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Archive for July 4th, 2012

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

History has never seen anything even remotely similar to the United States of America.

Other cultures which were “game changers” can be pointed at and commented upon- the Zulu, Egyptians, Hellenes, Romans, Ottomans, and Mongols come to mind. The so called “Great Powers” of Europe and Asia would also demand and merit some mention- especially Spain, China, and France. England has always been special as well, but is noteworthy for doing so much with so little (from a men and material point of view).

The United States, however, is in a league of its own historically.

from wikipedia

Historians have long disputed whether Congress actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.

In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third president in a row who died on this memorable day. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Problems abound, of course.

Foreign entanglements and unending warfare, a historic record marred by genocide and enslavement, and a disturbing plutocratic tendency which raises oligarchs and their interests to godlike pinnacles. Odd religious movements and a puritanical adherence to an unspoken orthodoxy have been part of this culture since the beginning and are nothing new. Political and spiritual corruption have been part of the national DNA since day one, but it is important to embrace the myth of America.

Was its coming not foretold in the stars?

from wikipedia

SN 1054 is a supernova that was first observed as a new “star” in the sky on 4 July 1054 AD, hence its name, and that lasted for a period of around two years. The event was recorded in multiple Chinese and Japanese documents and in one document from the Arab world. While it has been hypothesized that SN 1054 was also observed by American-Indian tribes and Europeans, it has not been conclusively proven.

The remnant of SN 1054, which consists of debris ejected during the explosion, is known as the Crab Nebula. It is located in the sky near the star Zeta Tauri (ζ Tauri). Some of the remnant of the explosion formed a pulsar, called the Crab Pulsar (or PSR B0531+21). The nebula and the pulsar it contains are the most studied astronomical objects outside the Solar System. It is one of the few Galactic supernovae where the date of the explosion is well known. The two objects are the most luminous in their respective categories. For these reasons, and because of the important role it has repeatedly played in the modern era, SN 1054 is the best known supernova in the history of astronomy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vain, easily offended, and quickly angered- sophmoric and uncultured- dross.

Globally, the reputation of the Nation is not what we think or have been told it is. Our steady diet of jingoistic nationalism and readiness to embrace political mythologies scares the hell out of Europeans in particular, and the simplistic interpretations of centuries old global conflicts favored by the proletarian masses of North America reduce Near Eastern and Asian intellectuals to tears. Remember that the question asked by many Americans in the days and weeks following the September 11th attacks was “Why do they hate us?”.

Certain schools of thought will opine that the modern Constitutional Republics are the end product of a historical cycle that began during the Protestant Reformation, continuing though the European Renaissance and subsequent industrial revolution with the United States merely a notable example. Others will describe a largely agrarian and mineral rich country, one which was presented with a historic opportunity during and after the second Thirty Years War (ww1 and ww2)– a moment which is now withering away as other players approach their paramount. Such navel gazing, however, misses the point.

The real question, unasked, was “Why don’t they love us?”.

from wikipedia

American exceptionalism is the theory that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. In this view, America’s exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming “the first new nation,” and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire. This observation can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the United States as “exceptional” in 1831 and 1840. Historian Gordon Wood has argued, “Our beliefs in liberty, equality, constitutionalism, and the well-being of ordinary people came out of the Revolutionary era. So too did our idea that we Americans are a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty and democracy.”

The specific term “American exceptionalism” was first used in 1929 by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin chastising members of the Lovestone-led faction of the American Communist Party for the heretical belief that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history “thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions.”

Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense. To them, the United States is like the biblical “shining city on a hill,” and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today is the Fourth of July, and the 236th time that this date has had a contextual meaning that makes it remarkable. It’s the anniversary of when the game changed, and the end of an age of Kings and Emperors. Today is when a continent’s worth of people crack open a beer, char meat over a fire, and detonate small explosives to celebrate this distant event. It’s also a day when we should consider what has gone before, and remind ourselves that tomorrow will always be better than today.

That’s the American Way, and such optimism is the reason why history has never seen anything like the United States.

from Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense“, courtesy wikisource

We ought to reflect, that there are three different ways, by which an independancy may hereafter be effected; and that one of those three, will one day or other, be the fate of America, viz. By the legal voice of the people in Congress; by a military power; or by a mob: It may not always happen that our soldiers are citizens, and the multitude a body of reasonable men; virtue, as I have already remarked, is not hereditary, neither is it perpetual. Should an independancy be brought about by the first of those means, we have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months. The Reflexion is awful— and in this point of view, How trifling, how ridiculous, do the little, paltry cavellings, of a few weak or interested men appear, when weighed against the business of a world.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 4, 2012 at 4:02 am

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