Your Fourth of July and My Fourth of July

Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Revised for the 2010s:

Your Fourth of July is invasions and wars.

My Fourth of July is the pure sunbeam of peace.

Yours is the Confederate flag and nostalgia for the hierarchies of slavery.

Mine is ‘all men are created equal.’

Yours is kowtowing to billionaires in Las Vegas and disregard of public opinion.


Mine is “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

Yours is profiling and discrimination.

Mine is “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Yours is “My country right or wrong.”

Mine is avoiding “Offences against the Law of Nations”

Yours is the repeal of universal health care and rejection of Kyoto,

Mine is an America that cares about the wellbeing of our children.

Yours is politicians above the law.

Mine is, with Tom Paine, “in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

Yours is drone attacks in countries against which we are not at war.

Mine is “and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”

Yours is NSA surveillance of millions of innocents

Mine is the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Yours is poverty wages and union-busting.

Mine is “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Yours is off-shore drilling, coddling polluters and ‘all of the above energy”

Mine is a stewardship of America the beautiful for succeeding generations.

Yours is the privatization of war and the deployment of whole divisions of “contractors. . .”

Mine is an America where privates do not risk their lives for a tenth of what a mercenary is paid by the Pentagon.

Yours is the criminalization of the people’s protests.

Mine is, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Yours is over 800 military bases around the globe.

Mine is America, the pure sunbeam of peace.

With apologies to Kahlil Gibran.


17 Responses

  1. Mine: “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; “

  2. Professor Cole – Thank you the clear reminder of the great promise we once held for our country.

    And the sad reality of how promise has been broken.

  3. Rick Santorum’s Fourth of July….”This Decision Will Not Stand.” The Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing gay marriage will meet with fierce resistance from social conservatives till hell freezes over. Evangelicals believe the bible is the literal word of God and condemns homosexuality. Religious conservatives like Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz strongly believe just accepting the Supreme Court’s ruling means the United States is a country living in sin and all of its people are bound for eternal damnation and will burn in hell forever.

  4. This is from a letter Jefferson wrote to James Madison, dated 28 October 1785, from Fontainebleau, France. Not too antiquated, I think.

    link to

    “This is a village of about 15,000 inhabitants when the court is not here, and 20,000 when they are, occupying a valley through which runs a brook and on each side of it a ridge of small mountains, most of which are naked rock. The King comes here, in the fall always, to hunt. His court attend him, as do also the foreign diplomatic corps; but as this is not indispensably required and my finances do not admit the expense of a continued residence here, I propose to come occasionally to attend the King’s levees, returning again to Paris, distant forty miles. This being the first trip, I set out yesterday morning to take a view of the place. For this purpose I shaped my course towards the highest of the mountains in sight, to the top of which was about a league.

    As soon as I had got clear of the town I fell in with a poor woman walking at the same rate with myself and going the same course. Wishing to know the condition of the laboring poor I entered into conversation with her, which I began by enquiries for the path which would lead me into the mountain: and thence proceeded to enquiries into her vocation, condition and circumstances. She told me she was a day laborer at 8 sous or 4d. sterling the day: that she had two children to maintain, and to pay a rent of 30 livres for her house (which would consume the hire of 75 days), that often she could no employment and of course was without bread. As we had walked together near a mile and she had so far served me as a guide, I gave her, on parting, 24 sous. She burst into tears of a gratitude which could perceive was unfeigned because she was unable to utter a word. She had probably never before received so great an aid. This little attendrissement, with the solitude of my walk, led me into a train of reflections on that unequal division of property which occasions the numberless instances of wretchedness which I had observed in this country and is to be observed all over Europe.

    The property of this country is absolutely concentrated in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not laboring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers and tradesmen, and lastly the class of laboring husbandmen. But after all there comes the most numerous of all classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work. I asked myself what could be the reason so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are undisturbed only for the sake of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands to be labored.

    I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable, but the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree, is a politic measure and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise.

    Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed. It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment, but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.”

    • The prescience of Benjamin Franklin is astounding:

      Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice;the love of power,and the love of money.

      Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects.

      Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honor that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.

      The vast number of such places it is that renders the British Government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true sources of all these factions which are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting its Councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless and mischievous wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace.

      And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable preeminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters?

      It will not be the wise and moderate; the Iovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits.

      These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your rulers. And these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation: For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the same motives will perpetually be endeavoring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.

      Benjamin Franklin, Opposition to Executive Salaries, ANTI-Federalist papers.

      Get the money OUT of US politics now! I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.

    • That’s magnificent stuff from Jefferson, Londo. It’s about time I read some of his work- thanks.

      Great piece as usual, Juan. I totally agree with everything you write here.

  5. To the great post by Londo Mollari I would only add the historical note that within a few years of Jefferson’s letter to Madison the French Revolution addressed those grand disparities, abuses, and despair Jefferson chronicled.

  6. The Gibran link appears dead. Here’s a pdf, with a ‘Worksheet’

    Edward Abbey, from the forward to EcoDefense:

    Only 150 years ago, the Great Plains were a vast, waving sea of grass stretching from the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico to the boreal forest of Canada, from the oak-hickory forests of the Ozarks to the Rocky Mountains. Bison blanketed the plains — it has been estimated that 60 million of the huge, shaggy beasts moved across the grassy ocean in seasonal migrations. Throngs of Pronghorn and Elk also filled this Pleistocene landscape. Packs of Gray Wolves and numerous Grizzly Bears followed the tremendous herds.

    In 1830, John James Audubon sat on the banks of the Ohio River for three days as a single flock of Passenger Pigeons darkened the sky from horizon to horizon. He estimated that there were several billion birds in that flock.

    It has been said that a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic seaboard to the Mississippi River without touching the ground so dense was the deciduous forest of the East.

    At the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, an estimated 100,000 Grizzlies roamed the western half of what is now the United States. The howl of the wolf was ubiquitous. The California Condor sailed the sky from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains. Salmon and sturgeon populated the rivers. Ocelots, Jaguars, and Jaguarundis prowled the Texas brush and Southwestern mountains and mesas. Bighorn Sheep ranged the mountains of the Rockies, the Great Basin, the Southwest, and the Pacific Coast. Ivory-billed Woodpeckers and Carolina Parakeets filled the steamy forests of the Deep South.

    The land was alive.

    East of the Mississippi, giant Tulip Poplars, American Chestnuts, oaks, hickories, and other trees formed the most diverse temperate deciduous forest in the world. In New England, White Pines grew to heights rivaling the Brobdingnagian conifers of the far West. On the Pacific Coast, redwood, hemlock, Douglas-fir, spruce, cedar, fir, and pine formed the grandest forest on Earth.

    In the space of a few generations we have laid waste to paradise.

    The Tall-grass Prairie has been transformed into a corn factory where wildlife means the exotic pheasant. The Shortgrass Prairie is a grid of carefully fenced cow pastures and wheatfields. The Passenger Pigeon is no more; the last one died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. The endless forests of the East are tame woodlots. With few exceptions, the only virgin deciduous forest there is in tiny museum pieces of hundreds of acres. Fewer than one thousand Grizzlies remain. The last three condors left in the wild were captured and imprisoned in the Los Angeles Zoo. (An expensive reintroduction effort has since been started.) Except in northern Minnesota and northwestern Montana, wolves are known as scattered individuals drifting across the Canadian and Mexican borders. Four percent of the peerless Redwood Forest remains and the ancient forests of Oregon are all but gone.

    The tropical cats have been shot and poisoned from our Southwestern borderlands. The subtropical Eden of Florida has been transmogrified into hotels and citrus orchards. Domestic cattle have grazed bare and radically altered the composition of the grassland communities of the West, displacing Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, and Pronghorn and leading to the virtual extermination of Grizzly Bear, Gray Wolf, Cougar, and other “varmints.” Dams choke most of the continent’s rivers and streams…

    link to

    • Yeah, yeah, yeah. But neither you or I has a sense of all this stuff beyond such nostalgia references.

      Not to say I don’t share your pain at the way things or going versus the balance that was, but this vision really is nothing more than an abstraction for any of us. And whatever nostalgic memories you or I may have for some better time are just that, and they’re not terrible accurate either.

      People will adapt and proliferate as they always have. And those countless teenagers of today who have no sense of any environment other than the island of a faceless mall in a ocean of cheap track-homes are no less content than their great grandparents who may have had all of nature outside their backdoor.

      There are practical things that stand to be addressed so the following generations can have a reasonable life by some reasonable definition, and pining for such old days that never really were is not only effete, but pointless.

      • Travis – I don’t understand your remark: “People will adapt and proliferate as they always have.”

        The point is that if we can run through so much bounty in less than 200 years then we will be facing mass starvation within the next century.

        If you spend more than you make, you will face bankruptcy. If you consume the bounty of the Earth faster than the Earth replenishes it, then you will face famine.

        Quite simply, we need to balance our eco-budget. A number of correctives (improving living conditions so that poor people aren’t compelled to have huge families in order to survive; making it culturally acceptance to choose to be childless and put energies into helping others raise their kids; choosing sustainable foods to grow and eat; selecting fuel sources that are sustainable; and so on and so forth.

        The staggering loss of flora and fauna should be a wake up call that our current habitual way of living needs to be modified. That does NOT mean that we need to live in caves. Quite the contrary. We need to use our technology to mimic what works well in Nature and to fit ourselves into a cyclical way of life that is enduring.

        • People WILL proliferate, somehow, through some sort of adaptatıon, to a poınt anyway. Nature really ıs very objectıve and ıt has all the tıme ın the world. But that’s another subject. Adaptıng to some vısıon of past balance and harmony I can buy, and wıll. But I’m goıng on to ıt, not back to somethıng that never really was.

  7. Very nice….Thanks Professor Cole.

    As a practicing Muslim, I admire the values of the US constitution.

    Very beautiful statements….

    “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

    What a beautiful and true statement! It recognizes that we are created. There is no way that our conscience, our sense of morality, our evolved biology, our universe could have arisen by a fluke chance. The chances are 1 in infinity which is equal to zero.

    But it also recognizes that we should treat each other equally.

    So much of problems of our nation and the world would disappear if we simply treat others like we would like them to treat us.

  8. A beautiful reflection, Dr. Cole. Thank you for this profound piece of writing that appeals to “the better angels of our nature”.

Comments are closed.