Friday, July 9, 2010
Santa Claus on the 4th
My old pals down at the Texaco were grumbling as to how President Obama made a mockery of the "Founders" in his recent 4th of July speech, because he mentioned that they were all men of wealth, and that it took Mr. Lincoln and the Civil War to free the slaves. I don't know whether he mentioned that it took a Constitutional Amendment in the 20th Century no less to free the womenfolk, but of course that's the truth too. Apparently these plain historical facts are not to be brought up during celebrations of our Independence Day.
But I have no idea why? Oh I do realize that the right-wing punditry has made this judgment out in radio and teevee land, but the boys at the Texaco say they never never ever listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck, or any of those people. For them it's just country music 24/7, preferably Hank, Jr., and gospel on Sundays after church. And these fellers do think for themselves. I'm sure of it. They all hate Jimmie Johnson, for example.
So it beats me, but I'll just ignore the punditry and cut to the chase, because it seems like a strange kind of mistake to get upset with Obama for pointing out that the people who rebelled in 1776 and signed on to the Declaration of Independence were, indeed, men of wealth. Who ever said that was a bad attribute anyways? It's just the deal. And those men, who eventually lead the colonists to victory against a big world power of that era (proof that Mike Steele is right about undertaking a land war in Asia), knew that there were contradictions between the glorious Declaration and the much more detailed Constitution that they wrote some thirteen years later.
The way to understand 1776 is to see those men as striking a match. The Declaration of Independence is not a law. It's a metaphysical statement--a credo, an assertion of some basic beliefs--so basic, it is so asserted, as to be deeper even than the Laws of Great Britain which were the laws under which the writers of the Declaration lived, as citizens of the Empire. These truths are self-evident it is said. All men are created equal. It is said. And this would include and still includes not only white male Americans of wealth and taste, but Mexicans who just snuck under the fence of freedom, black people who didn't get un-owned until 1864, women who didn't get to vote in the United States until 1920.
So doesn't everyone above the age of eight or so quite understand this rather complex but very understandable fact? Namely, that the very man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, actually owned slaves as he took pen in hand, and moreover, actually had a long-standing intimate relationship with at least one of those slaves, producing children and a line of Jeffersons which still exists today and knows, in their family history, just who great great grampaw was: The Louisiana Purchase, the Third President, Monticello, UVA, the man on the $2.00 bill? None of this is a secret, not even the parts that the ummmm "white Jeffersons" tried to keep secret for nearly 200 years. (As Homer Simpson says about DNA, "Dhoahhhh".)
And of course what is any of this but to say that the founders of our country were not statues on court squares, made of alabaster, frozen at their perfect moment of being, mute because nothing is left to be said, cold because blood betrays. They got their blood up against the government of Great Britain, operating at too great a distance and with too high a hand, under a King who was not particularly capable. They were not in perfect agreement either--thus there's a Canadian border today. And as many of them were big land owners operating agri-businesses on a scale requiring either slaves or mechanical inventions still deep into the future, their fathers and grandfathers had kidded themselves into thinking that it was better to be a black man working in a Mississippi field in July than a "savage" hiding from a lion or a crocodile in the "dark continent."
Go read "The Sot Weed Factor" I mention to one of the Texaco boys--the guy with the DeKalb hat. "I don't read no books," he says. And there ain't no slot in the cash register for no $2 Bill neither. Why's that, I wonder? I get 'em at the bank now and then, on purpose, and keep 'em in the tip jar when I play gigs, back when I thought it was fun to play all night for 25 buckaroos. One guy says "Americans didn't make slavery, that was the British." Ahhhhhhh. Where's my Homer Head Slap key? What's the point of telling any of them that Robert E. Lee was the rightful heir to George Washington, that his revolution in defense of slavery (ummmm, er, states rights) was Jefferson's next and predicted cycle of revolution. Arlington National Cemetery was once Lee's plantation, where all the marble men lie forever at attention and at rest, blacks and women included, JFK's flame an eternal flicker lighting all with the obscurity of shadows.
The blood betrayed Lee too. Henry Adams, John Adams great grandson, said they should have hung Marse Lee. The abolitionists' blood boiled too, up in the rocky country where the big field crops couldn't grow. Some nitwit down in Charleston decided to shell Fort Sumter and it was by gawd ON. The Congress--same as it ever was--came out to watch First Manassas be the end of the rebels, and a few of them ended up being captured and hauled off to Richmond when it turned out that Stonewall Jackson knew a thing or two about war from his years at West Point and his time down in Mexico in the '40s. This same Jackson, and Lee as well, knew the whole damn thing was a mistake, but they understood that it was a union of States, and they knew a State was sovereign and could by gawd leave the dang party if they wanted. Which was Jefferson's idea. Jackson's own men, who loved him, killed him by mistake after his victory at Chancellorsville. Thus, he missed Gettysburg. Thus doth history's wheel turn with mysterious and inexorable precision.
So then, why the hell not celebrate the end of a contradiction, which was the match which lit the fuse, July 4th, 1776. And what a gentle, sweet-tea way Obama put it, the other day. He might have rightly and correctly said that on the 4th of July we celebrate the slave-holding, slave-fucking crackers who begat this great land of ours with an out and out lie, and led us eventually to a Civil War which killed and maimed a huge great number of very ordinary people on both sides who were swept up into a meatgrinder cranked up by jackasses who mostly lived down in Charleston, SC, far far away from the fighting until Tecumseh Sherman rolled into town from the south no less, some years later. What would have been the difference in the punditry's reaction, I have to ask--the pundits nobody at the Texaco ever listens to of course.
"Turn on the teevee," the guy at the Texaco hollers. "The green flag's about to drop, and Junior is on the pole." Don't tell any of them that there's no Santa Claus either.