OLD Glory

The flag, fire­works and his­tory that make up Amer­ica’s Fourth of July.


“My God! How lit­tle do my coun­try­men know what pre­cious bless­ings they are in pos­ses­sion of, and which no other people on earth en­joy. I con­fess I had no idea of it my­self. While we shall see mul­ti­ple in­stances of Euro­peans go­ing to live in Amer­ica, I will ven­ture to say no man now liv­ing will ever wit­ness an in­stance of an Amer­i­can re­mov­ing to set­tle in Europe and con­tin­u­ing there.”

— Thomas Jef­fer­son, in a let­ter from Paris to James Mon­roe, 1785 —

We Amer­i­cans are a spe­cial breed of cit­i­zen. Other coun­tries may hate us, dis­re­spect us, even try to kill us….that is be­cause they also envy us. Our free­doms and ac­com­plish­ments, pro­tected by cit­i­zen soldiers, are things of un­der­stand­able envy. Fel­low cit­i­zens com­plain­ing about the bad of Amer­ica do not have a ju­di­cious un­der­stand­ing about the good of Amer­ica. And if any­thing, Amer­i­cans are fiercely in­de­pen­dent.

Per­haps our de­fi­ant in­de­pen­dence was for­ever set in stone by a 1776 doc­u­ment we call The Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence. The main au­thor of this mas­ter­piece doc­u­ment for a young Amer­ica, Thomas Jef­fer­son, was him­self young, only 33 years old at the time of the sign­ing. Only one man signed on July 4, 1776: John Han­cock. All oth­ers signed later.

The sign­ers were highly ed­u­cated. Seven were ed­u­cated at Har­vard, 4 at Yale, 4 at Prince­ton, and 4 from Wil­liam & Mary. One of the sign­ers, Ge­orge Wythe, was Thomas Jef­fer­son’s pro­fes­sor at Wil­liam & Mary.

Only two sign­ers, Thomas Jef­fer­son and John Adams, would later serve as Pres­i­dent of the United States. They both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th an­niver­sary of the Dec­la­ra­tion. Fire­crack­ers pop­ping off in the streets be­came a cel­e­bra­tory tra­di­tion, but made the horses mis­er­able. At the time of the sign­ing, our pop­u­la­tion was about 2.5 mil­lion.

Ben­jamin Franklin did not want the Amer­i­can Bald Ea­gle as our na­tional sym­bol. He wanted the turkey. In a 1784 let­ter to his daugh­ter, Sarah Bache, he com­plained, “For my own part I wish the Bald Ea­gle had not been cho­sen the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our Coun­try. He is a bird of bad moral char­ac­ter. He does not get his liv­ing hon­estly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for him­self, he watches the la­bor of the Fish­ing Hawk. And when that dili­gent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bear­ing it to his nest for the sup­port of his mate and young ones, the Bald Ea­gle pur­sues him and takes it from him. I am on this ac­count not dis­pleased that the fig­ure is not known as a Bald Ea­gle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in truth, the Turkey is in com­par­i­son a much more re­spectable bird, and withal a true orig­i­nal Na­tive of Amer­ica. He is be­sides, though a lit­tle vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hes­i­tate to at­tack a gre­nadier of the Bri­tish Guards who should pre­sume to in­vade his farm yard with a red coat on.”

The word ‘Beer’ is of­ten sub­sti­tuted for ‘Wine’ in a leg­endary quote by Ben­jamin Franklin, “Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” May I be so bold as to in­sin­u­ate that Franklin’s pro­posal for a Turkey as our na­tional sym­bol was ra­tio­nal­ized un­der the in­flu­ence of a lot of wine, or, per­chance, from the shock of a light­ning strike upon his cra­nium.

Fire­crack­ers, beer, wine, and great food are still part of our Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tion. We’ll wave Old Glory, 87.5% of which are im­ported from China. An es­ti­mated 14,000 fire­works dis­plays will light up the skies on July 4, 97% of the fire­works im­ported from China.

Our Fourth of July cui­sine, at least for now, is still Amer­i­can-made. Over 74 mil­lion Amer­i­cans will fire up their grills for a bar­be­cue. We will eat 700 mil­lion pounds of chicken and over 155 mil­lion hot dogs. Pork hot dogs orig­i­nate in Iowa, Min­nesota, or North Carolina. Around 20% of beef hot dogs, steaks, and burg­ers come from the Lone Star State, or most likely Ne­braska or Kansas. 75% of the let­tuce on your ta- ble comes from Cal­i­for­nia and 71% of toma­toes from Florida or Cal­i­for­nia. Spuds from Idaho or Wash­ing­ton will be used in your potato salad and potato chips, while 36% of your beans are pro­duced in North Dakota.

So chow down on your Amer­i­can food on the Fourth, wave your Chi­nese-made Amer­i­can flag and set off a bunch of Chi­nese fire­works. I guess this is our Amer­ica now, debt and the drainage of our wealth, scan- dals ga­lore, un­nec­es­sary dishar­mony, a disin­gen­u­ous me­dia, and a cor­rupt In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice. We Amer­i­cans have lost some­thing. But we will re­bound. Chi­nese-made or not, Old Glory still flut­ters over a free coun­try.

As you sip a cold beer or burn your tongue on a hot ham­burger July Fourth just re­mem­ber we have men and women still in Afghanistan and even more en route, once again, to Iraq. They are the rea­son we still have hope.

“We may not be in the slight­est dan­ger of in­va­sion, but if in an armed world we dis­arm, we shall count less and less in the coun­cils of na­tions.”

— Wal­ter Lipp­mann, 1915 —

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