Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight, Part II

Reading the New York Times' glowing review of The Dark Knight, written by a critic - Manohla Dargis - who in my view quite too often comes off as divisively elitist, I came across this observation about The Joker, as portrayed by Heath Ledger:

"He isn't fighting for anything or anyone. He isn't a terrorist, just terrifying."

This statement immediately got me to wondering, why is Manohla Dargis reluctant to refer to Heath Ledger's Joker as a terrorist? (We are, mind you, talking about the New York Times, so Dargis's reticence to call a spade a spade isn't that much of a surprise).

The filmmakers leave no doubt as to the opinion of Gothamites, that that is what The Joker is - a terrorist (he is referred as such more than once). Why the hesitation, on the part of the critic? His creed is chaos, his targets generally civilians (the Joker - in a televised message which eerily brings to mind those occasional al-Qaeda video updates on al-Jazeera - threatens to continue killing civilians until and unless Batman unmasks himself). What the Joker finds humorous terrifies the citizens of Gotham into a panic. In "The Dark Knight," the Joker is very much a domestic terrorist who hopes the fear felt by citizens will send them over the edge, and make them abandon what we conceive of as our "humanity".

An inability to call a terrorist a terrorist leads to our coddling those who walk the walk and talk the talk; just because a terrorist might not refer to himself as such, doesn't make him any less of one. The Joker, at least in The Dark Knight, seems insane. But he is methodically, undeniably brutal in carrying out his exacting plans of death and mayhem, while claiming that he bucks the trend - that unlike others, he's kind of just winging it...hoping and waiting to see what happens next, with a firm notion about what SHOULD happen next. And when things don't go as planned, disappointment is easily - if only momentarily - read upon the face of this anti-plan master planner brought to memorable life by Heath Ledger.

"...that a spectacle like this even glances in that direction (9/11) confirms that American movies have entered a new era of ambivalence when it comes to their heroes..." - Manohla Dargis, "Showdown in Gotham Town"

Manohla Dargis can take a none-too-subtle pleasure in the ambivalence of a hero, or anti-hero, such as Batman in The Dark Knight. Even so, The Dark Knight is an allegory, representing not some new, profound truth in whatever "post-(insert phenomenon, idea or event here)" era, but rather one which points to an eternal truth. Despite the reluctance of many in America and around the world to recognize evil, and that it has its opposite, The Dark Knight boldly proclaims that evil exists, that there is a dichotomy separating it from good, and that it is a very fine line all too easily crossed by choice, even by those who might have at heart the best of intentions.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight

Can mere words adequately describe The Dark Knight? Or the late (and now, I'm finally convinced, much to be missed for his talent) Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker? The Dark Knight is a sucker-punch to the emotions, an assault on the senses...and the heart. Yes, ostensibly it's a movie about a guy dressing up in a Batsuit, fighting crime in Gotham City. We don't usually expect much from such a premise, but while I've seen my fair share of Batman movies, The Dark Knight was more like the best of The Godfather movies on steroids.

Heath Ledger, as the Joker, was...amazing. A supernal performance. I had underestimated him as an actor while he was alive. His tour de force in The Dark Knight has forced me to revalue, or rather, reconsider, that view. I can't say I've ever seen a better Batman movie. And, I have to admit, I can't say that I've seen a better movie this year (and folks, I've seen a lot of movies this year). Maybe, upon further viewings, I'll expand that assessment. Yes, expand it.

Because this is one of those films that can haunt you after you depart the theatre. It was everything I wanted it to be, and then some. The hype surrounding it, in my judgment, didn't - couldn't - do it justice. I'm not just speaking as a Batman fan. Don't for a second let my well-known feelings about the Dark Knight cause you to think I'm only recommending The Dark Knight due to a decades-old attachment to the eponymous character. Watch it for yourself. Watch what Heath Ledger did as the Joker.

While I am, yes, still processing what I saw shortly after Thursday, July 17, 2008 became Friday, July 18, 2008, what you'll see when you go to The Dark Knight should convince you in ways I can't, should show you that I'm not just feeding you a knee-jerk reaction. If you liked Batman Begins, then I'm pretty sure you'll love The Dark Knight. But if you loved Batman Begins, then...well...The Dark Knight...well...

I'm truly at a loss for words.

And my friends, you know me. You read my blogs.

How often am I ever at a loss for...words?!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Government and Gay Marriage

Senator John Quincy Adams, in a letter from Washington, DC, wrote to his father John, formerly the second president of the United States, "This is now in general the great art of legislation at this place...To do a thing by assuming the appearance of preventing it. To prevent a thing by assuming that of doing it." (He was trying to stop the spread of slavery into Louisiana Purchase territory). I share the preceding quote only because it recently came to my attention that Arizonans are once again being asked to vote on an amendment to our State constitution addressing gay marriage.

Alas, how far we have allowed Government to stray from its Purpose, and how ignorant today of that Purpose our Society is!

What does gay marriage have to do with law and order? Do we really presume, is it fair to assume, that the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, wary as they were of overbearing interference of any sort on the part of centralized Government - local or national - in the private affairs of the People, intended the State or National Governments to over-regulate Nuptials along with Commerce? And as far as issues go, should homosexual unions concern us, one way or the other, more than the dismal state of public education in the Grand Canyon State? Tell me true, just how much Government do we want in our lives? How much is too much for our own good?

Mind you, Arizona law already defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. An amendment reminding Arizonans of this fact would be redundant, though I to some degree sympathize with - or rather, understand - the paranoia of those supportive of it. For here is the predicament we face, not only in Arizona, but throughout our Union:

Were there an amendment, or a court ruling, which effectively legalized homosexual marriage in Arizona, my native State, my first home, it is likely that earnest defenders of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) "rights" would be as supportive of such an act - of such government intrusion in the private lives of Arizonans - as they are now opposed to the particular measure being discussed presently, which would explicitly prohibit gay marriage here. And though LGBT activists fancy themselves guardians of Liberty and Human Rights, they are hypocrites, unless they are as opposed to a Government blessing gay marriage as they are to a Government proscribing it.

Given past developments in California, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, LGBT hypocrisy is self-evident. Or as Thomas Paine wrote in his second "American Crisis" paper addressed to Lord Howe in January 1777, regarding the Quakers in Philadelphia who took pains to reassure his lordship of their allegiance to George III: "These men are continually harping on the great sin of our bearing arms, but the king of Britain may lay waste the world in blood and famine, and they, poor fallen souls, have nothing to say."


Should it be approved, gay marriage would not contribute to national progress. Nor would it hinder such progress, if not recognized. But this should not be either the State or Federal Governments' concern. It is not an existential issue; it would be as erroneous to say the Revolutionary War was fought so that gays might marry each other, as it would be to say that Lincoln fought the Civil War to end slavery. Nor is this about "civil rights"; the very idea that anyone should have - or be denied - political rights based on the type of relationship, or sex, they have is absurd, but the last time I checked, homosexuals have the right to vote and hold political office.

The chief end of Government - it's raison d'etre, according to the philosophy of those who established The United States of America and blessed the Union with long standing instruments, such as the federal Constitution - is the preservation of individual Liberty, and contrary to conventional wisdom, this does not mean one can do whatever he wishes, irrespective of the effects on others. It does mean, at some level, treating others as you wish to be treated. It does not mean everyone should have their way; just as Government must be restrained, so must we guard against unbridled majorities or tyrannical minorities.

Just as Government should have no say in what religious beliefs you have, or deny, and should not punish you for adhering to certain spiritual beliefs or for lacking them, it is also the case that Government should not possess the unmitigated right to tell you whom you can or cannot wed. Love, we should remember, is rarely respectful of legal boundaries. However, at the same time, I do not feel that a Government selected by a majority should be manipulated to suit the demands of a minority, a minority which is offended that the majority disagrees with it (leading the former to adopt elitist sentiments).

In other words, though I am against Government banning gay marriage, I am as equally - or more - against Government sanctioning it. If I had to choose between one measure or the other, let there be no mystery as to which would have my greatest support. I am entitled to my own opinion, am I not? I surely am, even if, to quote Buckley, those who "claim to want to give a hearing to other views...are shocked and offended to learn that there are other views."

Henry David Thoreau said, in his 1849 tract on Civil Disobedience, "To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government." Arbitrary laws, such as those seeking to ban flag burning, or unnecessary amendments prohibiting gay marriage (in a State with laws already on the books effectively banning it), do nothing to make our Government better. At the same time, those who via so-called "activist courts" seek to subvert the will and decisiveness of a reasonable majority of the electorate in favor of gay marriage would do us, our State constitution, and our democratic system no favors.

"That government is best which governs the least," said Thomas Paine. How little Common Sense we have today, failing to recognize the truth of such an aphorism!


Friday, July 11, 2008

The Curious Predicament of the Anti-Zionist

Think much I do on the situation of the Jewish people, on the State of Israel, and the world at large. All are intertwined, after all. It occurs to me that if those who stand opposed to Israel would just be honest with themselves, and with those who either support Israel, are Jewish, or Israeli, they would be able to bring themselves to admit what many of us others who stand against them already know. And what do we know about them, about these anti-Semites, these anti-Zionists? Quite a bit, for to be acquainted with human nature and not deny its faults gives one insight of a sort those blind to or dismissive of their own faults manage to avoid, often purposely.

These anti-Zionists, indeed, all anti-Semites, are deeply disturbed by the idea of Jews having the means and the ability to defend themselves. See, after thousands of years of Jewish statelessness, the world got pretty used to being able to pick on Jews, without much in the way of retaliation deterring them from murdering, expelling, or otherwise oppressing Jews on a whim. But now, over sixty years after the establishment of the State of Israel, anti-Semites and ordinary individuals still have yet to come to terms with the idea of Jews not only having a country, but warplanes, tanks, soldiers and nuclear weapons with which they can defend it vigorously.

Yes, long since gone are the days when anti-Semitism rarely had the potential for serious repercussions. Jews now have the ability, and the will, to strike back at those who would do them harm or have already done them harm, even if the guilty parties hide thousands of miles away. The world blusters and protests, embargoes and boycotts, vilifies and scapegoats, all because the established order - of thousands of years - has been turned upside down, because the Jews are no longer shy about holding accountable those who attack them. How the anti-Zionist yearns for yesteryear, when a Jew could be assaulted, persecuted, without fear of retaliation!

The truth is, the building up and establishment of the State of Israel did not create a "new Jew", as the proponents of early Zionism thought it would. No, what the re-founding of a Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel did was return the Jew to his and her former station.

Jews in the time of King David, and for some period before and long afterward, were able warriors. Thousands of years after David made Jerusalem his capital and that of all the people Israel, it was the Jews who rose up against the might of the Roman Empire and held it off successfully for several years. The destruction of the Second Temple, and later the great expulsion following the Bar-Kochba revolt (which resulted in Rome renaming Judea-Israel as "Syria Palaestina") was as significant to the disarming of the Jews as the rebuilding of Jewish statehood was to their rearmament. And it is their rearmament which is most disturbing to the anti-Zionist.

Modern Israel is not, of course, above criticism, nor should it be. However, Israel's existence as a liberal democracy - whose citizens both Jewish and Arab, Muslim and Christian, enjoy rights and privileges not shared by the residents of neighboring lands - cannot be the reason for the amount of disproportionate criticism heaped upon it. Nor, unfortunately, does Israel's existence as a liberal democracy prevent it from being counted amongst those nations inimical to world peace, along with such dictatorial stand-outs as North Korea, Iran, Burma, Cuba or even quasi-dictatorial regimes such as Venezuela and, to a lesser degree, Russia.

So what else but the existence of Jewish military power, and the absence of a reluctance by Jews in Israel to use that power in a just cause, can be the reason for Israel being viewed and treated by many as a pariah?

Loath though many outspoken opponents of Israel may be to admit it (they'll spout platitudes to human rights they deny to the Jew, but want for everyone else), nevertheless it is the case that they prefer the meek Jew to the assertive Jew; they would rather the Jew be the prey, not the hunter. The idea of aggressive Jews, able and willing to stand up for defend themselves when threatened, is anathema to such people, even in this day and age, long after the Nazis were discredited and defeated. Furthermore, for a Jew to claim she has just as much a right to defend herself as an Arab has to defend himself, the anti-Zionist, what an absurdity this is!

It is as if the decrees of Heaven itself have been overturned by the Devil!

To the anti-Zionist, Israel's greatest crime is not that it kills Arabs in self-defense or captured land from Arabs in wars the Arabs were - and are - responsible for instigating. No, to the anti-Zionist/anti-Semite (the labels are interchangeable), Israel's greatest crime is simply...that Israel exists. To those of this view, the non-existence of Israel would bring peace of mind, to say nothing of peace on Earth. For a millennium or two, the world - in particular, anti-Semites - were able to deal with the Jew as the stronger party. Now, anti-Semites must contend with Jews who can make a strong claim to being an equal, and in some aspects even the stronger, party.

2,000 years of disenfranchisement, pogroms, exclusions, Inquisitions, Crusades, expulsions, genocides and like and such as against the Jews didn't prepare the anti-Zionist, the anti-Semite, for this, a world in which Jews are capable and cunning commandos, generals, spies, fighter pilots and artillerymen. Anti-Zionists would rather they didn't have to deal with this reality at all; the criminal is usually vexed when the victim fights back. But deal with this reality the anti-Semite must, and in so doing, resentment breeds. Resentment breeds, and Israel is the focus.

Israel is the focus, and Jews are the targets.

Jews are the targets...but now, they fight back.

What a predicament!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Change I Already Believe In

How can people get all worked up over the false hope being propagated by Senator Barack Obama? His claim to be an agent of change is disingenuous, because the agent of change is not Senator Obama, but the American System. The agent of change is the Constitution of the United States, especially the Twenty-Second Amendment, which instituted presidential term limits. "Change we can believe in" is coming whether or not Sen. Obama wins the 2008 election, and notwithstanding the wholly, obviously false charges that a President McCain would simply continue the policies of George W. Bush (after all, media history shows how often the latter two were at odds, doesn't it?). Change is our destiny.

That a great many Americans are willing to go along with Barack Obama's claims, or not question them, demonstrates to me the lowly stature of our Constitution in this day and age. Such is that compact's plight that the American Civil Liberties Union is able to get away with claiming the Bush Administration is trampling on our rights at the same time the ACLU itself is committed to trampling on Americans' right to bear arms, which despite uber-liberal spin, is not limited to those in service of State militias (that right, guaranteed by the Second Amendment, was inspired by British oppressions and by the Founders was seen as a fundamental protection of personal liberty). Freedom, eh? According to your POV.

Yes, politicians can be and often are agents of change. But in an election year - especially a general election year in which the Office of the President is up for grabs after a Chief Executive's maximum two terms and the incumbent Vice President isn't in the running - "change" relies not on the election of one candidate or another, but in a faithful adherence to the literal and legal provisions of the federal covenant which binds together this Union. We are, as the Founders wished, a Nation ruled by firm laws, not fickle men. In fact, by upholding those laws, especially the Supreme Law of the Land, we the People each and every election year are also agents of change, in concert with our Constitution.

Unlike those whose bumper stickers celebrate the approach of President Bush's last day in office, I look forward to next year's inauguration with hope...not in anticipation of an Obama victory, or even a McCain win, but because on Inauguration Day, a great thing happens. Prior to the birth of the United States and the adoption of the Constitution, peaceful transference of government - republican or monarchic - was a rare occurrence. When after serving two terms, George Washington stood in the same room as John Adams and watched the latter take the presidential Oath of Office, the press of the time gushed, "Thus ended a scene the parallel of which was never before witnessed in any country."

Election years are, more or less, always fun for me. Whereas others are enamored of "the theory of natural selection," and advocate constantly in favor of it, I am myself far more fascinated by - and protective of - the process of democratic selection. Disagree though I may with the stances of one or both of the candidates standing for a particular office, there are few things more intellectually satisfying to me than waiting in anticipation of the results of a vote. When someone I didn't wish to be elected wins, I take comfort from the fact that so long as "We the People" fulfill our duties and responsibilities under both the Federal and our State Constitutions, change we can believe in will always be possible.

I take comfort because Change, as you can see, is not the purview solely of Barack Obama or his campaign. Change needn't be an overt "campaign promise" of Senator John McCain, either. Change is coming, no thanks to either of the candidates, save for the fact that they are competing for the position George W. Bush currently holds. And who is to say that when Inauguration Day 2009 comes around, the following won't apply to "Bush 43" (as the next President of the United States is sworn in, and as about his predecessor another President once mused upon taking office over two centuries ago): "Me thought I heard him think, 'Ay, I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!'"

That, my fellow Americans, is Change of the sort I not only can believe in, but that I already do believe in.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Irrational Terror Requires Rational Response

Compare the lives of Israel's Arabs with the lives of Arabs in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, and what you will find may startle you: Israeli Arabs, an uncomfortable, distrusted and admittedly unofficially discriminated-against minority living amongst a Jewish majority, are still far better off in Israel than their brethren in neighboring countries. Israel's Arabs, as an Arab minority amongst a Jewish majority, are freer - religiously, physically, culturally and politically - than Arabs living in Arab-majority states.

In the wake of the latest terrorist atrocity perpetrated in Jerusalem by an Arab holding Israeli residency, there are once again calls to expel Arabs from Israel en masse . While it is undeniably the case that such a position is born of justifiable anger, it is completely and utterly without reason that such an opinion - such a suggestion - is ever seriously propagated. No liberal democracy worthy of being called such should countenance any form of ethnic cleansing.

Wednesday's attack was wholly unpredictable, at least with regards to its timing. Anyone who assumes that the Arabs of Jerusalem's eastern neighborhoods - brought under Israeli sovereignty in June 1967 both against the will of Israel and by the fault of an intransigent, adventurous but later wise King of Jordan - are in love with their position in the region deludes themselves.

Still, when one compares the situation of Arabs in Israel with Arabs in Arab-majority states, one would be forgiven for thinking resident Arabs slightly less of a threat than foreign Arabs.


Looking around at the world today, there are relatively few "ethnically pure" states. Notably, the members of the Arab League by and large conspicuously hold to policies restricting or prohibiting immigration by non-Arabs. Saudi Arabia, amongst other countries, is intolerant of the practice of any religion within the kingdom's boundaries but Islam.

Given the threat Israel faces, several minds hold to the notion that an expulsion of Arabs from the Jewish state would solve the tiny country's problems.

How they can believe such a thing, cognizant as they must be of all of the problems/accusations beleaguering Israel still today thanks to the departure of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from Israel's territory in the War of Independence - because of fighting as well as exhortations and reassurances victory from Arab leaders - is vexing. Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, has enough existentially-significant image problems already.

Besides, why would Israelis wish to emulate their Arab foes, who expelled (or persecuted-until-they-left) from their lands about as many - 800,000 - Jews as Arabs who departed what was once the Palestine Mandate following the establishment of the State of Israel? There is no moral precedent for even the mildest form of ethnic cleansing, that which merely consists of mass deportation.

Thus, it is for these reasons that I cannot seriously entertain the idea of ridding the Jewish state of its sometimes all-too-willing potential Fifth Column citizens and residents of Arab and Muslim ethnicity.

Me? I feel that preemptive strikes, police raids, human intelligence, and yes, home demolitions and even the freezing of bank accounts/assets of Israeli Arabs or Arab families supporting or carrying out terrorist activities should suffice. And going a step further, I would dare to suggest that calling on Israel's Arabs to be better citizens in their democracy, and calling out their hypocrisy whenever necessary, is a far more preferable alternative to expulsion.


Writing to a New England synagogue in the 1790s, the first President of the United States, George Washington, said, "For happily the government of the United States which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

Since Arabs in Israel - whatever their trials and disadvantages as a minority - receive more protection and support from the Israeli government than they would under any sort of Arab/Muslim government now existing, is it too much to ask that they who live under a Jewish government's protection, "should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support"?

No, it is not too much to ask.


In fact, I think such a "requirement", such a demand on Israel's Arabs, is quite reasonable given the circumstances, since they who seek respect, recognition and protection from the State should be willing to give respect, recognition and protection to the State in return. Banal hypocrisy in this regard, on the part of the Israeli Arab community, sows bitter seeds and reaps bitter fruit. As it has in the past, it does in the present; as it does in the present, it will in the future.

See, within Israel's declaration of independence of 1948 is contained an extraordinary passage: WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

It is not too much, of course, to ask that Israel's Arab population respect the State's Jewish underpinnings, majority culture, and institutions, in exchange for guarantees of their "full and equal" rights of Israeli citizenship. In return, Arabs can vote for who they wish, maintain their own free press, speak their mind and travel throughout the country - along with their fellow Jewish citizens.

Sure, the family of the perpetrator of Wednesday's horrific bulldozer rampage through central Jerusalem was brought under Israeli rule against their will. But given Israel's request to King Hussein of Jordan not to enter the fighting in 1967, Israel is less at fault than the Arab states. And while Israel could easily do more to accommodate and care for Jerusalem's Arab residents, their lot is far more to their benefit than it would be under any sort of Palestinian rule.

Wednesday's senseless attack once again brought into the spotlight the contentious history and position of Jerusalem. But simply expelling Arabs en masse from the State of Israel will never be the answer. Such a "solution" is akin to sweeping dust under the rug, and then believing it to be forever gone.

No...the most proper solution I can see at present is time and again calling on Israel's Arabs to acknowledge and appreciate their lot - all the while, fulfilling our end of responsibilities to them, whilst holding the door wide open for them if they feel they might be happier elsewhere. If out of stubborn, idiotic pride born of ethnicity they wish to live as a majority under Arab dictators rather than Jewish (and Arab) democrats as a minority, in countries where their lives and opinions belong more to the government than to themselves, let them.


"After all, life inside Israel is much better than the West Bank." - Ibrahim Barakat, businessman from Beit Hanina


The Significance of July 2, 1776

"Resolved...That these United Colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved." - Richard Henry Lee, delegate of Virginia, submitting a resolution before the Continental Congress on June 7, 1776


We take for granted far more than we are willing to admit to, and when it comes to our history, this is no exception. Such might be the case with all peoples and all free nations, but in America in particular, we're so content with the generalities of our history that the facts are often forgotten or ignored, ignored because they are forgotten. Ignored because, most likely, they are not taught. Like the story of Washington with the cherry tree, we celebrate myth as much as fact. This is not so bad, in our case; but the truth is not just what sets us free - it made us free.

After all, it is one thing, is it not, to say that Lincoln freed the slaves in the Civil War, and then quite another to acknowledge that with the Emancipation Proclamation, he only freed the slaves in the South? I think so. And if you think the North was always so anti-slavery, read up on the vast numbers of slaves who entered America through Rhode Island. But I digress...

I'm not writing, here, about the Civil War. At least, not at much length. At the moment, I'm writing of an event - or rather, a series of events - without which the War Between the States in the 1860s might merely have been the product of an imagination rather than a consequence of intransigence and pride. It being the first week of July, 2008, I'm writing about - what else? - American Independence.

Take a look at this piece of correspondence, now just about 232 years old:

"The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."

Why was the future ambassador to the Netherlands and England, and lest we forget future Vice President and President of the United States, John Adams, so enthusiastic about July 2, 1776? So much so that he wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, with his feelings on the day that message's subject? (He wrote nothing of July 4.) Well, July 2 that year was a day of great significance.

"This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States..." - Charles Wilson Peale, an artist in Philadelphia, in his journal...July 2, 1776

Yes, at issue that day - July 2, 1776 - in the Continental Congress was whether the Thirteen Colonies would finally, officially break with Britain and go their own separate ways from George III and Parliament. Without that vote (twelve Colonies voted in favor, while New York abstained), there would have been little point to Congress then commencing debate over the final wording of the Declaration of Independence which had been submitted to them by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Benjamin Franklin.

Incidentally, on July 4, 1776, only the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, and the Secretary of the Congress, Charles Thomson, actually signed the final draft of the Declaration approved that day. It would be another month before a different copy was signed by all the delegates at Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson was out buying ladies' gloves for his wife, and a thermometer, on July 4, 1776. That thermometer cost 3 pounds, 15 shillings, by the way.

Now, I'm willing to bet that a great majority of the Americans (and others) reading this had little notion of what happened on July 2, 1776 in Philadelphia. They probably have never cared, though ardent patriots they may consider themselves. In fact, to them, July 2 has probably always been just another day on the road to America's Independence celebrations. But, just as we must be conceived by sexual intercourse before our actual birth can be celebrated, America was created - by a wholly different type of intercourse - before it was actually born.

So if you love Freedom, raise a bottle or mug of Samuel Adams lager - if you have one - in a salute to the momentous vote which took place in Philadelphia 232 years ago today (you can of course toast using the beer of your choice; I merely stated my own preference). Do this in remembrance that but for the significance of July 2, 1776, the Fourth of July would be for us what it is for the rest of the world...just another day, to be foolishly taken for granted.


"The decree is gone forth, and it cannot be recalled, that a more equal liberty than had prevailed in other parts of the earth must be established in America." - John Adams writing to Patrick Henry, May 27, 1776, on hearing of Virginia's decision to support independence