Today is American Independence Day. It’s also the anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s inspiration, and Trois-Rivières founding day. Ashikaga Yoshiakira’s birthday, Pactum Sicardi, and whole bunch of other stuff make this day important, too.
This whole year is special for folks in Canada. Canadians are celebrating their nation’s 150th anniversary with special events, including Winnipeg’s “largest living maple leaf.”
I’m mostly aware of July Fourth as my country’s Independence Day.
Land of the free, home of the Patriotic Inflatable Drink Cooler, and — for a brief shining moment — a one-ton replica of Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence, made entirely of cheese and cooking oil.
The 2008 Cheez-It sculpture was on display in New York City and Philadelphia before getting shipped back to Wisconsin. I’d tell you where you could see it now, but it’s long since been broken down and given to food pantries.
I’ll admit to a bias.
I’m a Catholic, and like being allowed to live here. We’re even allowed to own property and vote. That’s a huge improvement over the ‘good old days’ in some parts.
I certainly don’t miss more recent ‘good old days’ when a disturbing fraction of red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans seemed convinced that Jesus was an American.
In fairness, I’ve never heard anyone actually say that. My guess is that even the most rabid radio preachers of my youth would, if they had calmed down a little, have realized that the Age of the Apostles did not end in 1954. (June 18, 2017)
Some folks still get their notion of patriotism confused with their religious beliefs. I think that attitude helped make “kill a commie for Christ” an anti-war slogan.
Sadly, Weege’s 1967 lithograph echoes America’s traditional anti-Catholic imagery, as well as contemporary political sentiments. I really don’t miss the ‘good old days.’1
Maryland enjoys the distinction of being called the “birthplace of religious freedom in America.” (Wikipedia)
Maryland was Calvert’s second North American colony. The first was Avalon, founded in 1621 and currently part of Newfoundland.
Calvert’s house in Avalon was the only one big enough for large groups, so both Catholics and Protestants held services there. That freaked out Erasmus Stourton, Avalon’s Anglican clergyman, with the usual results.
The 1649 Maryland Toleration Act, mandating religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians, lasted until 1654. It’s the second ‘religious freedom’ law in American history. Rhode Island got the ball rolling in 1636, and that’s another topic.
Massachusetts-bound Puritans were fleeing England in part because Charles I had married a Catholic.
They feared, not unreasonably, that their version of Henry VIII’s English church might succumb to — creeping Catholicism???
Starting around 1660, assorted English kings got interested in their North American colonies again. Maryland was reorganized as a dominion and a royal province before the American Revolution happened. Now it’s an American state with a colorful history.
Religious beliefs were a factor in the 1692-1693 Salem witch trials. But the last I heard we’re not sure exactly why those folks went nuts. One of the more imaginative ideas is that the lunacy started with a bad batch of rye bread.
The idea isn’t as crazy at it sounds. Claviceps purpurea infects rye and similar grains. It contains ergotamine. Ergotamine is a precursor of lysergic acid, which should ring a bell.
The 1780 Constitution of Massachusetts guaranteed religious freedom: for some. Its declaration of rights included equality for “every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably and as good subjects of the commonwealth.”
I’d like to think that Catholics were considered a “denomination of Christians” by then.
I’m obliged to be a good citizen, no matter where I live.
Different cultures allow different kinds of participation, and that’s okay. (Catechism, 1915)
One of the issues I’m concerned about is religious freedom: which does not mean forcing everyone to agree with me. ‘Free to agree with me’ isn’t freedom.
There’s more to being Catholic. But the ‘citizenship’ part boils down to loving God and my neighbor, and seeing everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:43–44, 7:12, 22:36–40, Mark 12:28–31; 10:25–27, 29–37; Catechism, 1789)
Like I said, America isn’t perfect. No society in humanity’s long story has been ideal. That’s why I can’t accept the status quo.
Yearning for days of yore isn’t an option, either. Even if I could, I wouldn’t try dragging America back to some imaged ‘golden age.’ My memory is too good to imagine that nostalgia is more than an occasionally-pleasant daydream.
“…O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!…”
(“America the Beautiful,” Katharine Lee Bates, 1911 version, via Wikipedia)
I don’t imagine that humanity’s many problems will be solved in the next century, millennium, or ten millennia from now. As I’ve said before, we’re working through an enormous backlog.
But I am sure that we make something better than what we have today.
I’m just one man, living in central Minnesota. There isn’t much I can do to change the world: apart from suggesting that loving our neighbors, all our neighbors, makes sense.
Acting as if love matters:
- “Who is My Neighbor?”
(February 1, 2017)
- “Remembering Armistice Day”
(November 11, 2016)
- “Authority, Superstition, Progress”
(October 30, 2016)
- “Amos and Social Justice”
(September 25, 2016)
- “Citizenship and Being Catholic”
(July 24, 2016)
- Kill A Commie For Christ, plate sixteen from Peace is Patriotic, 1967
The Art Institute of Chicago
- My take, in part