Tuesday, July 04, 2017

pass the potato salad

I almost forgot today was the Fourth of July.

That should not be surprising. There is nothing in my little village to remind me of the day. Why should there be? The very concept of the Fourth of July is as foreign here as a good chili dog.

The only reason I know Canada Day has arrived is through the good graces of my Canadian friends who invite me to their annual soirée. But none of my American friends are so inclined.

There are American colonial outposts in Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende, Chapala, the embassy in Mexico City -- where there will be big celebrations today honoring America's 241st birthday. But not in my sleepy little village.

This is the time of year when smug journalists start lecturing us that we do not know what we should know about our independence from Britain. Facts that we actually already know.

Facts, such as, John Adams thought 2 July should be the day to celebrate because that is the day the Continental Congress approved a resolution for independence. 4 July was the day Congress approved the final revised Declaration of Independence.

But, we all learned that in school. It is not news. Unless, of course, that particular memory has gone on vacation in the darkest corners of the Congo.

At picnics across America, politicians of all stripes will stand in front of potato salad-munching citizens to declare we need to look to our roots with the founding fathers -- men who, though they disagreed, could argue ideas without being rude. And we will all nod our heads in hopeful agreement. As if we were amnesiacs.

Politics in America has never been a very civil process. We are partisan people who love to argue with one another. It started right at the beginning.

It is true that the members of the Continental Congress were sons of the Enlightenment. They had strong feelings for and against a war with Britain.

But that was merely inside Independence Hall. Here is another fact from school we may have pushed out of our minds.

The colonies were greatly divided on the issue of independence. Gallup was not then working the telephones, but historians estimate one-third of the colonists were for independence, one-third were against, and one-third were simply too busy harvesting crops to worry about the tyranny of George III.

That split persisted through the war. George III may have sent his navy and his German mercenaries to terrorize the colonists, but Americans fought Americans, as well. One of the largest fraternal battles was the Battle of King's Mountain in South Carolina, where all of the combatants were American -- presaging the Civil War 85 years later.

When the war formally ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris, the colonists who had remained loyal to the Hanoverian king had a hard choice to make. Throughout the war, they had been harassed by patriot committees. Now, there was no king to protect them. (The patriots, of course, would have been in a worse situation had they lost. Many of them would have decorated the limbs of the nearest tree.)

Some toughed it out and stayed in what they considered to be their homeland. Others left. About one in 40.

My family may have been part of that exodus. My grandmother's ancestors crossed the border from Vermont to Quebec and lived in Canada for almost a century before slipping back into Minnesota in the 1880s. That, of course, means I am more Canadian than most of my northern acquaintances.

I have no idea whether they were loyalists or patriots. But it does make for a good story.

And it may explain why every Fourth of July in Salem, I would unfurl the flag of the United Kingdom and display it in front of the house. Maybe DNA is destiny.

Or maybe I just like to stir the pot.

Either way, I hope all of my American friends have a great Fourth of July.

Me? I am heading out on my morning walk proudly wearing my "I am an enemy of the state" pin. After all, my American ideals were not packed away for my trip south.  

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