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Independent Thinking

UncleSam06 Well it's July 4th again, which means it's time for the yearly ritual of cookouts, fireworks, and hysteria about how kids these days don't know where they came from. A while back I saw a survey claiming that 26% of Americans don't know the country from which we won our independence. If you're like me you're probably thinking, "Twenty-six percent? That's not bad!" I know it's fashionable to hate on how dumb people are, and you might incline to think that facts about the American Revolution are sacrosanct, but I think it's pretty impressive to find any item of knowledge that three-quarters of the population actually knows. That's about the same proportion that understands the Earth revolves around the Sun, not the other way around. And just think, this means that 74% of Americans have at least some vague concept of a foreign country! So I'm thrilled that we're no more wretched at rudimentary history than rudimentary astronomy. Most of us have the general idea of how the revolution went down, but I worry that the details may have faded, and I honestly think that it's not enough to have simple, jingoistic pride in one's own vague concept of the American Revolution. We need to have clear, objective knowledge: Britain had committed a number of oppressive moves against the colonies: Levying new taxes, quartering their troops, protecting Native American land, disallowing slavery - this would not stand in the colonies. How dare they try to run our country from the other side of the Atlantic, especially when we'd gone to the great trouble of liberating it from the indigenous peoples! And thus armed revolt was inevitable. Britain had an admittedly stronger military, and the situation looked grim, until George Washington hit on the brilliant idea of stuffing all his men into a giant turkey, which was then delivered to the British on Good Friday and three days later on July 4th, when the British were carving the turkey (it took a long time to thaw), Washington and his group of Hessians burst forth and delivered the Gettysburg Address, reading straight off the parchment written by Thomas Jefferson. Blown away by his powerful oration and clear passion for freedom, the British vigorously declared their once prized colony independent (the so called "Emancipation Proclamation") and sailed home never to be heard from again in the next thirty-six years. The newly independent Americans were so pleased by the success of Washington's surreptitious attack that they started a new tradition where on the night of July 4th all the town's children would dress up as British soldiers and visit every house in the neighborhood and get candied turkey giblets. Because the children would use a traditional British greeting - "Hello," but with the British accent so it sounded like "Hallo!" - the holiday came to be known as "Halloween." The holiday was later moved to the end of October, because in July it's just too damn hot to put on a wool soldier's uniform, and those picky, obnoxious kids started demanding actual candy instead of minute sugar-glazed turkey organs, and eventually "British Troop" went out of style as a costume, giving way to "Effeminate Vampire," but the spirit remains. So you all probably knew that history stuff already, but a refresher never hurts. And as the year of independence falls further and further into the past, we must diligently remember the true reasons why on July 4th we celebrate the great accomplishment, the era-changing, epoch-marking moment when Americans, tired of Britain's oppressive demands, out-manned and outgunned but unmatched in pluck and noble resolve, overthrew an oppressive tyranny all by our scrappy selves, with just a little help from France.  



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