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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Happy Birthday! Or War Day! Or Bank Holiday! …You Go, Girl!

How many blogs would a blog dog log if a blog dog did log blogs?

So, it’s the Fourth of July here in the States, which is where most of you are tuning in from.

(Actually, I’ve always assumed that ‘The States’ was a global reference to this country, but it’s always been Americans who’ve used the term when I’ve heard it. Maybe it’s just one of those arrogant US-isms that we foist onto the rest of the world, and expect them to understand, adopt, and use, even if it means casting aside other words that have served the same purpose for decades or longer. Like ‘apartment’ for ‘flat’, or ‘chips’ for ‘crisps’, for example.

(Or ‘French fries’ for ‘chips’, for that matter, not to mention ‘freedom – instead – of – French – because – we’re – having – a – screaming – hissy – pissing – contest – with – them – right – now – and – this – makes – us – feel – especially – clever fries’ for ‘French fries’. I mean, who are we jerking around with all of these changes, anyway? The French don’t even call greasy fried potatoes ‘French fries’ to begin with. They’ve got their own, original, name for the things, and as I understand it, most everyone in the world already calls them ‘American Fries’, thanks to McDonalds and BK and Wendy’s (oh my!). So I think we can let it go, folks… we’ve already won the Battle to Claim the Greasiest Possible Food Made with Potatoes. Rejoice. And with the wealth of resources and ingenuity available to us, we’ll soon take the entire War to Kill Everyone in Your Country with Massive Coronaries. It’s only a matter of time, and we’re already way ahead.

Meanwhile, we’ve got the rest of the English-speaking world eating fries when we mean chips, and cookies when we mean biscuits, and so on. Did we get pissed off at them — after the Revolutionary War, maybe — and decide to change all of their food names, too? I thought the recent thing with the French was pretty silly, frankly, but it seems that there may be precedent in our foreign policy history for exactly this sort of unilateral foodstuff nomenclature dictum. How’s that for a way to instill fear and respect into your opponents during a heated debate on matters of global security or economic stability? ‘Ambassador, we may agree to disagree if you wish, but I must warn you — if you do not vote with us on this matter, I’m afraid we’re going to make you use the term ‘goobers‘ to refer to peanuts for the rest of eternity. I think you know what to do.‘ Actually, that one would probably work. I wonder if Jimmy Carter tried that during the Iran hostage crisis…)

Okay. Where the hell was I? Ah, the Fourth.

So, I’ve always thought the Fourth of July a bit odd. Certainly, I can understand it in terms of a birthday celebration for the country; that makes perfect sense.

(Though it is a bit of pressure, isn’t it? What do you buy a country that has everything? I mean, let’s face it — America’s been a bit spoiled through the years. She was still in diapers when France just handed her the Louisiana Purchase. And a couple of years later, what does she get? Jacks? A jump rope, perhaps? I don’t think so. Florida, that’s what she got. Now, would you trust your child with Florida at that age? My word. Personally, I’d have had a good long talk with Spain, and asked to have it put in a trust or something. You know, until she was ready. Some parents just don’t know how to say no, I suppose.

But that’s not all, not by a longshot. At her debutante ball, she gets Texas, from the next-door neighbors.

(And then she had the gall to demand California, Nevada, and a handful of other states from those same neighbors as a graduation present. And they gave it to her! Pushovers.)

Well, by that point, she knew how to get what she wanted. She could charm, or threaten, or pout, or throw a tantrum, all to great effect. And she could cry on demand, if she wasn’t getting her way. She was a manipulative tour de force; no one could resist her. She got lavish presents from suitors — Oregon and Idaho from Britain (‘Ewww… that’s incest!‘), bits and baubles from Mexico, and a rather large, mysterious present from that brooding Russia fellow. Even little Hawaii danced with the American mistress, but by the time she was done with him, there wasn’t much left to speak of.

In the end, though, America’s turned out to be a bit of a tease, always flirting with one country or another, or stamping her little feet when she feels she’s been slighted, but never content to find a nice country to settle down with and have some islands of her own. Which is too bad, really — she’s a beautiful lady, and actually quite enchanting if you can get past her little head games and charades. I always thought that she and Australia might make a nice couple, or perhaps Greece. But I’m afraid it’s not likely to happen. America’s getting on in years now, and I don’t know whether the other countries are as interested as they used to be. It looks as though she may grow into a spinster, with a few close friends (and closer enemies), but at the end of the day, only her Louisianas and Alaskas and such to keep her company.)

All right, what was I saying?

So, as a birthday celebration, the Fourth of July makes some sense to me (unlike the last three paragraphs… hoo boy). On the other hand, July 4, 1776 isn’t really the important date, if you think about it. That’s the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed, sure, but the war with the British didn’t end for seven more years, and the treaty recognizing America as a country wasn’t signed until September 3, 1783. That, to me, is the real date that we should celebrate — that’s when the world knew that we’d won, and we could get down to the business of telling the rest of them how they ought to be running their countries. July 4th is like the day when you tell your parents, ‘I hate it here, and I’m eighteen now, and I can do whatever I want! I’m outta here!‘. But September 3 is the day — years later, of course — when you actually score that job flipping burgers at Mickey D’s and scrape together enough cash to move your shit into some creepy old guy’s moldy basement. That’s when you’ve won, not on the day that you ‘declare’ yourself independent. Really, think about it. If Texas had a damned holiday for every time they told the rest of us they were moving out, the banks would never be open in that friggin’ state. Please.

(I can think of a couple of explanations as to why we picked July 4th as the holiday instead, but I’m not sure any of them are good enough to overcome the pretty much irrefutable logic that the 4th really didn’t mean anything until we got out there with our posse and walked the walk. But what the hell — here goes.

It could be that folks don’t want a holiday to distract them from the truly important things going on in September — namely, the start of football season and the baseball pennant races. I can see the logic in that, certainly. Also, it’s entirely possible that once we introduced all of those tittilating mini-explosives into the celebration, someone decided (quite rightly, methinks) that Delbert and Elmo and Andy Joe and Paw wouldn’t be able to contain themselves and not set the damn things off until the fall, so we’d better find a way to get rid of ’em earlier in the summer. And again, that seems perfectly reasonable, but perhaps not enough so to overcome the inertia of actually tryin’ to have a frickin’ holiday in this country on the date that the important thing happened (for once).

No, now that I think about it, there’s only one thing that presents an obvious, open-and-shut case for not celebrating the birth of the country on its actual birthdate, and that’s this — or this is that, whatever: if we plunked a holiday right at the beginning of September, then those of you (poor buggers) with children would suffer through an entire summer with the kids at home, only to send ’em off to school… and get ’em thrown back in your face for a day right away. As if we don’t have enough mental illness in this country already. You’d be there on the couch, thanking your preferred deity that you don’t have to lunch at Chuck E Cheese or wake up to Twenty Thousand Questions for the next nine months. You’d just start to relax, knowing that the problem of shaping your children’s minds is in the hands of underpaid, underappreciated, underequipped and overharried professional educators until June — and then there they’d be, your children, on a Tuesday, maybe, or a Friday, eating paste and sticking gum in each other’s hair, and shaving the alphabet into the dog’s back. At which point someone would have to die, of course. Not the kids, maybe, but somebody, no question. So I suppose I see the wisdom in the date change after all…)

Did I have a point back there somewhere? Oh, yeah — got it.

So, it’s fairly clear to me that we’re not exactly celebrating the birth of the country. Based on what I gather from what was happening in 1776, we’re pretty much celebrating the Revolutionary War, as far as I can figure. And when you get right down to it, setting off small explosive devices seems like a pretty odd way to celebrate anything that involves a war, doesn’t it? I mean, we don’t go shooting Patriot missiles into the sky willy-nilly to commemorate the Gulf War, or build little mushroom cloud bomb replicas to help us cheer about World War II. People are sensitive about those sorts of things, and rightly so. I suppose with the Revolutionary War, it’s okay, because anyone who was involved in it is dead now.

(Well, now that Strom Thurmond has passed, anyway.)

So we’re allowed to fire off what are essentially tiny bombs, and make loud thunderous noises, and shower fiery sparks all over our cities. Think that would go over big with the PTSD-prone Viet Nam crowd to recognize their contributions? Um, no. No? No. Decidedly not.

Maybe in a hundred years or so — once we’re safely sure that we’re not startling anyone who actually participated — we’ll have the same sorts of rip-roarin’ festivals for our recent military forays — the Korean War, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, etc. On the other hand, maybe not. Though we seem to allow ourselves more liberties with our celebratory antics as time goes on, we also seem to give less and less of a rat’s ass with each passing year. And there are only so many ways you can slice a rat’s ass until it’s just a bunch of fur and skin. (My personal record is thirty-eight slices, by the way, though I was using a rusty old razor blade, so your mileage may vary.)

To illustrate my point (not the slicing thing; the ‘not giving a rat’s ass’ thing… stay with me, here), just look at the most recognizable homage we’ve paid to wars gone by, and how the tributes get crappier the further back you go. The Viet Nam War, for instance. When things there started to settle down, what did we do? We built a Wall. Tres cool! Pretty unique idea, great sentiment, and now everyone can go by it and see. Nicely done. So, WWII, then. Okay, they got that Iwo Jima statue. Not bad, I suppose, though you have to know the story to realize that it’s not depicting some sort of Olypmic synchronized pole vaulting team or something. But fine. Now go way back — what’s the first momument you think of for the Civil War? And mind you, all of those guys are dead now, too, so we can do whatever the hell we want for it. So, what do we have — giant holographic panoramas of the Monitor and Merrimac, locked in mortal battle? Nope. Huge somber pyres burning over steel and concrete sculptures to depict Atlanta torn asunder in Sherman’s wake? Not even. What do we get? Eleven frickin’ hours worth of documentary by Ken ‘Snoo-oooze‘ Burns. Yip. Pee. With emphasis on ‘pee‘. I can only imagine what’ll be done for the more recent military campaigns in a hundred years or so. Maybe Bazooka Joe will print a special Korean War wrapper every year, or Ticonderoga will stamp ‘Desert Storm’ on special-edition number two pencils. Or worse. Just pray that Ken Burns is long gone before anyone gets around to thinking about it.

Well, that was certainly festive, no? No? It wasn’t? Well, shit, I suppose you’re right. I apologize. I suppose it’s just a little hard to wrap my mind around this particular holiday, what with all of the confusing history involved. Wait, how about this? Maybe I’ll just use today to celebrate the great American traditions of barbecues, beer, and sunburn. I mean, we really didn’t invent any of those things, but I think it’s clear that we’ve perfected them.

(The secret was to get them all together at once, of course, and each in massive, nausea-inducing quantities.)

So, now I’m feeling pretty festive after all. I think I’ll even go get started with a beer, and maybe a hot dog, and we’ll see where that takes me. As for the rest of you — I’m not going to tell you not to hurt yourselves with firecrackers today, as I’ve seen a lot of other bloggers doing. No, I believe that whatever you decide you want to do involving your fragile little fingers, open flames, and unstable gunpowder is entirely your business. I don’t want to know about it, even in the obituary. But I will say this — as you light your sparklers, and your Roman candles (what are we gonna call those when Italy pisses us off one of these years?), and your Tijuana Toilet Crackers, do this for me: don’t use them all. Put a couple aside, and stash ’em away until early September. When you fire ’em off then, you’ll not only get more attention, but you’ll also be able to impress all of your friends when you explain exactly why you held a few back.

Plus, if the kids get wind of it and want to join you, you’ll have leftover cherry bombs to slip into their lunchboxes to dissuade them. And that’s something truly worth celebrating.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Happy Birthday! Or War Day! Or Bank Holiday! …You Go, Girl!”

  1. R. says:

    Whew. x_x Onto the next entry.

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