Friday, July 07, 2006

Yo ho yo ho

So it's finally Pirates day! Yay! We're off in a couple hours to see the film.

Dad's surgery went remarkably well...they actually didn't really find any plaque, and said that his other test was a false positive. Which means there's basically nothing wrong with his heart. But also it means his little incidents were probably stress-related, and he's gotta cut back on the stress. Although it's certainly understandable...not too many people would take well what he's gone through in the last year, what with turning 60, getting booted out of your 30-year career, finding a new job, buying a new house, getting cut off from many friends, etc. etc.

Anyway, I was telling a friend about how a couple British friends of mine think it's pretty silly that we celebrate our independence day here in the most powerful nation in the world. Now granted, they could still be bitter about our independence being from them, but I still found it compelling to think about. Why do we throw a big party to celebrate something that is, by this point, quite obviously a done deal? I get that it's appropriate the recall the sacrifice of others and what our nation went through (refusing to pay taxes) to be born. But I don't know, some of it feels like overkill. It can get a little strutty. And I'm sure that doesn't help our image.

Well at any rate, said friend got quite incensed at the nerve of those Brits, and sent me this quote from Thomas Jefferson (original, with a cool pic of the letter it comes from, is here):

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [Independence Day] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them," - Thomas Jefferson, June 24, 1826, in the last significant letter he wrote (he died on July 4, 1826).

I hate to be the grad-school feminist bitch reading too much into everything, but I simply have to point out a few things.

1. He uses "man" and "mankind" to refer to, I assume, women. Okay, it was the parlance of his day. It still doesn't make me feel included - although I guess that's appropriate, since women didn't have the rights he's so eloquently espousing! So maybe he's not referring to women after all. At any rate, why should I celebrate the rights of men, which they pretty much always had anyway?

2. He talks about the "light of science," which by this point in history we know led to many terrible things (atomic bomb etc) - possibly did more harm than good, especially for our souls. I realize he was ensconced in modernism, but in our era, we don't just swallow that sort of language without a fight. Science hasn't necessarily made us richer human beings, although of course it has improved our lives. I'm not saying let's go back to the dark ages, but I just wish we hadn't lost our spirituality when we bowed before Almighty Science. We're getting it back now, and perhaps it was a necessary period for our growth as a species. But what we've done to the planet, to one another, to's not something to just celebrate.

3. Finally, I wonder how his slaves felt about his bold declarations of not saddling up on someone else's back. Seems like in his time, the "favored few" were still quite booted and spurred. From one of the more notorious slave-girl predators, this is rather a disgusting claim to make.

So that's my rant for today. I guess it was the wrong quote to throw at me. You can have at me if you want, but you know I'm right. :) Seriously, I just can't read anything without reading more into it...stupid grad school.

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