(Story repurposed and updated from a similar post from 2014)
Do you know what I discovered about American teenagers regarding Independence Day? I ran across a survey where some of them thought it was a really cool movie (okay, I guess I can see that, given the charisma and popularity of Will Smith and all). But in another survey, when gently nudged towards the topic “History,” 14% of them said that July 4th was the day we declared our independence from. . .wait for it. . . wait for it: FRANCE! And according to a dude named Colin Campbell, head of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 5 million teenagers didn’t have a clue as to the meaning of why we celebrate July 4th. (Parents, you got some splainin’ to do!)
Egads! Our founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves. Of course, I can’t be too hard on our teenagers when the adults aren’t representing the true meaning of Independence Day well with the state of our partisan politics these days. We have a seventy-year-old man-baby, chronic liar as president who probably has never read the constitution (or at least acts like he hasn’t), who I am convinced is trying to destroy at least the First Amendment*—especially the fourth estate (the press) when it doesn’t agree with him, and will eventually wipe out the preamble to the constitution by the time his reign of terror is over:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I actually can’t completely blame these knuckleheads for their misinterpretations and stupid declarations of political terrorism. Do you want to know who I blame? I blame our founding fathers. Although I love my country very much, and I truly appreciate all their hard work and sacrifice, I don’t think we’d be in this place today if they had made several unorthodox (for their time) changes when they declared our independence in 1776 and wrote the Constitution some 11 years later in 1787. What, you say? They were already laying their lives on the line—what more could we have asked of them? (Hmmmm, because they were all white, male, landowners who couldn’t see past their own aristocratic noses to include other people and gender groups to give them a broader perspective.)
I’ve always fantasized about becoming a time traveler and going back in time to influence history. Can you imagine the heart-attack scenario if I had the ability to pop into the Founding Fathers’ midst in Philadelphia on July 1, 1776? (Yep, you read it correctly: the Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4th. Twelve of the thirteen colonies voted on the declaration on July 2, 1776, and then they spent the next two days massaging the language. In fact, most of the delegates didn’t sign the document that kept us from having British accents until August 2nd).
Can you imagine a sweltering, hot room full of sweaty White men in Philadelphia with all the windows closed and shutters latched (due to the treasonous nature of their activities) as they tried to function in woolen clothing and wigs—most of them scared shitless at what they were about to engage in? And “poof,” out pops my chubby-21st-Century-ass into the middle of the room.
ET, THE TIME TRAVELER: Yo, yo, yo FFs—how’s it hanging?
(Several of the Founding Fathers faint dead away, but the rest remain stupefied.)
ET: Robert Livingston and John Jay of New York would you please administer smelling salts to Edward Rutledge of South Carolina and Richard Henry Lee from Virginia, and make sure they are awake and listening? I don’t have much time, and I have a lot to say. Besides Livingston and Jay, you aren’t going to have the gonads to sign this document: I know it and you know it, so you might as well make yourselves useful by resuscitating your comrades. No judgment here—just the historical facts.
Gentlemen, I am from the future: 2017 to be exact. My name is Eleanor Tomczyk and I am a writer and a blogger. I just published a book called The Fetus Chronicles: Podcasts from My Miseducated Self (a mostly true memoir). You’ll never get to read it, but you should know that even though you didn’t insure my unalienable rights as a descendant of a slave/a Cherokee Indian/a woman—I am free, I am educated, I am intelligent, I’m actually married to a white man… Who just fainted this time? Livingston, was that you?
Anyway, slavery ends in 1865, and I pontificate on everything from soup to nutty politicians on something called the World Wide Web that the entire world has access to. All this communicative power is mine because you will provide me freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights that you’re going to pass on August 21, 1789. Thanks FFs—I am forever in your debt because of that.
ET: But I just wanted to let you in on a secret that unless you pull in some women, some Black folks, some Native American peeps, and some new kinds of immigrants with Spanish accents, before you write the Constitution, you’re going to set up our beloved country for a world of hurt in the future. Lots of things are going to change by the time 2017 rolls around. Actually, you can go on and pass this declaration thingie because it is the Constitution in eleven years that you’re going to really need to expand your horizons on that really needs inclusion of the aforementioned groups.
Right now that foolish 2nd Amendment is causing all sorts of mayhem. It needs to be changed because you didn’t think it through well enough. When you pass that in the Bill of Rights, please note that thousands of precious children will be murdered in the future, and scores of foolish men and women will demand to open/carry their guns in our “marketplaces” just because they think that is what you meant by their “unalienable rights” and the “rights of individuals to bear arms.” What you meant then and the nutty shit we’re doing with guns now would cause you to weep. Also, can you add a little note that the Constitution was not written by God, America is not the New Jerusalem, and you could be wrong on at least a couple of things in the Constitution (ahem: slavery and a woman’s right to vote)?
ET: Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton (you can catch George Washington up to speed once he takes a break from the war), there is a line that you’ll put in the Constitution that bears fleshing out, if you ask me—if you really want to know:
“WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT” (so far so good), “THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL” (should read “that all men AND WOMEN—no matter what their color or position in life—are created equal”) “THAT THEY ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR” (should read “whomever you deem your creator to be”—leaving this open to interpretation will cause the lack of freedom of religion you fought so hard for because hardcore Christians will demand it to be their God, and the Materialists, the Deists, and the Atheists who most of you declared yourselves to be, will have Hell to pay) “WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, THAT AMONG THESE ARE LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS” (should read “no matter what your gender, color, race, or social status in life”).
ET: My time is up—wish I could stay longer. Just one more thing: we elected a Black president in 2008 for two terms. Half the country didn’t make his reign as President an easy one, but he’ll probably go down in history as one of our greatest. He certainly puts the petulant man-baby that followed him in the White House to shame. I want you to know, I prayed daily that one of those 2nd Amendment right-wing nuts wouldn’t assassinate President Obama when he was in office (believe me, they tried). I breathed a sigh of relief when he left. Your 2nd Amendment has been grossly misinterpreted. It took on a religious fever against our first Black president with talks of revolution to overthrow him and his political party. Once you pass the Bill of Rights, by 2017 there will be more than 20 attempts to kill sitting and former presidents; 4 sitting presidents will be assassinated, 2 sitting presidents will have attempted assassinations on their lives, and every president from John F. Kennedy on will be threatened with assassination. Surely, my dear Founding Fathers, that is not what you intended when you dreamed up our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
ELEANOR’S SELAH (“AHA”) MOMENT ABOUT OUR COUNTRY’S WELL-BEING
I am discovering that our independence is a lot more fragile than we ever imagined. Since Trump was voted into office and set up a Leninist—Steve Bannon—as his consigliere, while being carried in on a golden carriage by the religious right, I have been rereading every dystopian novel I can get my hands on. It seems as if every move Trump makes, every tweet he states is eroding our precious democracy and could destroy the very framework that our Founding Fathers laid their lives on the line for. I am currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. In the introduction (written about her time in West Berlin five years before the Berlin Wall fell), she visited several countries behind the Iron Curtain and experienced the wariness and fear the citizens portrayed living under a totalitarian system, the author wrote:
“Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. Change could also be as fast as lightning. It can’t happen here could not be depended on: anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.”
This Fourth of July, I will celebrate with a stronger sense of urgency the wonderment of the incredible independence I have been given. I, along with millions of other Americans, made the mistake in thinking that we’d always keep building on that marvelous Declaration of Independence and its sister, The Constitution. We never once imagined that there would ever be circumstances that would pull the rug out from under our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I always thought our constitutional foundation was strong—something that could always be improved upon for all its citizens, but still strong. That it would never be destroyed, because it couldn’t possibly happen here . . . until one day a loathsome, misogynistic, constitutionally ignorant, man-baby crawled out of the sewer with a tweeter feed and became our 45th President.
Our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves.
“The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain and it was placed in the Declaration not for that, but for future use.”—Abraham Lincoln
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” ― Thomas Jefferson
“You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can be free only if I am free.”—Clarence Darrow
“When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered.”—Christopher Dodd
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR? Check out her website at www.eleanortomczyk.com
Eleanor Tomczyk is the author of Monsters’ Throwdown, Fleeing Oz, and her latest memoir—The Fetus Chronicles: Podcasts from My Miseducated Self (a mostly true memoir)
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.