Independence Day 2019

1776 (l-r) Jefferson, Franklin, Adams
Alexander Hamilton

Today is probably a good day to re-watch the movie 1776 – or listen to the original cast recording of Hamilton. More likely both. Both are stories about the beginning of what was sometimes called the “American Experiment” – as in the experiment of democracy. It was kind of a new thing in the late 1700s.

If you are wondering whether that experiment may have run its course this Independence Day, you’re not alone.

Once upon a time, it was glorious. Flawed, often extremely so, but glorious all the same. I think we’re all going to miss it if it’s gone.

July 4 Fireworks, Duluth GA

Fourth of July 2018

Fireworks in San Jose California 2007 07 04 by Ian Kluft img 9618

To those in the United States, Happy Fourth of July. So as not to be completely remiss, to those in Canada, a belated Happy Canada Day.

Now that I’ve lured you in with a picture of Independence Day fireworks, I’m going to share a different picture. This has been going around on Facebook for a few days, and I think we all need the reminder.

I check the box for immigrants. All four of my grandparents came to the United States from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. I only exist because they fled to the this country before the Holocaust. All of my family who did not leave died in the concentration camps.

My husband’s family has been here a bit longer. On one side, he has ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. On the other, Scots-Irish who came to the U.S. just after the Civil War. But he is still the descendant of immigrants.

And whether or not you are also able to tick off some of the other boxes on that short list, so are you.

 

Fourth of July 2016

July 4 Fireworks, Duluth GA
July 4 Fireworks, Duluth GA

Today is the 240th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was the beginning of the “American Experiment” which has mostly worked, but has certainly had its ups and downs in the intervening two plus centuries. Which years are the “ups” and which ones are the “downs” is something that history will have to decide.

For those of you in the U.S., I hope you have a fantastic three-day weekend. We can see the village fireworks, just like in the picture above, from our front yard. The cats will be cowering somewhere in the house, wishing for the “night of big booms” to finish up and leave them to their late evening naps.

 

The Fourth of July, 2014: a Reading List

by Galen

American Flag books

I’m borrowing Marlene’s blog today to celebrate the 238th anniversary of U.S. independence. How to celebrate? We’ll be grilling steaks and corn on the cob, but we’ll also be reading. Here’s a list of books and essays I’ve read the touch on the complicated matter of American independence.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  This is one suggested by Marlene; during the course of the series, our time-traveling couple ends up living in the American colonies in the years leading up to the American Revolution.  Of course, Claire knows how the revolution ends, but what she and Jaime don’t know is what happens in the specific area where they live — which makes picking a side difficult.

Johnny Tremain by Esther ForbesJohnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.  A classic from 1944 and winner of the Newberry Award. It’s been a long time since I read it, but I think my love of historical fiction may have started with this one.

The musical 1776. Of course, it deviates from the true history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but it’s a great deal of fun while presenting a serious event in our history.  The song “Mama Look Sharp” still gives me chills.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham.  Another Newberry winner, in 1956.  The period after the American Revolution was such an energetic time — folks working, for better and worse, to spread out and to extend knowledge.

Frederick DouglassWhat to the Slave is the Fourth of July? by Frederick Douglass.  The independence announced in 1776 was not for everybody; we are still fighting for the full freedom of every last personal who lives on U.S. soil.  Some fought with words.

Personal Memoirs of U.S Grant.  And some fought with arms.  Grant is a fascinating figure in history, and knows how to wield a pen.

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates (an essay in the Atlantic).  I did not say that this was going to be an easy reading list, but I think it is a necessary one.  I have been reading Coates for years, and it’s becoming more and more clear that he will be remembered as one of the foremost public intellectuals of this century.

Grace Hopper by Kurt W. BeyerGrace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer. The call to arms after Pearl Harbor was not answered just by men destined for the front lines, but by people of every sort in every place.  Grace Hopper served in the Navy at Harvard as part of a team working with the Mark I computer to perform various calculations, including a simulation used by the Manhattan project.  She was one of the pioneers in computer science, contributing important papers, developing the COBOL language, and inspiring many.  She retired from the Navy Reserves as a rear admiral.

What is Free Software? by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation. There are many types of freedom; one area of freedom that I have a professional interest in is free, libre, or open source software.  Free software is a way of working in the open — if software makes up many of the tools that we rely on in this modern age, having those tools be available for all to use and improve on can help with other kinds of freedom: think of dissidents who rely on free cryptography software to protect themselves.

The Library Bill of Rights by the American Library Association.  This touches on another area of professional interest to me.  The freedom to read and to learn is essential for securing other types of freedoms; there was a reason why many slave-holding states had laws forbidding teaching slaves how to read and write.

I hope you enjoy this list.  What books and other works do you have on your fourth of July reading list?