greybeta: (American Eagle Flag)
[personal profile] greybeta
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?

Date: 2009-07-02 03:59 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
I never understood why Americans think that they are the oldest democracy. Makes no sense to me at all.

Either the Athenians got their first (500BC) with their version, or New Zealand did (the first country to have universal suffrage in 1893). Either way it doesn't seem like the USA gets to claim it.

Date: 2009-07-02 08:23 pm (UTC)
ext_4739: (Default)
From: [identity profile] greybeta.livejournal.com
I never understood why Americans think that they are the oldest democracy.
I guesss cause that's what American children are taught from kindergarten. I think the actual claim is more like the U.S. is the longest living democracy, thanks to the Constitution or something like that. Now, as to what constitutes a democracy is a different story.

I guess that's why they say get 'em while they're young...

Date: 2009-07-02 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cynicalcleric.livejournal.com
Greece stopped existing as a seperate & democratic country numerous times.

And I think this is the first time I've ever heard someone suggest you must have universal suffrage to be a democracy. It's an interesting and reasonable argument, I've just never heard anyone make it before.

Date: 2009-07-02 06:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spoothbrush.livejournal.com
It's interesting reading back to WWI and WWII and seeing people actually *giving things up* to support U.S. troops at war. Compared to now...

Date: 2009-07-02 08:25 pm (UTC)
ext_4739: (Default)
From: [identity profile] greybeta.livejournal.com
We are indeed a self-centered nation these days. It's interesting, because most historians consider the end of WWII the birth of the "American Empire"...

Date: 2009-07-08 03:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] enigmajoe2002.livejournal.com
We still don't have a threatening war. I think if we found ourselves in a time of war where a country were threatening to destroy the US we would "give things up." Hopefully.

Date: 2009-07-02 06:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ronin-kakuhito.livejournal.com
Also the Isle of Man and the Althing in several Northern European Countries predate us by a goodly bit. (And if you are willing to call a Republic a Democracy, you can't really complain that the other Republican forms of governments aren't Democracies.)
Further I'd hesitate to set the US's date as a "Democracy" any earlier than the 19th Amendment, and possibly the 24th.

Date: 2009-07-02 08:28 pm (UTC)
ext_4739: (Default)
From: [identity profile] greybeta.livejournal.com
Well, with the Electoral College, some might argue that we aren't even a true democracy right now...

Date: 2009-07-02 08:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ronin-kakuhito.livejournal.com
That would be part of why I put in the caveat about calling a republic a democracy.

Date: 2009-07-02 08:34 pm (UTC)
ext_4739: (Default)
From: [identity profile] greybeta.livejournal.com
No worries. There are differences between democratic republics and non-democratic republics, however. But that's a post for another time! =)

Date: 2009-07-03 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kisekinotenshi.livejournal.com
It may be my rabid anti-child tendencies coming in here, but I would say anyone who's having children they can't support right now is pretty high up on my list of selfish bastards. With the government attempting to get back to a point where it's not hemorrhaging money, we don't need even more mouths to feed. You can cut back on cigarettes or alcohol, but don't cut back on condoms or other birth control! >.<

Of course, if a couple with good financial prospects (such as my cousin and his wife) want to get preggers, that's one thing. But having kids just 'cause you're either too dumb or too lazy to use birth control just pushes all my buttons. XP

Date: 2009-07-03 04:43 am (UTC)
ext_4739: (Default)
From: [identity profile] greybeta.livejournal.com
The movie Idiocracy has a pretty funny take on this...

Date: 2009-07-03 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kisekinotenshi.livejournal.com
I don't think it's a matter of stupidity (I haven't seen the movie but have heard all about it), it's a matter of greed and laziness. Many of the people I see come through my line with five kids and baskets full of groceries could probably easily hold down a job and at least contribute to their family's needs, but it's easier to just go on food stamps and "not worry about working". XP Which really pisses me off because then you have me over here trying to apply for food stamps because my full time job doesn't pay me enough to survive on just by myself. XP And yeah, I could move to a cheaper apartment and/or get a roommate (I do intend to do the latter, actually, once my lease is up), but I'd still be squeaking by. XP So their selfishness pisses me off even more.

I think xkcd's recent strip on the whole "OMG the stupid people will outbreed us" stuff is pretty accurate. XD

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