Independence Day is here. This day marks the epic battle wherein Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum defeated evil aliens bent on taking over the world. What many don’t know, however, is that Americans had been celebrating this day for many years before then.
Here’s a brief history.
Mankind used to think the world was flat and if you sailed too close to the edge you would fall off of it. Kind of like the 19-year-old Chicagoans who come to the local state park almost every weekend, ignore signs warning them to stay on the paths, and fall off the cliffs. One brave explorer named Magellan (who also invented the GPS) decided to test this theory. Instead of falling off the world, he discovered a new continent. Being a modest fellow, he named it after a friend – America Pucci, an Italian handbag designer.
Fast forward a couple, maybe 50 years. Another brave explorer, Christopher Columbus, was sent by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand the Bull to find new lands, but mainly to find gold. He headed to America and called the people he met “Indians” because thought he was in Indiana. He was much farther south, like around Florida. You’d think all the New Jersey snowbirds there would have given him a clue, but he didn’t have a GPS.
After that, practically every country sent explorers to “discover” America and get the gold that was supposed to be lying around for the taking. Many different religious sects also came seeking freedom to worship without persecution. As soon as they arrived, they fell to their knees to thank God. They then quickly enacted laws that anybody not practicing THEIR religion would be burned at the stake as a witch, and our basic right to religious liberty was born.
For some, the New World didn’t seem much better than the Old. Spain was concerned because some people were talking about building a border wall with the Incas, Canada realized they didn’t really need Michigan because they already had all the fir trees and beavers they could use on their own land, and soon they and most other countries left the New World. We were down to just English settlers.
The English were called Pilgrims. They had come ashore at Plymouth Rock, which was not easy to find among 1000 miles of coastline. Must have had a GPS. Life was very hard for them. They wouldn’t have made it if not for the Indians who, by then, insisted on being called Native New Worlders. They saved the Pilgrims by teaching them how to cook turkey (Tofurky for Pilgrims who had gone away to college and came home for the holidays as vegans), make pumpkin pie and get jellied cranberries out of the can in one smooth, whole lump.
Fast forward a couple, maybe 50 years, and the Pilgrims, now called Colonists, had just about had it with the English. They were like an absentee landlord who will evict you in a hot, New York minute if you’re a day late with the rent, but you can’t get a hold of them when the furnace goes out in the middle of the night in January. Even worse, the English levied a hefty tax on tea. This was before ice, beer or smoothies had been invented, so tea was all the Colonists had to drink. “No taxation without representation!” became the Colonists battle cry and they dumped all the tea in Boston Harbor. The EPA hit them with a bunch of huge fines for polluting, and that was the last straw. We went to war.
We won that war, and afterwards the Colonists quickly imposed their own taxes. This blow for freedom ensured that cigarette smokers would pay 5 times more taxes than anybody else in the fledgling country. Additional representation, in the form of being able to vote more, did not go along with the additional taxes.
Fast forward a couple, maybe 50 years, and George Washington, the father of our country, chopped down a cherry tree because he wanted cherry to be our national pie. But the senators at the newly-formed Philadelphia ComicCon voted to keep pumpkin as the official pie to honor the Native New Worlders and make up for taking their land and killing all the buffalo. They did concede, however, that cherry pie filling with a graham cracker crust and cream cheese (which had just been discovered in Philadelphia) makes a yummy second dessert for the Thanksgiving table. This started the noble tradition we still observe today, wherein our elected officials spend most of their time on such vital issues as coming up with national desserts, establishing National Tartan Day and gravely investigating anyone who ever had Russian dressing on a salad.
There you have it. Feel free to share this brief, yet fact-filled history of our country with others, especially young people. Heaven knows they need it since schools are only teaching No Child Left Behind and how to put condoms on bananas nowadays.
And as you celebrate this Independence Day, remember those who gave so much so we would be free to drink excessively, get sunburned and blow off various limbs with bottle rockets.
God bless America!