INDEPENDENCE BRIEFINGIn Praise of Revolting Americans
Jul. 4 - The following is my more-or-less annual Fourth of July briefing.
If only for one day a year, it's important to remember that the British weren't always the pleasant sort of chaps who've given us the Beatles, Stones, and Monty Python. They're also responsible for warm beer, vinegar-flavored potato chips, and the Spice Girls, to say nothing of affected intellectual twits on our own shores pronouncing schedule as shed-yewl and issue as iss-yew.
Once a year, on this day, we therefore celebrate our forefathers having told them to screw.
We not only celebrate the purging of the British blight from our land: we celebrate the manner in which it was done, which was at once brilliant, daring, and easily adapted to the screen. The events that led to our independence are all the more worthy of remembrance, even inaccurately, at this crucial juncture in our history, and I therefore offer the following summary of American independence for the edification of both of my readers.
In 1774, representatives from each of the thirteen colonies convened in Philadelphia to complain. This was either The First Continental Congress or the first Lillith Fair. Either way, after registering their complaints they went home.
One of the colonists' primary complaints was that British cabbies working in the colonies refused to unionize. This was called "Taxis without Representation" and became the issue that ultimately pushed the simmering discontent of the colonies into outright hostility. Sensing the volatility of the situtation, British troops advanced toward Concord in April of 1775.
Loath to hail a British taxi, Paul Revere actually had to warn of the impending peril by riding on horseback!
The first shot to ring out at the battle of Concord was so loud that its sound echoed all the way around the globe. The British consequently heard it behind them instead of in front of them. This caused the fog of war. Neither the British nor the Colonists were prepared for fog, so the War was postponed.
In May, representatives once again convened in Philadelphia to complain about the taxis, the fog, and other grievances. This was the Second Continental Congress. Unlike the previous Congress, however, this one tried to work out a deal with Britain's King George. This was difficult, as King George was insane and regularly confused the colonies for colostomies, causing considerable embarrassment to everyone involved but accruing great profit to British proctologists.
In June the Colonists developed a Continental Army and a Continental Currency, operating on the assumption that an insane king would be easier to deal with if they had more money and guns. This assumption proved partly correct, as the British appeared to ease hostilities for nearly a year. It also proved partly wrong when, in May of 1776, the Americans discovered that the King had been hiring German mercenaries to come kill them.
In June of 1776 the Colonists finally decided that instead of working something out with the British it would be easier and more satisfactory to shoot them.
On June 7, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia read a resolution to the Continental Congress. The essence of his resolution was that King George and Great Britain could kiss his hairy American ass. The Congress appreciated Lee's sentiments, and subsequently formed a committee to write a note to King George in which it would be made plain why it had become necessary to start shooting the British.
The committee consisted of five men and was chaired by little Tommy Jefferson. Its four other members were John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, each of whom was counted twice for the sake of Stature.
The Declaration of Independence wasn't a very long document, but little Tommy Jefferson was trying so hard to impress all the older guys that he overwrote it, using an archaic style of English that is best understood in translation. Here is a translation of the Declaration in its entirety:
"It's a good idea to let people know why you're having a revolution. We think it's pretty obvious that any government that screws its people over is cruising for a bruising. We're not saying anyone with a hair up their butt ought to have their own revolution, but we've put up with an awful lot of crap from King George. He won't let us do anything on our own, and whenever we try, he sends people to kill us. We've asked him over and over to back off. We've told him over and over that we'd only put up with so much. But did he listen? No. So to hell with him and to hell with Britain and all their phony goddam accents. We'll kick their ass or die trying."
These were what political scientists refer to as "fightin' words."
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration was presented to the Congress. Nine of the thirteen colonies voted to adopt it. Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted against it (we know where you live). Delaware couldn't make up its mind and New York abstained. Copies of the Declaration were distributed the next day (photocopiers were much slower back then). On July 8 it was read aloud in Philadelphia's Independence Square.
The document wasn't fully signed until August, but as soon as it was, Americans began shooting the British in earnest. By February of 1783 they had shot enough of them that Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia officially acknowledged the United States of America as an independent nation.
In honor of our Independence, we celebrate the anniversary of its declaration by blowing things up, roasting dead animals over hot coals or gaseous flames, and drinking cold, sudsy beverages that inhibit our ability to think. Such festivities may not honor the philosophical nuances of our revolution, but they do keep the rest of the world at a comfortable distance.
Happy Fourth of July, and God Bless America.
Real live nephews (and nieces) of our Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July: Geraldo Rivera (1943), George Steinbrenner (1930), Gina Lollobrigida (1927), Neil Simon (1927), Eva Marie Saint (1924), Ann Landers (1918), Abigail Van Buren (1918), Rube Goldberg (1883), Calvin Coolidge (1872), and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804).
President George W. Bush was just two days off, and celebrates his 56th birthday on Saturday, July 6. He shares his birthday with former first lady Nancy Reagan, who turns 81.
Since this is ostensibly a weekend briefing, other birthdays in the days ahead include: On July 5, Huey Lewis (1951), Georges Pompidou (1911), Jean Cocteau (1889), and P.T. Barnum (1810); on July 6, besides the President and former first lady, Sylvester Stallone (1946), Ned Beatty (1937), Dalai Lama (1935), Della Reese (1932), Janet Leigh (1927), Merv Griffin (1925), Bill Haley (1925), and John Paul Jones (1747).
July 4 is celebrated as Queen Sonja's Birthday in Norway, Fil-American Friendship Day in the Philippines, and Veterans' Day in Yugoslavia.
July 5 is Independence Day in Algeria, Cape Verde, and Venezuela, but is Peace and National Unity Day in Rwanda. (Hope springs eternal.)
July 6 is Independence Day in Comorros and Malawi, Death of Jan Hus Day in the Czech Republic, and Statehood Day in Lithuania.
Enjoy the weekend!
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac