Independence Day 2017

I will never forget the first time somebody used the line on me. It was in a newsroom in Revanna, Ohio. I think the reporter’s name was Craig, and Craig decided to lay a trip on me about Jesus while I was finishing my obituaries or whatever. And Craig laid the line on me for the first time I have ever heard it. Craig said to me

WE HAVE FREEDOM OF RELIGION, NOT FREEDOM FROM RELIGION.

I hope the look on my face at that time registered the sheer horror I felt at this horrifying statement. I mean I’ve always been a non-believer, I just stopped being shy about it in my 40s. At the time I was shy about it. But I hope my face looked like that time on the roller-coaster.

Because the sheer wrong-headedness of that statement is cruel and just downright wrong. Let us please be reminded of the introduction to Robert G. Ingersoll’s centennial speech: “One hundred years ago, our fathers retired the gods from politics.”

You may very well want to go read that speech on this day. Because it clearly defines what the Declaration was truly about: We are rebelling against a king. And kings have told us all along that their power comes from a celestial being. And we are basing an entire new experimental nation, at the risk of our own lives and livelihoods, on the notion that people should not be ruled by kings who claim to derive their power from “on-high,” but that people should govern people.

That is the idea that sparked the revolution. And we are no more a “Judeo-Christian” nation than I am Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

The Declaration was about Indpendence from kings who told people for centuries that they got to rule and have all the wealth and got to make life-and-death decsions because The Lord told them they could. Our colonies said balls to that and made us a plainly secular nation.

Happy Independence Day.

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Mashup Time

In Other News

Ah! Leah!

I think I was 14 the summer I was Heather’s boyfriend for like a day.

13? I don’t know. It was just at that age at which I was surging with that wicked new chemistry, when nothing occupied my every waking thought, action, statement, or deed except for wanting to be with a person of the opposite sex. I am amazed that any other information of any kind ever made it into my brain at that time. Such miraculous computers we carry around on our shoulders.

Heather had her look together. Her most astonishing feature was her piercing blue eyes, which she had already learned to accentuate nicely. She had kind of a schnoz, but I was into that. Her hair was bleached and blown out, she was tanned, and she wore this fur stole and somehow pulled it off even in a little lake resort town in the middle of summer. She looked like she’d feel soft, and she wore lip gloss really well.

I remember seeing a movie with a group back when the Mall had a theater, and I remember that she had to tell me to put my arm around her.

(To paraphrase, right then and there, I should have known I was through.)

A few days later or at least what seems like it in my memory, she was hanging with another kid, a dude who was taller, cooler, better lookin’ than I. I remember one awkward afternoon hanging out at the picnic tables by the Lake, her friend Leah and I making awkward conversation, and Heather and her new friend canoodling. I was raging.

Leah wasn’t Heather. Her hair was brown and curly and she wore glasses. She dressed in black mostly. She had acne. I knew she liked me. But I wasn’t remotely interested in her, and I was pretty busy being angry and hurt about the situation going on in front of my eyes, too much so to exercise the opportunity to get to know Leah.

But Leah liked Prince.

She was a real fan, too. Like, she was an early adopter. I don’t even know if 1999 was out at the time. Certainly “When Doves Cry” was way in the back of the way way back of The Vault. Leah was talking about what a great album Dirty Mind was, and I had no freakin’ clue what she was talking about.

Now, it’s 30 years since “Purple Rain,” and that post is making the rounds on Facebook. I haven’t thought of Leah in a long time, but today, when I saw the Facebook post about that milestone making the rounds, the synapses just connected. And my brain scolded me fiercely.

You really should have gotten to know Leah, dude.

Heather was such a pill.


While I’m on rememborating things (hey. look at that. I just invented a word.), today is likely the anniversary of the time I got to shake Arlo Guthrie’s hand. And Studs Terkel’s. And Pete Seeger’s. And Josh White Jr.’s. Not much of a story to it, really; Dear Old Dad had me for the summer and we went to a free concert in D.C. to remember the birthday of one Woody Guthrie. At the break I used the fact that I was a kid to sneak back and meet me some celebrities (the backstage was not walled off, exactly).

I asked Arlo to play “City of New Orleans” (my knowledge of him and/or Woody was pretty much relegated to Arlo’s Hobo’s Lullaby album at the time), but he said the show was for his Dad’s music. I did get an autograph from Studs, including the famous “take it easy, but take it.”

I had no idea what that meant.

Anyway. I think Woody Guthrie’s birthday is worth rememborating every year. The man did, after all, write the song that really should be the national anthem, after all.

Kidding.


In Other News

“This is how you play tennis without the net.”


Centennial Oration by Robert Green Ingersoll; July 4, 1876

One hundred years ago, our fathers retired the gods from politics.

THE Declaration of Independence is the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.

I say of physical courage, because it was a declaration of war against the most powerful nation then on the globe; a declaration of war by thirteen weak, unorganized colonies; a declaration of war by a few people, without military stores, without wealth, without strength, against the most powerful kingdom on the earth; a declaration of war made when the British navy, at that day the mistress of every sea, was hovering along the coast of America, looking after defenseless towns and villages to ravage and destroy. It was made when thousands of English soldiers were upon our soil, and when the principal cities of America were in the substantial possession of the enemy. And so, I say, all things considered, it was the bravest political document ever signed by man. And if it was physically brave, the moral courage of the document is almost infinitely beyond the physical. They had the courage not only, but they had the almost infinite wisdom, to declare that all men are created equal.

Such things had occasionally been said by some political enthusiast in the olden time, but, for the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real, living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priestcraft, that king-craft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow that infamous spirit of caste that makes a God almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed, all that had been done by centuries of war — centuries of hypocrisy — centuries of injustice.

What more did they do? They then declared that each man has a right to live. And what does that mean? It means that he has the right to make his living. It means that he has the right to breathe the air, to work the land, that he stands the equal of every other human being beneath the shining stars; entitled to the product of his labor — the labor of his hand and of his brain.

What more? That every man has the right to pursue his own happiness in his own way. Grander words than. these have never been spoken by man.

And what more did these men say? They laid down the doctrine that governments were instituted among men for the purpose of preserving the rights of the people. The old idea was that people existed solely for the benefit of the state — that is to say, for kings and nobles.

The old idea was that the people were the wards of king and priest — that their bodies belonged to one and their souls to the other.

And what more? That the people are the source of political power. That was not only a revelation, but it was a revolution. It changed the ideas of people with regard to the source of political power. For the first time it made human beings men. What was the old idea? The old idea was that no political power came from, or in any manner belonged to, the people. The old idea was that the political power came from the clouds; that the political power came in some miraculous way from heaven; that it came down to kings, and queens, and robbers. That was the old idea. The nobles lived upon the labor of the people; the people had no rights; the nobles stole what they had and divided with the kings, and the kings pretended to divide what they stole with God Almighty. The source, then, of political power was from above. The people were responsible to the nobles, the nobles to the king, and the people had no political rights whatever, no more than the wild beasts of the forest. The kings were responsible to God; not to the people. The kings were responsible to the clouds; not to the toiling millions they robbed and plundered.

And our forefathers, in this Declaration of Independence, reversed this thing, and said: No; the people, they are the source of political power, and their rulers, these presidents, these kings are but the agents and servants of the great sublime people. For the first time, really, in the history of the world, the king was made to get off the throne and the people were royally seated thereon. The people became the sovereigns, and the old sovereigns became the servants and the agents of the people. It is hard for you and me now to even imagine the immense results of that change. It is hard for you and for me, at this day, to understand how thoroughly it had been ingrained in the brain of almost every man that the king had some wonderful right over him that in some strange way the king owned him; that in some miraculous manner he belonged, body and soul, to somebody who rode on a horse — to somebody with epaulets on his shoulders and a tinsel crown upon his brainless head.

Centennial Oration by Robert Green Ingersoll; July 4, 1876

One hundred years ago, our fathers retired the gods from politics.

THE Declaration of Independence is the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.

I say of physical courage, because it was a declaration of war against the most powerful nation then on the globe; a declaration of war by thirteen weak, unorganized colonies; a declaration of war by a few people, without military stores, without wealth, without strength, against the most powerful kingdom on the earth; a declaration of war made when the British navy, at that day the mistress of every sea, was hovering along the coast of America, looking after defenseless towns and villages to ravage and destroy. It was made when thousands of English soldiers were upon our soil, and when the principal cities of America were in the substantial possession of the enemy. And so, I say, all things considered, it was the bravest political document ever signed by man. And if it was physically brave, the moral courage of the document is almost infinitely beyond the physical. They had the courage not only, but they had the almost infinite wisdom, to declare that all men are created equal.

Such things had occasionally been said by some political enthusiast in the olden time, but, for the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real, living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priestcraft, that king-craft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow that infamous spirit of caste that makes a God almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed, all that had been done by centuries of war — centuries of hypocrisy — centuries of injustice.

What more did they do? They then declared that each man has a right to live. And what does that mean? It means that he has the right to make his living. It means that he has the right to breathe the air, to work the land, that he stands the equal of every other human being beneath the shining stars; entitled to the product of his labor — the labor of his hand and of his brain.

What more? That every man has the right to pursue his own happiness in his own way. Grander words than. these have never been spoken by man.

And what more did these men say? They laid down the doctrine that governments were instituted among men for the purpose of preserving the rights of the people. The old idea was that people existed solely for the benefit of the state — that is to say, for kings and nobles.

The old idea was that the people were the wards of king and priest — that their bodies belonged to one and their souls to the other.

And what more? That the people are the source of political power. That was not only a revelation, but it was a revolution. It changed the ideas of people with regard to the source of political power. For the first time it made human beings men. What was the old idea? The old idea was that no political power came from, or in any manner belonged to, the people. The old idea was that the political power came from the clouds; that the political power came in some miraculous way from heaven; that it came down to kings, and queens, and robbers. That was the old idea. The nobles lived upon the labor of the people; the people had no rights; the nobles stole what they had and divided with the kings, and the kings pretended to divide what they stole with God Almighty. The source, then, of political power was from above. The people were responsible to the nobles, the nobles to the king, and the people had no political rights whatever, no more than the wild beasts of the forest. The kings were responsible to God; not to the people. The kings were responsible to the clouds; not to the toiling millions they robbed and plundered.

And our forefathers, in this Declaration of Independence, reversed this thing, and said: No; the people, they are the source of political power, and their rulers, these presidents, these kings are but the agents and servants of the great sublime people. For the first time, really, in the history of the world, the king was made to get off the throne and the people were royally seated thereon. The people became the sovereigns, and the old sovereigns became the servants and the agents of the people. It is hard for you and me now to even imagine the immense results of that change. It is hard for you and for me, at this day, to understand how thoroughly it had been ingrained in the brain of almost every man that the king had some wonderful right over him that in some strange way the king owned him; that in some miraculous manner he belonged, body and soul, to somebody who rode on a horse — to somebody with epaulets on his shoulders and a tinsel crown upon his brainless head.

Encroachment

In gridiron football, encroachment refers to when before the snap, a defensive player illegally crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an opponent or has a clear path to the quarterback.

It can at times offer a team’s opponent a 14-point advantage at a crucial time in the football game. See Bills, Buffalo.



In Other News

Remember when Wolf Blitzer was talking to that tornado survivor and was inexplicably all like “you gotta thank the Lord, right,” and she’s like, “I’m actually an atheist?” Her whole story is actually pretty charming.

Includes kitteh goodness.

Encroachment

In gridiron football, encroachment refers to when before the snap, a defensive player illegally crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an opponent or has a clear path to the quarterback.

It can at times offer a team’s opponent a 14-point advantage at a crucial time in the football game. See Bills, Buffalo.


In Other News
Remember when Wolf Blitzer was talking to that tornado survivor and was inexplicably all like “you gotta thank the Lord, right,” and she’s like, “I’m actually an atheist?” Her whole story is actually pretty charming.

Includes kitteh goodness.