Banks County Opinions...

JUNE 25, 2003


Column

By: Jana Mitcham
The Banks County News
June 25, 2003

Sound, spectacle and sentiment’
In June of 1776, 227 years ago, a committee was formed to draft a document that would sever the ties the fledgling United States of America had with Britain. With pen in hand, Thomas Jefferson and other committee members crafted what came to be known — 86 changes later— as the Declaration of Independence. It was adopted by Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, hence the Independence Day celebration.
Interestingly, a resolution that made the document possible was passed on July 2, 1776, and it was this day that John Adams thought would be celebrated in years to come.
He wrote on July 3, 1776, in a letter to his wife, Abigail: “The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”
Further, Adams called for the day to “be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews (sic), Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
And although the fourth day of July, rather than the second, became recognized as the “birthday of independence,” no signatures were actually made to the Declaration of Independence on that day. In fact, not all members of Congress were present — New York voted on the resolution on July 9, and one signer, Thomas McKean, signed the document in 1781.
Still, in the flurry of celebration that followed in anniversary years, it was July 4 that was remembered.
The one-year anniversary held July 4 in Philadelphia was documented and described in the July 18, 1777, edition of the Virginia Gazette: “Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal. Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more. Amen, and amen.”
The way July 4th is celebrated today echoes the “sound, spectacle and sentiment” of long ago. Certainly the proximity of the events leading to independence are 227 years removed, and, as such, perhaps the fervor and patriotism are tempered or reshaped by the way of life this generation knows. Do “patriotism” and “independence” have the same meaning in 2003 that they had in 1776? (And, in fact, what did “independence” mean in a time when not everyone was free? Another issue, I suppose.) Maybe the meanings of words shift to fit the context of the times, but the traditions of the July 4th celebration remain. Bands, fireworks, flags....the festivities carry on.
It’s interesting to read the words written in the newspapers of those early days, to sense the excitement found among those experiencing a changing world. I also like to get a sense of the “founding fathers,” as they are called, as real people, with real foibles and real concerns. None of it happened by magic and none of it was flawless as they worked together as best they could within their given life’s framework, and upon the heels of a revolutionary war, on a document of independence for a country of its own.
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not,” Adams wrote to his wife. “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these states.”
On July 4, the traditions will carry on with a celebration in Homer, complete with fireworks, music and general “sound, spectacle and sentiment.”
And so it continues, 227 years later.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor for The Jackson Herald and a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers, Inc.
Sources: www.american.edu/heintze/fourth and www.pbs.org/capitolfourth/history)
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Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
sJune 25, 2003

Circle the wagons
The rancid stench of a presidential election is already wafting through the nation.
The candidates gearing up to run against George W. Bush in 2004 are clambering over one another to accuse the President of lying about Iraq.
They’re stating quite publicly that Bush either lied about or exaggerated intelligence reports linking Iraq to Al Quada and weapons of mass destruction. It’s wrong for anyone to take a situation in which lives were lost and cities were destroyed and say that situation was created in the mind of one man when those pointing fingers haven’t been privy to the first intelligence report. I know mudslinging has been around since Thomas Jefferson, but there’s mudslinging and then there’s willful and permanent destruction of the image of the President of the United States, the reputation of our country and the credibility of our nation’s intelligence agencies. And for what? To sway a few votes in an election that will only merit a paragraph in history books?
There are really good reasons why Presidents can not be sued. In essence, the President is an office, not a human being and the office should be infallible. We know humans make mistakes and that is why we have judicial and legislative branches of our government which act with the executive branch as a check and balance system. Furthermore, there is the watchdog for the American people—the press. What we don’t need are presidential hopefuls trying to oust Bush by playing McCarthy, “I know he did wrong, but I can’t prove it till I’m elected.” And here is why I say this. This was the first war to be televised. Literally 24 hours of war coverage with up to the minute by-blows. Even before the war, the world would sit up and take notice of the rumblings going on here. This is not the eighteenth century. We can not bicker among ourselves any longer. When someone says the President lied, it plays on the evening news across the world. In France they are cheering. It is time to circle the wagons if we expect any country to aid us in the future. Do not point fingers of blame without all of the facts.
Some people who remember my defense of free speech a few months back may be thinking I’ve changed my tune, but I have not. The Gulf of Mexico lies between saying you disagree with the President’s course of action and saying the President lied so he would have reason to wage war.
Our government is working out its checks and balances system right now. There will be a hearing and an inquisition, but party lines are being drawn and I wish it would not come down to that. Democrats want a public hearing while Republicans want a committee composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to review all of the information available to the top decision makers and to evaluate whether there was any wrong doing or misinformation. As a Democrat (who will vote Republican until abortion is illegalized), I side with the Republicans. All of the information available to decision makers would not be aired during a public trial. It couldn’t be. To do so would compromise the intelligence gathering process. The public trial would be a bunch of politicians guessing at what was known and not known, posturing in front of cameras carrying the news to every nation on Earth. It would be an absolute disgrace. Why can’t we trust in the people we’ve elected to review the information and make judgments about what was and what was not done? To do less than this will only further damage the United States’ international reputation.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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