Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy 4th of July to Me

So, yesterday was my first 4th of July in the United States for four years. It's not really much of a Holiday they celebrate in Japan, so it is nice to be back in the US for a good old 4th of July celebration, for nostolgia's sake, if nothing else.

Although to a certain extent, I almost enjoyed the 4th of July more when I was abroad. Being downtown in a crowd of several thousand of Americans, you don't really feel that special. When you're the only American in your town, the day kind of takes on new meaning for you. Sometimes some of us ex-pats would get together at Tropicoco or something for a little impromptu 4th of July Celebration. It was just like in "The Great Escape" when the Americans and British are celebrating the 4th of July together, and Steve McQueen kept saying, "Happy 4th of July, down with the British" and everyone had a good laugh.

When in Japan, I'd also make it a point to try and talk to my students about the 4th of July, as part of a cultural exchange if nothing else. I'd tell them that it was a really important day, because it was the first time since antiquity that a country had done away with the king, and created a free Republic.

Although recently I've been doing some reading, and I'm not sure if this is true anymore. In a book I was reading, it turns out the Netherlands were a Republic from 1581 and 1795. (There's also a Wikipedia Article here, if anyone wants a quick reference.) Strange that this never came up in any of my American civics classes in school. Maybe Guam or Lucretius or any of you other history nerds can help me out here with explaining why this is often overlooked. At any rate, it looks like my pride in being American is slightly diminished, but my pride in being Dutch is now slightly increased, so my overall pride is still at a steady level.

The last 4th of July I was in Grand Rapids (July 4th, 2001) we at Media Mouse joined in with the AdBusters campaign, and ordered an American flag filled with corporate symbols. We then had a little rally down at Veterans park, where we waved our Corporate America flag, and handed out flyers about how America was under the dominance of corporations. (Bork and Mulder were there as well, I recall. Do you guys remember that?) The old pamphlet is still on Media Mouse's website, if anyone is looking for a blast from the past.

So, anyway, now that I'm back in the US again, I thought it appropriate to once again exercise my patriotic duty to dissent on July 4th. After all, as Howard Zinn says, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism".
(A contrary opinion can be found on my sister's blog. She records her disgust with my protesting on July 4th here. Once again it's gotten a bit hard to read these days since her unfortunate visual choice of white print over white flower, but I usually just copy and paste it onto a different screen).

This year there is a fast for peace going on national through September 21, and the Grand Rapids Chapter of Code Pink organized a local presence at Veterans park. (Information on the national fast is here, and you can Read the local flyer here. Also Sarah sends me information on Celebrities participating here.)

Unfortunately for me, fasting is not one of my strong points. I just like food way too much. And I never really saw the point of it.

(Some of you may remember how I used to antagonize the people at Calvin who were fasting for spiritual reasons by talking about food the whole time. To me the point of religion has always been in doing outward good, and I viewed the inward spiritualism as self-righteousness. Although in retrospect it was childish of me, and I do regret antagonizing the fasters. After all if Nate wanted to fast, what harm was he doing me? I should just have let him alone. But then again whenever we get together with the boys, the memory of me talking about my favorite foods and Nate getting up and leaving and slamming the door always comes up as one of the funnier Calvin memories).

Anyway, it was explained to me that I could do a modified Fast, so I decided to give up Caffiene and sweets for the Duration. I'm not sure if this really counts because both are things that I really should be giving up anyway. Just like I'm not really sure if it counts giving up bad things for Lent. Not that I'm currently in the habit of observing Lent, but just as an intellectual question. If you give up smoking or sweets or something you probably shouldn't be having anyway for Lent, does that count?

Brett was also somewhat skeptical about how my plan to give up coffee was going to bring the war to a close, and when pressed I had a hard time defending it. "What do you think people are going to say," he said sarcastically to me. "For God's sake don't shoot! That man hasn't had a cup of coffee in two months!"

Well, I guess it's a token effort, right? My general philosophy is that it's easy to just sit back and be critical, but its also important for people to try and make some sort of an effort in some way. In the meantime, Nate, if you want to brew a cup of coffee right in front of me, we'll just call it even, okay?

Anyway, if anyone is interested in participating, there are fast pledge sheets you can down load here, and then mail into Washington.

The peace presence on the 4th of July in Grand Rapids was a bit disappointing. Other than the family that organized it, very few people showed up. Although that is discouraging, it does make me that much more glad I went, because they were really hurting for people.

In the evening I went downtown to see Fireworks with Brett and Sarah and friends. I saw a few people I hadn't seen in years, so that was really nice. On the other hand I remember during my Calvin days I used to go downtown for festivals and see tons of people I know. Naturally after being out of the country for 5 years, I guess I can't expect to keep up so many contacts, but I think a lot of it is just getting older as well, and high school and college friends have moved away. A little depressing in a way.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Philistinism is a derogatory term used to describe a particular attitude or set of values. When a person is called a Philistine (in the relevant sense), he is said to despise or undervalue art, beauty, intellectual content, and/or spiritual values. Because the Philistines were neighbors and enemies of the Israelites, the term originates from German student slang, supposedly first in Jena in the late 17th century, as a dismissive term for the townspeople (compare the British university slang, 'townies,') It is said that at a memorial service for a student killed in a town-gown clash, the minister took for his text the words of Delilah to Samson,'The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!'

Link of the Day
Patriotism & The Fourth of July by Howard Zinn


SN said...

hi joel. look, if we're going to be friends...i need to clear one thing up. it's sara. no "h," my friend, no "h." it's kind of a touchy subject for the sara(h)'s of the world, so i thought i just better clear things up. i don't want to have to start referring to you as JOLE... --sn

Phil said...

>Corporate America flag, and handed >out flyers about how America was >under the dominance of corporations. >(Bork and Mulder were there as well, >I recall. Do you guys remember that?

I don't know if they do, but I do. I was hanging out with Buma and Samara Sanchez (damn, that WAS a long time ago) and Bork's sister, who was fun to antagonize, and we drove past you. A few blocks later we passed some pub, and Buma said, "Whoah, that place has the same name as the pub where Bramwell Bronte drank himself to death." You don't forget a thing like that.