “bad language”, and belittling important societal norms like political and religious ceremonies. Some said it encouraged drug use. Yet, time has passed and Alice is readily available, at least here in the USA, for anyone to read.
I am more of a reader than a writer. I guess all writers are. So I am thankful I live in a country where I can read anything I want. Even the al-Qaeda funded magazine, Inspire. (Although I’ve been warned that just seeking it out in any search engine puts you in an NSA database. So I thought, screw em, and downloaded it when I found it, read it and still have it. Just add that to your file on me, Uncle Sam).
I put the First Amendment of the Constitution ahead of the rest. And I think the founding fathers did the same; thus, calling it the First Amendment. The freedom of speech is the greatest right. It surpasses the right to defend yourself with firearms or whatever weapon you choose. (I’d say the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword. Just ask Mr. Jefferson or Thomas Paine how important words are in getting things to change).
Living in a country where I can write these words, or any other words, is gratifying. I have the right to exercise my opinions, short of making actionable threats of injury. I don’t have to worry about a douche-monkey like Kim Jong-un sending henchmen to breakdown my door when I call him a douche-monkey. I do, however, have to tread lightly when mocking a certain religion (Islam) because if the fascist portion of that circus chooses to be offended, I could find myself a target for Fatwa. But whatever it takes, this is the one group that I will continue to play hardest against and I don’t plan on stopping any of my attacks against them as long as groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues to run wild. This is the garbage I live to take out.
I recommend everyone take some time to jot down their opinions, try the art of the essay if you wish. As a start, work with a journal. In the evenings, instead of wasting time on reality television and talking heads, jot down your own thoughts on what happened that day. Or what you wish to do tomorrow. Write it exactly as you think it should be said. And read everything you can get your hands on. Not just your preference. Try a different genre just for fun. You never know what you’ll dig until you dig.
So happy birthday, Alice. And don’t forget to take out your copy of the Declaration and give Mr. Jefferson’s words a re-read. Consider the complaints within and spend some time discussing it over your BBQ ribs, or hot dogs or burgers. How does it apply to what’s happening in America today? And do we need to make this Declaration again?
And one other thing: On July 4, 1886, the good people of France, in acknowledgement of the close relation they had with the United States, offered the Statue of Liberty to America. Engraved on the base of Lady Liberty are the following words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” – Emma Lazarus, 1903.
This is exactly why I am here. And why I’ll stay. I am in good company with the wretched refuse of teeming shores.