Jul. 2nd, 2009

greybeta: (American Eagle Flag)
A non-American friend of mine asked me recently what I thought of July 4th. So, here goes...

Soon, the United States will celebrate its 233rd birthday as it considers July 4, 1776 the date of birth of the oldest democracy in the world. Americans take this time to celebrate by, as Homer Simpson so eloquently put it, blowing a piece of it up. We salute our founding fathers with a dazzling fireworks show.

Yet, we rarely take the time to remember the unsung heroes. While our founding fathers put their own lives at stake for the sake of a new nation, plenty more fought in the rank-and-file. Though their names have been long forgotten, it is understood that we honor them on our founding day.

Death to taxation without representation. Pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All men are created equal. We hold these truths to be self-evident.

What we often forget is that it takes more than just fighting for our beliefs to win. We must feed ourselves not only with mental encouragement but physical nourishment as well. It is said that a hungry army has never won a war.

Here's a story one of my favorite history teachers told me...

In our darkest times, with the capital at Philadelphia taken and Congress hurried off to New York, George Washington desperately searched for ways to feed his troops. Not only did the British Army outnumber and outmaneuver the Continental Army, the British Army also possessed a greater wealth that attracted farmers to sell their produce to the British rather than the Continental Army.

Washington appealed to a sense of patriotism, pleading with the local farmers. Enough of them listened to his pleas, and they fed his troops. But Washington didn't have any money, so he gave the farmers IOU's. The Continental Army rallied at Valley Forge and we ended up winning the war.

But America never paid off those IOU's, so those farmers had to sell their farms to the less scrupulous farmers who had sold their goods to the British. Yet another case where the rich get richer, or a case of being able to eat one's cake and also having it.

Without the sacrifice of those nameless farmers, it could very well be that we would not be celebrating July 4th as Independence Day. Freedom demands sacrifice.

That being said, I wonder about the state of the world today. I see 401K's cut in half and health benefits reduced. States are running out of money to fund their own programs. This July 4th, I see unemployment numbers steadily marching upwards. Every week I read about a new bank being closed down, draining yet more of FDIC's resources. Longtime employees are forced into retirement to prevent them from collecting pensions promised to them long ago.

Who among us are today's nameless farmers? And who are the less scrupulous farmers?

July 2009

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