Archive for July, 2008

4th of July

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Codex Manenssisast week I witnessed my first “native” celebration of the 4th of July in the US.

The 4th of July is the day where all the Americans celebrate their independence against those evil extraterrestrials that wanted to invade the world but got kicked in their ass by The Prince of Bell-Air, by a US President that could pilot a F-15 (alone); and by an imaginative computer programmer that was able to create a computer virus for an out of this world, never seen before extraterrestrial computing device (I wonder if he used Java or .NET for multiplatform purposes). ;-)

Virgil, Opera Omnia, Willen Vrelant, Bruges, 1450The thing is that every year on the 4th of July all the Americans organize parades everywhere, put extra US flags in the few places that don’t have them all year around, go bbquing, and have fireworks at night as the great finale. It is definitely a great fiesta and I wanted to experience it for myself here in Seattle… but things were not as exciting as I was expecting, which wasn’t a bad thing at all. The longer I live in Seattle, the more I think this is a bubble inside the US.

For example: I saw neither ubiquous flags nor exacerbated patriotism on the streets, no gigantic parades or massive bbqs, no tacky Americanism anywhere… I saw a relaxed, down-to-earth city that wanted to enjoy the vacation day. And I liked it like that

Nevertheless, there were fireworks at night - and they were excellent. We took an Argosy boat and sailed off Elliot bay a bit to be able to see the fireworks from the distance. The city looked absolutely fantastic from the sea and the view of the fireworks by the Space Needle made everything look really special. Here you have a short video I took with my camera.

Just one more thing about the 4th of July: In my humble opinion Americans are commemorating the wrong historic event. Seriously- no kidding here. I don’t believe the Declaration of Independence was such a remarkable thing. Just think about it: when the famous paper was signed by Jefferson, Franklin and the rest of the so-called Founding Fathers in the morning of a blue but cool Philadelphia day on July the 4th, 1776, the thirteen colonies had been at war for longer than a year. No state had needed any official paper to stand up and fight united against the Brits. They also knew the war was far from being over, or won for that matter, so the document itself wasn’t the result of any kind of decisive victory. No other nation took the American declaration seriously; mostly because nobody thought the rebels would succeed against the Brits. Only after the revolutionary victory in Saratoga in 1778 did the French start thinking about joining forces against Britain. Spain joined in 1779, and Holland in 1780. I doubt the rebels would have gotten far without Britain being attacked in all her global possessions and suffering from a strict atlantic blockade. So the Declaration of Independence itself was neither an outbreak nor a result, nor any significant motivational momentum resulting from it. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t totally useless or unimportant at all, but I don’t think it was THE cornerstone of the American Revolution - it was just another event in it.

Codex La Cite de Dieu, Paris, 1475For me the national American day should be September the 17th, 1787: the day the American Constitution was adopted by the Congress. Whereas the Declaration of Independence is totally overrated in my opinion, I don’t think a lot of people clearly understand what that Bill of Rights meant to the rest of the world. It’s not only that the many French intellectuals got inspired and encourage by that document to foster their own revolution that came a couple years later – a revolution that changed history. It is also that in a world characterized by despotic kings and absolutist monarchies, where citizens were oppressed and lacked of any kind of rights, where just a few privileged got the majority of the others under their thumbs… all of the sudden these thirteen small colonies came on stage and started talking about equality, democracy, about power from and for the people, about republicanism, about rights and about freedom. George Washington had all the power necessary to turn himself into an absolutist monarch or a non-democratic, European-style king or emperor at the end of the war… but he did not. He endorsed the Constitution and created a new political path world had not seen before. Whether we like it or not, the US showed the theoretical and practical way to democracy to the rest of the world by writing, adopting and endorsing that document.

Sad enough, although every US citizen remembers the famous 4th of July and almost everyone in this country is so willing to remind everyone about their liberty and their pride for it, a lot of people remain ignorant about the date and the place where the pillars for their liberty were laid so many years ago.