A 4th of July conversation between Dude - a teenager - and his Uncle Sam...
Yo, Uncle. Wasup?
Good morning, Dude. What am I doing? I'm getting into my suit for the parade.
What're you gonna be in a parade for? They gonna have a lot of hot chicks and cool floats?
I don't know about that, Dude. But I do know there will be many military people and ordinary citizens - and brass bands playing Sousa marches and songs about America. It's our annual celebration of independence and liberty.
Whatever. So why the monkey suit? Why the funky pants and all the red, white, and blue? You'd look better in a Dead t-shirt and maybe some Michael Jackson shoes - 'specially if you're going to rock in some parade.
I'm ashamed of you, Dude. I should have thought my brilliant nephew would have learned in school that white represents the virtue of America, blue America's courage, and red the blood spilled to make us - and keep us - free.
Man, what I did learn was that the Fathers voted for independence on July 2nd, not the 4th. The 4th thing is bogus. All that happened then was they printed some document.
The Declaration of Independence. Very good, Dude. At least you have learned something. In signing the Declaration over the subsequent months - a treasonous act in the eyes of England - more than 50 resolute Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to birth a nation in liberty. They did it for themselves and for us. No such thing ever had happened before. By war's end, fate had dealt harshly with nearly all of them. An extraordinarily high number were dead or ruined.
John Adams was, in his words, "well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory." He saw well - to the glorious liberty we enjoy today.So that's it? All this parade is about that you're going to be in is, like, freedom? Big deal.
A very big deal. In my view, the biggest. It's also about the panorama of high moments in this beloved country. The Mayflower Compact - the first extant document of our nationhood - which begins, "In the name of God. Amen." The Revolution and the Founding. The Civil War and the end of slavery by our redeeming final Founder - Abraham Lincoln.
Our manifest destiny westward and, later, upward into space. And the too many wars necessary to maintain the freedom of this great, good land.
Duuude! What makes this land so great? What makes it any greater than Rome or the British empire or Kubla Khan's or the Russians' or the Geeks'?
You mean the Greeks, I suppose. What makes us greater, better, more virtuous than any of your examples - including even England post Magna Carta - is the centrality of freedom in America, the soaring premise of a nation (as Lincoln said at Gettysburg) "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
What the Founders and the subsequent Defenders accomplished makes me tear up and rain, Dude. "Mine eyes have seen the glory" and "let us die to make men free." "Huddled masses" streaming to our shores and across our borders "to breathe free." Magnificent words describing the noblest concept ever realized on this tiny planet in the vast cosmic sea.
It's like, you know, a free country. But hey, man, that's heavy stuff. Take a break.
Yes, you. One day you too may grow up in mind as well as in body. Until then - well, you might want to think on Stephen Decatur's toast: "To my country, may she always be right. But right or wrong, my country."
Uncle, in school they taught me about moral equivalence. To say my country "right or wrong" sounds to me like over-the-top unquestioning favoritism for the US of A. What has it ever done for me?
It and the Founders and Defenders provided the liberty and independence making America the envy of the world - and enabling you to become who you are.
Listen, man. Time for me to split. Here's five. Hope that suit works for you in your parade. You actually going to do anything besides, you know, march?
Yes, I have been asked to lead the parade and to sing the fourth verse of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" - the verse containing the words, Long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light.
You go, Uncle. Oh - and have a nice day.