THE REAL FOURTH OF JULY – Courage the norm, rights the motive…

Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River 2010

Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River
2010

I am an old-fashioned patriot.  I mean really old-fashioned, as in the time of and the paradigm of the Founding Fathers.

When people ask, lightly for them, “In what era would like to have lived?”, I always say the 1770’s in Philadelphia.  Only not as a woman.  None of this Betsy Ross business, nor even the brilliant Abigail, urging John, “Remember the women.”

No, I don’t even care which man I am, so long as I am a man, and off to the City Tavern with Toms (1 and 2 — Jefferson and Paine), John (Adams of course), Ben – who needs no surname, and George, Father of our Country in many ways beyond war.  I have a powdered wig and those dusky pantalons, and white long stockings, and uncomfortable-looking shoes with sort-of high heels and shiny buckles.  Night after night, in the rustic taverns, lit by candle or gaslight, I am saying with my buddies, “Give me Liberty, or give me death.”

Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge

Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge — its upstairs room is said still to reveal splotches of true Patriots’ blood – slaughtered in sleep

I don’t have any patience with the skim-milk liberty of the 21st Century.  I bristle when the Fourth of July is termed a Freedom Fest.  In our country now, which our Founding Fathers would never recognize, the more we prate of liberty and freedom, the less we have.

America The Beautiful -- Pole Farm's Red Barn, Fields and Berries

America The Beautiful — Pole Farm’s Red Barn, Fields and Berries

This scene of barn and fields is my personal American icon.  It stands for Independence, such as farmers lived and passed on through generations.  It stands for salt-of-the-earth people, who worked with the earth, not in spite of it, to feed families and neighbors, to nourish not only bodies, but the very spirit of our land.

Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were farmers.  They knew the solid safety of our country rested on rural realities.  Not in slogans, let alone in the renaming of airports.

Those inalienable rights for which our Forefathers pledged and some lost their fortunes and lives, tho never their sacred honor, are trampled daily in 21st-Century Washington, by mega-corporations, in our very un-free media, in books, in trade deals, in intra-country negotiations.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s International Bill of Rights, for which she (the only woman at the United Nations) thought and fought and negotiated and declared, seems a figment of imagination.  Lost in the shuffle, and worse.  Her proudest achievement – trampled in the dust.

Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ's Land's Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ’s Land’s Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

Our entire country won the war of Revolution here, where I live now, in Lawrenceville (then Maidenhead) and in Trenton’s two Christmas battles, and in nearby Monmouth and in distant Yorktown, thanks to the French Fleet and heroic Lafayette.  It was also won in small towns, such as Concord and Lexinbton and on Bunker Hill in Boston, and in kitchens where wives and children melted the family pewter and silver and whatever other metals, to create bullets to defeat the tyrranical Brits.

Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death - Tea Burners' Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death – Tea Burners’ Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

in weeks and months before the written Declaration, and in the interminable years thereafter, the man and woman in the streets, in the fields, and even in tea-burning ceremonies in Greenwich New Jersey and yes in Princeton, as well as in Boston, courage was the norm, and rights were the motive.. 

My Country, 'tis of Thee, Sweet Land -- in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

My Country, ’tis of Thee, Sweet Land — in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

Heroes were also our norm in those decades, and they didn’t only wear pantalons.  Resistance was as fierce among wives and daughters of our Founding Fathers, as among the men in Philadelphia.  In many cases, the women were nearer to the maurading British, gunpowder, cannonfire, destruction by many means of their homes and communities.  Their spines were as stiff as those of their mates, negotiating in various capitals, riding to country taverns with muffled horses’ hooves, standing on balconies and reading declarations of rights.

Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

Life.  Liberty.  The Pursuit of Happiness.  How simple they sounded when I was a child.  How they fired the soldiers in WWI and WWII, especially on D Day and beyond.  How rare those qualities seem now.

We fought for them, even more than for our flag.

I am greatly disturbed always that the Stars and Stripes became a symbol of aggression and revenge, instead of freedom and inalienable rights, from the first moments of 9/11 ever onward.

Do you ever wonder where all those flapping auto-flags came from, within hours of the dissolution of the Twin Towers?  Who alerted the flag-manufacturers?

Before 9/11, we never saw those flags except in rare personal presidential motorcades, as when JFK motored through Detroit and Illinois before his impossible election.

After 9/11, little flags were everywhere and big ones inexplicably on bridges and overpasses.  Why?  In those days, it seemed, our banner stood for vengeance, even war.

One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

I happen to love the Stars and Stripes.

All year, I’ve been photographing them hither and yon, to try to recapture the pride and honor of Fourth of July as a child.

Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY

Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY, where Revolutionary sentiments were pounded into the tavern tables

Hence the collection.  What does it mean to YOU?

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “THE REAL FOURTH OF JULY – Courage the norm, rights the motive…

  1. “Not in slogans, let alone in the renaming of airports.” Good one Carolyn! I was almost saluting the flags in your photos by the end of this, thank you.

  2. O Faith, your opinion matters supremely. Comments few and far between — ‘too hot to handle’, most likely. I really meant to do a collage of flags, but my fury at the ruination of the Fourth, at its renaming so that web searches don’t pull UP the Founding Fathers, at merchants and politicians turning Independence Day (which has a whole other flavor from ‘freedom’) in to a time of hot dogs and firecrackers — my fury took over. ‘Lest we forget…’ ‘Attention must be paid!…’ Thank you for your courageous response! blessings c

    • Isn’t it sad, Judy, that it is brave to speak the truth in the former Land of Liberty. Thank you for commenting — means everything.

      On July 15, we’re reading (the Poets of Princeton Magazine, five of us) at D&R GReenway 6:30 reception, 7 – 8 reading, with Andrew Wilkinson’s magnificent floral images behind the poets as we read — I’d be so thrilled to see you and Oye in the audience. Sophie’s coming – this delights me. Blessings to both of you, Judy. c

  3. Beautifully expressed! We have precious liberties…it seems clinging to them through action is required more and more.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. Dear Linda,
    Yes, INDEED! — clinging to our liberties through steady and increasing action is essential! The Forefathers knew this, and the Foremothers, didn’t they? I’m concerned that the phrase ‘Independence Day’ is so rarely used. I sense an enormous distinction between Independence and ‘Liberty’ in the 21st Century. Thank you for you, Linda. C

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s