04 July 2006

Thanks to the Rest o'the World

Today Americans celebrate the 4th of July...America's Independence Day. I know there are going to be blogs everywhere extoling the virtues of the United States, so I wanted to do something a little bit different. I want to recognize that many of the symbols we associate with our "freedom", actually come via other countries. Or the facts we know may be just a little bit squewed. I'm not trying to incite a riot or upset any patriots...I just want to look at things from a slightly different point of view.

First, let's begin with the day itself. Why do we celebrate today? I think most people will answer "Because its the day the Declaration of Independence was signed!" Wrong! It was the day it was adopted by the 2nd Congress. It was read on the 9th, when it was approved by the 13 colonies, officially created on the 19th, but it didn't actually get signed until August 2nd!

Betsy Ross created the original American flag, right? Wrong! The flag that was created to represent the new country was created before the Revolutionary War by Rebecca Young. It was the flag General Washington raised on New Year's Day 1776. It was also our official flag on July 4, 1776. Now, did Betsy Ross actually make our flag? Well, she was a flagmaker, and made flags for almost 50 years, which is where her notoriety comes from. The "Stars & Stripes" flag (originally with 13 stripes & 13 stars) however, was created by Mary Pickersgill in 1813. It was the flag that was flying over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that was seen "by the dawn's early light" by Francis Scott Key.

Speaking of Mr. Key, the author of our American anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner", he was witness to the 25 hour retaliation attack of the British against the Americans at the fort during the War of 1812. Indeed, the in morning when the British ceased fire, the flag was still flying. He felt inspired and wrote the poem "The Battle of Fort McHenry". It was soon published in many places, and someone came up with the idea to sing it. However, the music ironically, is a popular English drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven". It wasn't officially made our national anthem until 1931.

That same night's non-stop cannon & gunfire by the Brits is also the reason we celebrate with fireworks.

And let's not forgot that the quintessential figure of freedom, the Statue of Liberty, was a gift from the French in October 1886.

So today let's not be so ego-centric as to believe that we wouldn't have our freedoms of liberty, or the symbols of that, without the rest of the world.


kassi said...

If our freedoms of liberty were fought for, which is the point of celebrating Independence Day. I think that we would be doing that regardless of the symbos or where they came from.

"My country tis of thee" is sung to the tune of "God save the Queen"...of course the melody is also used in many other countries as their national anthem.

I think that these facts serve to show that the world has more unity than separation than we might first think. And our nation has a deeper history than is taught.

It is unfortunate that these other countries, who have contributed to our symbols of freedom (either by force or gift), do not share the same freedoms as we do in our country.

Kimba said...

I agree with you Kassi, we should be proud of the freedoms we possess, and your point about unity is exactly my point. We need to see that we all (save Native Americans) come originally from other parts of the world. We need to stop being so insular and embrace the citizens of the world if we are truly to have peace.

kassi said...

I don't think we are that insular. There is too much evidence of the opposite. I love America, I love that we (as citizens) donate our time and money to help people in other countries less fortunate than us. I love that we free to do that if we want without oppression.

The media would like to tell us differently, that we are self serving and miserly, but overall...Americans are the most giving people in all the world. I think that as a whole, our country is spurned and judged too harshly.

I know our country isn't perfect. But none of us are. To think that you can expect perfection from flawed human beings is a standard that makes no sense.

Kimba said...

I guess my attitude tends to come from the false patriotism I see in Americans. It's as if they only care when its convenient to care. (I realize there are alot of good people in the world that doesn't apply to, but on a whole, I can't help but believe it as true.)

I think there is a difference between helping other countries and "feeling superior". American thinks itself invincible, but we're not. We need to work WITH the world, not against it, and open our eyes to see we all have something to learn from each other. Our country is failing in many ways...the biggest one being not taking care to protect what we do have & its citizens enough. (i.e. health care, education, crime, environment.)

kassi said...

I guess in regards to Independence Day, understand that our country segregates itself by having many voices wanting to be heard, seen, understood. So each voice cries out for recognition.

However on Independence Day...it is essentially the one day out of an entire year that we as a country can celebrate together, whatever our need for freedom may be.

I think that especially those who come from other countries to America seeking freedom from persecution have a better idea of what this day is about than anyone born here could ever imagine.

Invincible we are not. But I do believe that a lot of people have put their blood, sweat, and tears into allowing us to enjoy this freedom. And if we can have one day a year in which our country does it together, not segregated, then I am even more motivated to celebrate.

kassi said...

p.s. I'm glad that we could express our opinions freely :)

Kimba said...

I agree...freedom is speech is one of the greatest freedoms we have! And I always enjoy an intellectual argument! Thanks!