Dear America: Happy Birthday (tomorrow) I can’t believe you are 246 already! You don’t look a day over 200, darling! Was it just 46 years ago that we celebrated your Bicentennial? OMG, do you remember all the fun we had? Of course, that was back in the day before Ronnie took over and everything started going to hell. But I digress. This is about your day!
I hope you are getting lots of wonderful cards from admirers! I know there are lots and lots of people who say things have gotten out of hand, what with all that dust up in January. I admit, I should have been paying more attention, but you, America, you seem to be able to just bounce back from the most amazing challenges.
And, I know you are not surprised, but I remember (well, not that I was actually there, but I’ve been told) that when you were born, things really weren’t all that different! I mean, there were those who were just chomping at the bit to make sure that King George (on the throne because God Almighty put him there!) continued to guide us as good sheep would be led. And then there were those feisty revolutionaries who were wanting to change everything! Exciting times!
Still, with all that happened on your birthday, I am amazed that you haven’t been in therapy for decades! It must have been scary, coming up with a whole different way to share responsibilities! And how utterly brilliant of you to adopt the decision framework from the Haudenosaunee! All the while letting those 13 Colonies keep their personalities (and quirks!) while coming together to form a more perfect union!
Those must have been thrilling years!
So your first 25 were spent just getting things into working order! Of course, the Electoral College had its hands full back there in 1800 – I just loved what you did with the party names back then – Democrat-Republican Thos. Jefferson (he of the flaming red hair and glorious penmanship!) ran against Federalist John Adams – that election had to go to the House of Representatives! What a pickle of an election that was! Back and forth, seesaw for over 30 votes (all of them hand-counted!) Finally there was a winner declared. Took ‘em until February!
And then you just took off – those next 50 years, you binged on land grabs, railway building, digging up coal and gold and other gifts from Mother Earth! Of course, it became very clear that there were differences between many of your peoples. Not just based on politics, but based on which God they believed in and notions of what entitlements should be had. Brought a whole new meaning to “Let Freedom Ring!” Ha!
I have always been impressed with your willingness to adopt new technologies. You did that with steam, the telegraph, railroads and all those marvelous inventions that made farming so much easier. Well, not cotton or tobacco farming, but wheat and corn and all that!
And you have also been very kind to folks coming in who were looking to improve themselves, as long as they looked pretty much like your East Coast version of yourself, spoke without too much of an accent and believed in the same God you did.
I wouldn’t be a good friend if I didn’t point out that sometimes you are a bit intolerant! Still, for the most part, you have welcomed lots of folks to this land and they have made incredible contributions to what you have become!
Goodness, me! By the time you celebrated your first 100 years, you would have thought you had reached the pinnacle of what it means to be One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All! Except for that pesky Civil War.
Five long years that took. And such carnage! So many young men slaughtered in the name of keeping you from splitting apart! Lots of leftover resentment, too. Seems such a shame that out of all that fighting you still had festering wounds. I mean, things never really resolved, even with the Civil Rights Acts (1866 and 1875). All that kerfuffle with the Lakota, Cheyenne, Navajo, Nez Perce peoples. Big cities like Chicago burning down.
Still, there were certainly highlights – just think of all the things that changed because of that Edison fellow! Your beautiful bridge in Brooklyn got built. You added more states and territories to your entourage. And yes, there were financial ups and downs, but somehow you kept it all together!
By 1900 you were blossoming! 125 years under your belt and you were raring to go. You really grew up when you joined the fight Over There! Yanks made a difference and you made it through an incredible rite of passage. That Spanish Flu epidemic almost did you in, though!
Still, I know you like to party and, if memory serves, party you did during the Roarin’ Twenties! Of course, the hard lesson that comes with indulgence is that you pay with the hangover. Those were difficult times during the late 1920s and 1930s, for sure. Took a war to get you out of that trough.
It must have been difficult to rouse yourself in 1941. Even with being attacked, you don’t seem to be all that reactive. It is utterly amazing to me just how you stoked those fires of righteous indignation and put down those Black and Brown Shirt fanatics and then took over around the world as a guardian of freedom.
Man, those were the good years, weren’t they? Everybody loved you! You were so generous, sending your best and brightest around the world in the Peace Corps and to the Moon. Life seemed to be one sitcom after another and all we had to do was sit back and live off the interest that democracy was accruing.
You did hit a bit of a wall there, though with Viet Nam and the assassinations of Jack and Bobbie and Martin. Seems as if you were going through some kind of middle-age crisis. Re-thinking what you had been doing and exploring new and different ways of being a democracy. Lots of upheaval and social change.
Not everybody was as excited about it as you were! Plenty of folks just wanting things to go back the way it used to be! I have to admit, while it was unnerving, we certainly knew we were alive! And the music! Oh, my! Such wonderful music!
And then there was your Bicentennial! Weren’t those parties fun? 200 years young! I don’t think I had ever seen so much Red White and Blue bunting in my life!
Of course, since then you have been a bit wobbly. Maybe that is to be expected. After all, you are getting on! Seems you are more forgetful these days. Having trouble remembering promises you made to women about having the right to choose. Forgetting about your commitment to keeping Church and State separate. Selectively recalling facts when they suit you and overlooking them when they don’t. I guess this is normal for an aging adult. I just wish it hadn’t happened to you.
My goodness, I seem to have gone on more than I intended. You know, I just love you so much and I have always admired you. There is something about you that just makes me feel good. You are frustrating sometimes (aren’t we all), but considering everything, you still seem to find ways to inspire me.
I wish you the happiest of days, tomorrow. I hope the coming years bring you a measure of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. You really have led an amazing life! Happy Birthday, America!
Mary, thank you for yet another wizard/thoughtful overview (you are TOO a “sociologist!!!”) — and “wake-up call” blog. Thank you.…
Hi Mary – Entertaining piece full of nostalgia. Fun and interesting to read. Hope you are well.
Mary, as always your roving, observant eye and mind take in and reflect so much, at so many fun levels!…
2 responses to “The Third of July”
huzzah!!! as our freedom fighting early settlers proclaimed at the triumph of their battles over those red coat wearing oppressors. huzzah!! is my wish to again proclaim my freedoms and hope for lasting liberation and equality over black robe wearing oppressors. may we learn the long lessons of history to shorten this journey.
Thank you for reminiscing about our rich history with the things we now view as good and not so good. As we look at today’s problems, we can view them with hope for the future of a great country where public discourse is still possible, if we choose to do more listening, less reacting, and more thoughtful thinking and responses.