By Doug Porter
America’s most patriotic holiday is a complicated event. What was once a day set aside for pontificating, picnics and patriotism is too often filled with fear, loathing and enough fireworks to scare the cilia off paramecium six states away.
By ignoring the merchants of faux patriotism–an admirable, if difficult goal–many Americans do manage to make the day special. So let’s take a look around at what is and is not happening on the Fourth of July, 2015.
In San Diego County there are (at least) seventeen fireworks shows, eight parades, eight concerts, one flotilla and assorted performances. And that’s not counting the ad hoc displays of patriotic bang-bangs and boom-booms. Listings for events can be found at KPBS, the Times of San Diego, and the Union-Tribune.
The Lost Art of Speechifying
If anything makes me sad about contemporary celebrations of The Fourth, it’s the near disappearance of substantive public oratory.
This holiday was once a day of reflection, one where both the good and the bad of the United States was discussed. It was okay back in the day to admit there were flies in the national ointment.
Modern day observances are almost exclusively about the military. The nation’s “rocks and rills”, and “purple mountain majesties” are somehow subordinate to “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” I’m not denying the role of and sacrifices made by people in uniform in the history of the United States–I just regret that the other parts of society don’t get their due on this day.
Here are some suggestions for oratories about the U.S. of A. I think are worthy of consideration as we reflect on Independence Day:
- President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 speech, given over the radio, addressed the isolationism in the country as the winds of war were rising.
- President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech, given in front of many of the nation’s Governors, reflected the optimism of the time.
- Mark Twain’s 1899 speech about the greatness of the US to an audience in London was actually never given–he declined the stage following what he termed an “inconceivably dull harangue” by a previous speaker.
- Frederick Douglass’ 1852 July 5th speech to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, N.Y serves as a reminder of the rocky road this country has travelled on a journey that is far from complete.
- Mark Lane’s July 1, 2015 speech in Murrieta should serve as a reminder of both this country’s greatness and its challenges. The language is even more powerful when you consider that it was given as local bigots screamed insults and obscenities at him through multiple bullhorns.
It’s Your Duty: Be Very Afraid on the Fourth
It’s the new normal in the millennial era for holiday warnings to be broadcast on behalf of the national security apparatus.
Law enforcement agencies across the country are on alert, beefing up security ahead of the Fourth of July due to a possible terror threat. Here in San Diego, a warning went out to MCAS Miramar.
From 10News, which suggested the “threat” could be to the San Diego County Fair:
FBI officials are on high alert for potential terror threats over the July 4th weekend.
Agents in San Diego say that while there is no evidence of an imminent attack within the county, everyone should be vigilant, especially at popular tourists spots.
From Texas-sized turkey legs to the heart-stopping rides, there’s no doubt the San Diego County Fair will be one of the most popular spots this holiday weekend.
The national fear spokesperson for 2015 was former CIA director — and consultant at D.C. PR firm Beacon Global Strategies — Michael Morell.
From Adam Johnson at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):
…Michael Morell went on CBS This Morning (6/29/15) and scared the ever-living bejesus out of everyone by saying he “wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting [in the studio] next week discussing an attack on the US.” The first piece of evidence Morell used to justify his apocalyptic posture, the “50 ISIS arrests,” was accompanied by a scary map on the CBS jumbotron showing “ISIS arrests” all throughout the US:
But one key detail is missing from this graphic: None of these “ISIS arrests” involved any actual members of ISIS, only members of the FBI—and their network of informants—posing as such. (The one exception being the man arrested in Arizona, who, while having no contact with ISIS, was also not prompted by the FBI.) So even if one thinks the threat of “lone wolf” attacks is a serious one, it cannot be said these are really “ISIS arrests.” Perhaps on some meta-level, it shows an increase of “radicalization,” but it’s impossible to distinguish between this and simply more aggressive sting operations by the FBI.
In any event, this nuance gets left out entirely. As I’ve previously shown, in the media’s rush to hype the threat, the fact of FBI-manufactured—or at least “assisted”—terror plots is left out as a complicating factor altogether, and the viewer is left thinking the FBI arrested 50 actual ISIS sleeper cells.
Nevertheless, the ominous FBI (or Department of Homeland Security) “terror warning” has become such a staple of the on-going, seemingly endless “war on terror” (d/b/a war on ISIS), we hardly even notice it anymore. Marked by a feedback loop of extremist propaganda, unverifiable claims about “online chatter” and fuzzy pronouncements issued by a neverending string of faceless Muslim bad guys, and given PR cover by FBI-contrived “terror plots,” the specter of the impending “attack” is part of a broader white noise of fear that never went away after 9/11. Indeed, the verbiage employed by the FBI in this latest warning —“we’re asking people to remain vigilant”—implies no actual change of the status quo, just an hysterical nudge to not let down our collective guard.
The author goes on the point out and list “previous FBI and DHS ‘terror warnings’ over the past 14 years, not a single one of which actually predicted or foiled a terror attack.
The fear industrial complex score: 0 for 40.
He goes on to point out “Nor were the often deadlier terrorist attacks by right-wing white terrorists–but terrorism in this category is rarely if ever the subject of FBI warnings.”
I’m not suggesting that it’s outside the realm of possibility that a terrorist act could occur on July 4th (or any other day, for that matter). I’m saying that the people issuing the warnings are full of crap and really motivated by self-serving reasons.
For the record,as virtually all these scare stories say down near the end, the FBI has no information about any credible threats.
But Do Be Careful
Here’s one of the real dangers of the holiday weekend.
It’s a Terrible Day for Pets
More pets go missing on July 4th than any other day of the year. The bam-bam and bang of fireworks displays causes many animals to panic. Keep them inside and safe. A quiet room in the interior of the house is a great place for them to stay. Other tips can be found here, courtesy of the Marin Humane Society, via Boing Boing.
On This Day: 1860 – Feminist and labor activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in Hartford, Conn. Her landmark study, “Women and Economics,” was radical: it called for the financial independence of women and urged a network of child care centers. 1937 – The Del Mar race track opened for business. 1962 – Jackie Robinson became the first African American to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
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Tom Hunter says
I can barely imagine the freaked out pets, but while living in my van in Mission Beach, The fireworks from Seaworld sounded like the Normandy invasion.
Wayne Gearhart says
While we’re at it, we also must remain vigilant against shark attacks.