Youthful Exuberance

The Declaration of Independence served as formal separation from old ways. Youth and newness were to replace the stodgy conservatism of the aging and antiquated. Thomas Jefferson himself was in his early thirties at the signing of his handiwork. Progress was not fast enough and the exuberance of an emerging nation could not be contained. And so it was, over two centuries ago that the United States of America was born by the passion of a rising generation.

And the lesson I take from such a significant event: whenever tradition hinders progress, it should be thrown to the fire. Ways of doing things are only worthwhile when they advance mankind. And what should we consider progress? “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Anything that moves us closer to that ideal is progress.

Though it seems absurd that a country so enterprising in oppression and servitude should express such an ideal, it is exactly those lofty and seemingly insurmountable goals that America is famous for achieving! We can also be sure that such an ideal WON’T be attained through a government created in antiquity and populated by elderly statesmen. The “new world” in this digital age exists online obviously — and it is in this realm where the brashness of a rising generation will take its place at the helm.

As everything moves online, those stuck in an immovable conservatism will persist in an unchanging world as vitality happens in the cloud. And in time, that liveliness will spread to the static domain as it plants itself on the remains of what was. So on this day, July 4th, I celebrate an end to the old while welcoming in the new. As John Adams wrote to his wife after the signing:

“I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

So you see dear friends, it is the American way to usher in change before we’re ready then somehow deal with the consequences. Therefore, even though we’re not ready, we must embrace a new era and all the change that comes with it — and we should do so with unrepentant optimism, ever heading towards the ideal so stated above: that all of us are born with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Parade Politics

If you want to understand the immigration debate, try finding a seat at a parade.

When the early-birds show up, the world is their oyster, plenty of room for everyone. They’ll even set up some coolers filled with chilled beverages. Folding chairs are everywhere. This is open-country, and they’ll do with it as they please.

When the on-time people start arriving (slightly before the parade starts), the early-birds eye them suspiciously and man their defenses — they’ll hunker down, get to their chairs and shoot judgmental looks all around, securing their territory.

But when the late-people get there, the “laties” as I call them (arriving at the start-time or after) — oh boy, well they just expect to squeeze-in anywhere or perhaps they’ll go right to the front. Some will claim a form of hardship to try and garner sympathy.

We forget that what we’re there for, is to celebrate our union, our togetherness, in the form of a festive procession. Yet we’re territorial tribalists putting party-first as soon as some “others” show up looking to squeeze our space into something smaller than it was.

I’m usually an on-timer by the way, so I view the early-birds as idealist dreamers willfully refusing to accept the fact that others will be coming. Of course there are more people coming, make some room! But man, I am not a fan of “laties”. I sit in my small spot, maybe even in the back, as I try to be respectful and well-behaved — therefore, I can sympathize with early-birds at that point when late-people start showing-up and make my small space even smaller while some even stand right in front of me (so rude!).

I start to think… if only they capped it off and didn’t allow laties into the audience at some point. How can you do that at a parade though? Yet I see this scenario playing out at every event I attend. But if a problem follows you around, the problem is probably you. So of course the real solution for me, is to not focus on the audience, but focus on the show. Why get so entranced by territorial matters when that’s not why I’m there.

In other words, my lack of focus is causing my discomfort. Even if there wasn’t a “laties” issue, then I might focus on the excesses of the early-birds. Or maybe, god-forbid, there’s a smoker next to me. If I’m looking to be perturbed, I can always find something to dislike (seek, and ye shall find). Moral of the story: stop whining and enjoy the show.

Independence for All

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Haphazard Historian.

Large political bodies eventually collapse under their own weight. Yet a collapse is not necessarily catastrophic, as pieces often tend to drift apart and establish their independence. The United States was itself birthed by this mechanism of unmanageable size. Having to oversee the needs of numerous citizens an ocean apart proved too unwieldy for the King of Great Britain. For reference, the United States had a population of around 5 million citizens and slaves when established, England at the time had a similarly sized population.

Today, the United States has a population of over 300 million citizens, yet representation of these citizens within government has not kept pace. In other words, as population increased, individual democratic influence decreased. Nowadays, twenty states each have populations greater or equal to that of the entire country when governmental structures were established. Many individual states have populations greater or equal to prominent countries within the world. Additionally, the land mass of the United States is more in line with a political region such as Europe rather than a single country.

While struggling to make their way in the world, it made sense for small groups of colonies to band together the best they could. But times change. The United States has grown so big that the seams holding it together are bursting once again. Systems that were established centuries ago are crushed under the weight of a hundred million. And make no mistake, this union was not a marriage based in love, the bond was contentious from the start. It took battles to form it and all out war to maintain it. There is bitterness on all sides.

It was a spirit of independence, both religious and commercial, that brought those early English and European colonists to the American continent. It was a desire to directly control the course of one’s life. People wanted to play a meaningful part in politics — and localities were small, giving each a greater impact within it. The best of times do not occur when success plateaus and bureaucracy sets in. No, the vibrancy of life occurs during a startup phase when experiments are common and individuals make the greatest impact with more meaningful contribution.

It is the American way to sever ties with systems that become stale or antagonistic to liberty, to adopt new ways that best secure the happiness of the people. If independence and self-governance is a thing to be celebrated, then surely such revelers must strive for similar ideals in their own lives. And to do so, the people must not have decreasing influence in government. The people’s capacity to enact their will must be maintained.

We would do well to remember that many colonies in America existed for a century and a half before merging into the United States. Despite ties and tradition, prudent people abandoned a government long established and instituted a new one that could better serve their needs. And make no mistake, alliances were quickly reestablished, but the people now felt the empowerment of independence and bargained accordingly.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed — that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Diplomacy of Independence

Excerpt of a letter by John Adams to his wife Abigail Adams — July 3d. 1776

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

// Insert American War of Independence Here

Excerpt of a letter by John Adams to John Jay — June 2d. 1785

The Door was shut and I was left with his Majesty and the Secretary of State alone. I made the three Reverences, one at the Door, another about half Way & the third before the Presence, according to the Usage established at this and all the Northern Courts of Europe, and then addressed myself to his Majesty in the following Words—

“Sir, The United States of America have appointed me their Minister Plenipotentiary to your Majesty, and have directed me to deliver to your Majesty this Letter which contains the Evidence of it. It is in Obedience to their express Commands that I have the Honor to assure your Majesty of their unanimous Disposition and Desire to cultivate the most friendly and liberal Intercourse between your Majesty’s Subjects and their Citizens, and of the best Wishes for your Majesty’s Health and Happiness and for that of your royal Family. The Appointment of a Minister from the United States to your Majesty’s Court, will form an Epocha in the History of England & of America. I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow Citizens in having the distinguished Honor to be the first to stand in your Majesty’s royal Presence in a diplomatic Character and I shall esteem myself the happiest of Men if I can be instrumental in recommending my Country more and more to your Majesty’s royal Benevolence and of restoring an entire Esteem, Confidence & Affection, or in better Words, the old good Nature and the old good Humour between People who, tho’ separated by an Ocean and under different Governments, have the same Language, a similar religion & kindred Blood. I beg your Majesty’s Permission to add, that altho’ I had some Time before been entrusted by my Country, it was never in my whole Life in a Manner so agreeable to myself.”—

The King list’ned to every Word I said with Dignity but with an apparent Emotion—whether it was the Nature of the Interview or whether it was my visible Agitation, for I felt more than I did or could express, that touched him I cannot say—but he was much affected and answered me with more Tremor than I had spoken with, & said

“Sir—The Circumstances of thy Audience are so extraordinary, the Language you have now held is so extremely proper and the Feelings you have discovered so justly adapted to the Occasion, that I must say that I not only receive with Pleasure the Assurances of the friendly Dispositions of the United States, but that I am very glad the Choice has fallen upon You to be their Minister. I wish you Sir, to believe, and that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late Contest, but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do, by the Duty which I owed to my People. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the Separation, but the Separation having been made and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the Friendship of the United States as an independent Power. The Moment I see such Sentiments & Language as yours prevail, and a Disposition to give to this Country the Preference, that Moment I shall say, let the Circumstances of Language; Religion and Blood have their natural and full Effect.”

I dare not say that these were the King’s precise Words, and it is even possible that I may have in some Particular mistaken his meaning; for altho his Pronunciation is as distinct as I ever heard, he hesitated some Times between his Periods and between the Members of the same Period—He was much affected & I was not less so, and therefore I cannot be certain that I was so attentive, heard so clearly and understood so perfectly as to be confident of all his Words or Sense; And I think that all which he said to me should at present be kept a Secret in America, unless his Majesty or his Secretary of State should judge proper to report it. This I do say, that the foregoing is in his Majesty’s Meaning as I then understood it, and his own Words as nearly as I can recollect them.

The King then asked me whether I came last from France, and upon my answering in the Affirmative, he put on an Air of Familiarity and smiling or rather laughing said, there is an Opinion among some People that you are not the most attached of all your Countrymen to the Manners of France. I was surprized at this because I thought it an indiscretion and a Departure from the Dignity—I was a little embarrassed but determined not to deny the Truth on one Hand, nor leave him to infer from it any Attachment to England on the other. I threw off as much Gravity as I could and assumed an Air of Gaiety and a Tone of Decision as far as was decent, and said—That Opinion Sir, is not mistaken, I must avow to your Majesty, I have no Attachment but to my own Country. The King replied as quick as Lightning: an honest man will never have any other.

The King then said a Word or two to the Secretary of State, which being between them I did not hear, and then turned & bowed to me, as is customary with all Kings and Princes when they give the Signal to retire. I retreated, stepping backward as is the Etiquette, and making my last reverence at the Door of the Chamber, I went my Way.—

Nathaniel Acorn

Nathaniel Acorn, an American Man

Chapter 1: Interrogation

“I will not ask again, rebel, tell us the location of your weapons cache!”

“For free men to be free, they must have the means in which to defend themselves. I cannot –”

“We are all the protection the people of this colony need! Tell us, where are the weapons being stored?”

“I cannot reveal –”

“Enough of this, put him in irons, no food or water, let this man’s ideals be his nourishment.”

Chapter 2: Marching Orders

“Sir, our scouts in Concord have returned with reports of suspicious activity amongst the locals.”

“This is what I’ve been waiting to hear, dispatch the regiments to Concord to find and remove those weapons. Order in the colonies cannot be achieved while these locals have access to stores of ammunition and cannons.”

“Very good, sir.”

Chapter 3: Rally To Arms

“They say their coats are red to hide their blood, I say we put that to the test!”

“Easy now, young William, we are all subjects of the crown, it is just a misunderstanding that needs clearing up, surely we are all reasonable beings.”

“Although he is young, William is right, the time for reasoning has come to an end, Jonathan, we have explained our part and they have explained theirs. We fought beside the regular army against the French and Indians, and now they treat us as their crops, harvesting our taxes to fill their coin purses.”

“But it was precisely the cost of that war that has led to the increased taxation, Nathaniel. Surely we owe our part?”

“Our share was paid with our blood and toil, and if more is needed, let them ask it of us, not demand it.”

“Nathaniel, what you are proposing is treason, are you so disloyal to the crown that you risk your life as well as ours?”

“I do not consider myself a patriot or loyalist, but a lover of liberty, and should my blood spill whilst in her defense, may my last breath utter the phrase, ‘I am a free man’.”

“Here, here, sir! I will gladly join your ranks!”

“That is good to hear William, and what is your decision Jonathan?”

“Though my wife is again pregnant and my shop requires its shopkeeper, I am, as always, on the side of the righteous. I pledge all that I can offer to this holy cause of liberty.”

Chapter 4: March to Concord

“Oh what a glorious day for a march, is it not, Davis?”

“You’re a daft one Evans, Boston to Concord, glorious? This march is not my idea of amusement.”

“Ah, but it is our duty to leash these rebellious dogs and teach them at whose hand they feed.”

“Bold words Evans, but to remove the dog’s teeth, we are entering its jaws.”

“Quiet you two, we are merely out for a stroll, let us not declare our plans to the entire countryside.”

“Sir, over there, it looks as though the rebels have come out to greet us today.”

“Indeed, let us show our appreciation of their hospitality. Harris, extend to them our warmest regards by way of musket ball. We shall spank these rebels and teach them who is the law of this land.”

Chapter 5: American Made

“So Nathaniel, it looks as though your wish has been granted, blood has been spilled in the defense of liberty. But how is it you are not in the highest of spirits? I thought this news would delight you?”

“Can a sane man delight in the death of others Eli? From the beginning, I had hoped for a reasonable outcome from polite discourse. It was only after repeated bullying that we, the colonists, finally stood up for ourselves. But I am left wondering if we are prepared for the cost of this insurrection and whether we’ve gone too far.”

“If the oppression of our government is as bad as the Patriots say, perhaps you should be breathing a sigh of relief.”

“Forever an Englishman, Eli, I see with whom your loyalties lie. But the die is cast, there is no more arguments to be had for or against. You should become accustomed to thinking of yourself as an American.”

“Ha ha, and you think old King George is going to give up his control of the colonies just like that? Oh, Nathaniel, ha!”

“No, not without a fight, but what can an army of mercenaries do against an army of freemen?”

“Freemen indeed! Like young William and Jonathan the busy shopkeeper? These are your warriors Nathaniel? How can they stand against the King’s finest? I am no more a lover of high taxes than the next man, but I am practical as well as a loyal subject of the crown. Wake up from your slumber Nathaniel, your dreams can only turn into nightmares from this point.”

“Practical, yes Eli, you are practical. And no, it’s not practical to love a thing such as freedom. But is longevity your goal in life? If so, perhaps Jonathan can find a place for you on his shop’s shelves.