A MUSE – Independence Day

A MUSE – Independence Day

July 4, 2014

Today we celebrate Independence Day, the date on a document dated July 4, 1776 that laid down the claim by the original 13 Colonies to be free and independent States. It was not a Declaration of War.  As I discussed in my last Muse, we have issued only 5 of those. But I would say it had the effect of being one and formalized the reasons for what I would also say was a “good war”.   Entitled Declaration of Independence, it declared the Colonies independent from the Kingdom of  Great Britain, leading to the American Revolutionary War, previously referred to by the King as a rebellion. The 4th is celebrated today with fireworks, picnics, barbecues, baseball games, political speeches, ceremonies, and family reunions.  That was not always the case.  It did not become a federal holiday until 1870, nor a paid federal holiday until 1938.

The majority of us who studied any American History know much of the story, but I would like to refresh how the day came about. In the late 1760s/early 1770s, the Colonies were still occupied by the British army remaining after the end of the French and Indian War and many laws were passed by Great Britain (known as the Intolerable Acts) that became more and more distasteful to the Americans, of which there were only about 2 ½ million then (more than 300 million now).  In September 1774, 55 representatives (including George Washington) from 12 of the 13 Colonies (Georgia not present) met in Philadelphia to discuss their grievances and outlined them in The Declaration and Resolves of the 1st Continental Congress.  It was attempt to remain loyal to the King but asking to be treated justly like respected citizens.  Its tone is best described in the Letter of Petition to the King dated October 26, 1774, to which the Declaration was attached.

To The King’s Most Excellent Majesty:

     Most Gracious Sovereign:  We, your Majesty’s faithful subjects of the Colonies…by this humble petition, beg leave to lay our grievances before the Throne.

             (Grievances Omitted)

We therefore most earnestly beseech your Majesty that your Royal Authority be used for our relief and that a gracious Answer may be given to this Petition, that your Majesty may enjoy a long and glorious reign, over loyal and happy subjects…

The petition is ignored. In April 1775 the rebellion erupts as skirmishes at Lexington and Concord take  place; in May, Ethan Allen captures the British Fort Ticonderoga in Vermont; in June, the Battle of Bunker Hill; in July, Washington assumes command of a fledgling Continental Army.

On June 7, 1776 a 2nd Continental Congress of  all 13 Colonies, each with a varying number of representatives but only one vote per Colony, is convened in Philadelphia and Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposes a resolution in a tone quite different from that of the 1st Congress.  Resolved: That these United Colonies are…free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiances to the British Crown, and that all political connections between them and the State of Great Britain is…totally dissolved.  Consideration of the resolution was postponed while a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement to present to the world the Colonies’ justification and case for independence.  On the Committee of Five were John Adams, Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman (of Ct.), Robert Livingston (of N.Y.), and Thomas Jefferson, who was delegated to do the drafting (only 33, he wanted Franklin, 70, to do the drafting).  That took more than two weeks. On July 1, 1776 the Congress voted on the resolution, 9 for, 3 not for, (Pa., Del., and S.C.) and 1 abstaining (N.Y.)  On July 2, 1776 the Congress voted again, votes changing, now 12 for, N.Y. still unauthorized and abstaining. Thus the Lee Resolution was formally adopted  and  independence declared that day (is this Independence Day?).  On July 4th Congress amends Jefferson’s draft and 12 Colonies approve the Declaration.  John Hancock was the only signer that day. New York voted to approve the draft on July 9th and it was sent to the printers for formal copies to be prepared. It was dated July 4th.

In his Declaration Jefferson eloquently and famously summarized the philosophy of what would become a new nation: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. He then went on to accuse the King of establishing absolute tyranny over the States and cited a list of 27 Oppressions made against the Colonies.  At the end he picked up on Lee’s Resolution and left no doubt about loyalties: We therefore, the Representatives of the united (note lower case) States of America…by Authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiances to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved. (Comma placements are Jefferson’s.  I don’t edit this one.)

The Congress met again on August 2, 1776 for the formal signing. Fifty members signed that day (is this Independence Day?).  The next week the British fleet and army arrived in New York Harbor.  The last of the remaining six signers didn’t sign until Novermber (56 in all), and it wasn’t until then that the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain. But they knew it was coming.  By this time the signers had been labeled by the King as traitors, the British had landed and seized New York City and most Americans had become committed to the struggle for independence. That’s why we celebrate the day…Trivia footnote:  The 2nd, 3rd, and 5th presidents of the United States, Adams, Jefferson and Monroe, all died on July 4th, Adams and Jefferson on the same day 50 years after the signing.

Happy Fourth of July – and thanks for stopping by.

VS – www.thelavallecollection.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONDAY MUSINGS – The Last Good War

Monday – June 16, 2014

“The Good War” is an oral history of WWII authored by long term Chicago radio program announcer, Studs Terkel. It received the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for best non-fiction writing  It  used first person accounts to describe a very different time – a time when 16.1 million Americans went to war; a time when the entire country pulled together and sacrificed to fight very specific enemies.  The highest paid player in baseball and future hall of famer, Bob Feller, enlisted December 9, 1941, the day after war was declared.  George Bush postponed going to Yale and enlisted as soon as he graduated from high school, on his 18th birthday.  It is hard to call any war a “good war” when it cost more than 400,000 American lives – but in four years and nine months after America went to war it was over, the bad guys totally defeated, Japan and Western Europe saved for democracy.  It was a war we had to get into – and all the way.

I think Terkel’s book should have been entitled “The Last Good War” given the outcomes since.  It was the last time we issued a formal Declaration of War.  Korea was called a UN  “police  action”, and after 37,000 more American lives were lost, it ended in very much a stalemate.  Eisenhower promptly ended it after his election as he had promised before more lives were lost. Yes, the South was rescued and over time became an economic success story; yet the North has lived in destitution and under tyranny ever since with a nuclear toting dictator.

Then came Vietnam, not a war, but a “military engagement” authorized by Congress with the Tonkin Resolution in 1964.  Did Congress have any idea that more than 2.5 million men would be sent to serve in Nam, that the ‘engagement” would last nine years and 58,000 Americans would die, or that when the Treaty of Paris ended “the engagement” in 1973 the North would still be in control of the North, no one would be in control of the South, and that in the end we would lose?

In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution which has had the practical effect of precluding a Declaration of War.  The Resolution is supposed to prevent the U.S. from going into combat for more than 90 days without congressional authorization.  It was used, along with a U.N. resolution, to justify the Persian Gulf “War” and send 400,000 troops overseas.  At least the “war” was over quickly, we freed Kuwait and its oil with little loss of American life, but the tyrant was left in place to dictate Iraq for another 12 years.

Similar authorizations were used to justify invading Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (more controversial, in 2003).  The ruthlessly and dictatorially religious Taliban government was overthrown in short order and melted away.  But did Congress realize how many troops we would still have nation building there in harm’s way 13 years later – and facing a resurrected Taliban movement stronger than it was 5-10 years ago.  Or did Congress realize that we would be occupying Iraq for more than 8 years before departing, and that despite our attempts to democratize it, the country would evolve into a vicious, ethnic and religious civil war spreading all the way into Syria? Will the bad guys win (who are the bad guys)?  Could this be Vietnam déjà vu – will we see our Embassy being evacuated by helicopters on its rooftop with civilians clinging to the wheels as they lift off?

I don’t think the final outcomes of our military “engagements” have been too good since “the last good war”.  Maybe if we required a more formal Declaration of War before sending our troops off to battle, we would send them off less, and the results would be better.

Thanks for stopping by.

VS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday – June 16, 2014

“The Good War” is an oral history of WWII authored by long term Chicago radio program announcer, Studs Terkel. It received the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for best non-fiction writing  It  used first person accounts to describe a very different time – a time when 16.1 million Americans went to war; a time when the entire country pulled together and sacrificed to fight very specific enemies.  The highest paid player in baseball and future hall of famer, Bob Feller, enlisted December 9, 1941, the day after war was declared.  George Bush postponed going to Yale and enlisted as soon as he graduated from high school, on his 18th birthday.  It is hard to call any war a “good war” when it cost more than 400,000 American lives – but in four years and nine months after America went to war it was over, the bad guys totally defeated, Japan and Western Europe saved for democracy.  It was a war we had to get into – and all the way.

I think Terkel’s book should have been entitled “The Last Good War” given the outcomes since.  It was the last time we issued a formal Declaration of War.  Korea was called a UN  “police  action”, and after 37,000 more American lives were lost, it ended in very much a stalemate.  Eisenhower promptly ended it after his election as he had promised before more lives were lost. Yes, the South was rescued and over time became an economic success story; yet the North has lived in destitution and under tyranny ever since with a nuclear toting dictator.

Then came Vietnam, not a war, but a “military engagement” authorized by Congress with the Tonkin Resolution in 1964.  Did Congress have any idea that more than 2.5 million men would be sent to serve in Nam, that the ‘engagement” would last nine years and 58,000 Americans would die, or that when the Treaty of Paris ended “the engagement” in 1973 the North would still be in control of the North, no one would be in control of the South, and that in the end we would lose?

In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution which has had the practical effect of precluding a Declaration of War.  The Resolution is supposed to prevent the U.S. from going into combat for more than 90 days without congressional authorization.  It was used, along with a U.N. resolution, to justify the Persian Gulf “War” and send 400,000 troops overseas.  At least the “war” was over quickly, we freed Kuwait and its oil with little loss of American life, but the tyrant was left in place to dictate Iraq for another 12 years.

Similar authorizations were used to justify invading Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (more controversial, in 2003).  The ruthlessly and dictatorially religious Taliban government was overthrown in short order and melted away.  But did Congress realize how many troops we would still have nation building there in harm’s way 13 years later – and facing a resurrected Taliban movement stronger than it was 5-10 years ago.  Or did Congress realize that we would be occupying Iraq for more than 8 years before departing, and that despite our attempts to democratize it, the country would evolve into a vicious, ethnic and religious civil war spreading all the way into Syria? Will the bad guys win (who are the bad guys)?  Could this be Vietnam déjà vu – will we see our Embassy being evacuated by helicopters on its rooftop with civilians clinging to the wheels as they lift off?

 

I don’t think the final outcomes of our military “engagements” have been too good since “the last good war”.  Maybe if we required a more formal Declaration of War before sending our troops off to battle, we would send them off less, and the results would be better.

Thanks for stopping by.

VS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONDAY MUSINGS – Parents and Kids: Now and Then

Monday – June 2, 2014 

I must admit that many of the comments below are cribbed from various Facebook commentaries in the public domain that I have massaged and edited to reflect a view of a way of growing up that doesn’t exist today. Now, mid-way between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I’d like to share:

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL BORN IN the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s!!  First, you survived being conceived by mothers who may have had more than a few cocktails or cigarettes while they carried you.  They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna salad from a tin, and didn’t get tested for diabetes or screened with ultrasound.  Then, after that trauma, your baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead based paints and your bedroom walls were insulated with asbestos.  You had no child tamper proof medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when you rode your bikes, you had no helmets.  I hesitate to mention the risks you took hitchhiking.  As children you rode in cars with no seat belts or airbags.  Riding in the back of a pick-up truck – standing up – was always great fun.  You drank water from the garden hose and shared your coke with four friends drinking from the same bottle – and NO ONE actually died from this.  You ate cakes, white bread and real butter; you drank soda pop and milk shakes, but you weren’t obese because … YOU WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!  You left home in the morning and could play all day as long as you were back home when the streetlights came on.  No one knew where you were all day, but you were OK.  You spent hours riding down hills on scooters and sleds, and after taking a few tumbles you learned how to handle them.  You did not have Playstations, , Nintendos, X-boxes, I-Pods; no  video games at all; no 199 channels on cable, no video taped movies, no mobile phones, no text messaging, no personal computers, no internet or internet chatrooms …. YOU HAD FRIENDS and you went outside and found them!!  You rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just shouted out for them. You fell out of trees, broke bones, got into fights, got cuts – and there were no lawsuits from these occurrences.  Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team.  Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with the disappointment.  Imagine that!  The idea of a parent trying to bail you out if you got bad grades, were disciplined at school or broke the law was unheard of.  They actually sided with the school and the law.  And this is a generation that has produced some of the best problem-solvers, risk takers and inventors ever!  The past 50 years has seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas. You had the freedom and responsibility to fail or succeed and you LEARNED HOW TO DEAL WITH IT!  And YOU are one of them!  CONGRATULATIONS!

It wasn’t until my wife and I had dinner out one night with our daughter and son, grown-up then in their mid-twenties (one with a daughter of her own), that I gained an appreciation for all of the above. Throughout the meal they cited incident after incident of what they thought would have been deemed  bad parenting during their childhood:  how my daughter was allowed to walk to school by herself everyday in the city when she was five, one mile each way;  how I pushed my four year old son’s sled down a steep hill and he ran into an iron fence and blacked his eye ( he learned to roll off before that ever happened again); how we took them to see JAWS when they were so young that they were afraid of sharks  at the beach for the rest of the summer; how they had to make their own breakfast everyday before school while their mother slept in; how they were left  home alone when they were 15 and 17 while the parents went to Europe for three weeks; and so on… and they told us some of the things they did that we didn’t know.  And we laughed together about it all for more than two hours.  They chided us for our so-called bad parenting ways, but they loved us for them.

p.s. They turned out pretty well. They know how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’ and ‘excuse me’; how to hold open the door for the person behind them.

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids – when Democrats and Republicans were often friends and tried to work together for the good of the country instead of themselves, and before their lawyers regulated our lives for what they thought was own good. And while you’re at it, forward it to your kids so they might know how their parents were raised.

Thanks for stopping by.

VS

 

 

A MUSE – LIFE CHANGES

A MUSE – LIFE CHANGES

MAY 27, 2014 

It’s been too long since my last Muse and many things have happened since.

When I retired some years ago I wanted to move to a Caribbean Island where one could swim at least 360 days a year.  My wife, Christina, pretended to acquiesce to my desire, so after house hunting for two years and finding some beautiful houses (I thought), nothing suited her. She finally confessed:  “There is no way I am going to move to a third world country,” she said.

I suggested a compromise: “How about Naples, Florida?”  I knew the gulf water was colder in the winter than I would have preferred, but it was about as far south as one could go and remain in the U.S. (Key West, notwithstanding, lacks the beaches).  What’s more!  Florida has no state income taxes.

Her response: “I wouldn’t move to Florida for ten million dollars!” (Her tri-state New York friends had always maligned those people who retired and “just moved off to Florida to die.”)  So I thought I was just going to have to stay in Connecticut until I died.

But the weather cooperated (or did not cooperate depending upon one’s point of view). It got worse, or so it seemed, and every morning I would wake up, look out the window and remark:  “Ah!  Another beautiful, bright, sunshiny day in paradise.”  It must have worked, for finally, after two years, Christina remarked one morning right out of the blue:  “Why don’t we move to Naples?”  She had never been to Naples, so I gave her a couple of days to reconsider.  Then we were on an airplane, found a house in five days, bought it, came home, watched our dog Riva die, sold our house and moved out in the middle of one of the winter’s first snow storms.

I must admit that moving 25 years of “stuff” was no picnic. But now I look out the skylight almost every morning to a bright blue sky and smell the air, happy that I missed this winter’s “snowrage” up north.  Children and grandchildren have already been down to visit (Daughter four times).  I’ve started writing again

And last month, after thinking I had paid my last dime in taxes in Connecticut, I received notice that instead of a refund, I owed. An addendum had been added to the tax calculation schedule I had always used. The addendum was entitled “3 % Tax Rate Phase-Out Add-Back”.  My kudos go out to the politician or bureaucrat who invented that one.

 

Thanks for stopping by – and look forward to next Monday’s Muse on today’s children and parenting.

VS

 

 

MONDAY MUSINGS – Time to be thankful

Monday, November 25, 2013

riva-doorstep

Riva Sharp

March 15, 2006 – November 7, 2013

She went to sleep peacefully after a valiant, but losing, eighteen month battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.  We miss her.  The mornings when she could bound up the stairs in two  leaps and  jump 12 feet through the air into our bed to lick our faces, they will never be forgotten.  But life goes on.  Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful.  The rest of the family is thriving.  Two granddaughters are already home from Chicago and Miami for the week. The oldest one will be arriving from Boston in a couple of days (even though I hear nasty weather iis coming). And just like so many, we will be enjoying this unusual American tradition of family getting together to eat turkey at what seems to be a strange time of year. Riva would be happy for us.