A cynical July 4th to all, and to all…
Every year, Amy’s sister and brother-in-law throw a huge 4th of July/family reunion/birthday-party-for-everyone-born-in-July party. It’s a great time–they cater it, buy an ice cream cake, and Rob spends insane amounts of money on fireworks, which he and his brother and whatever kid is the biggest pain in the ass that day help light. We did it last night.
While we were watching the fireworks display last night, I started thinking about holidays, and the myths that surround them, especially the ones that we tell children, and it occured to me that we don’t really have much of that for the 4th. There’s no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, no Pilgrims making nice with the natives and having dinner. There’s no symbol, other than the flag, which serves as the centerpiece for the holiday.
So I have a modest proposal: let’s do it with The Framers.
I’ve felt for a long time that this country over-reveres the Framers of the Constitution. I don’t even like the term Founding Fathers, because I think it ascribes too much power to them. Don’t get me wrong–I esteem what they did, respect it, am even in awe at the hugeness of what they helped usher in–but they weren’t perfect, they weren’t all-seeing, and they weren’t seers who could anticipate every future development in the nation and account for it. And yet there are respected legal scholars, and members of the Supreme Court, who give varying degrees of respect to the notion that the original intent of the Framers should be paramount in interpreting the Constitution. It might be–and I mean this in the most insulting way possible–the dumbest possible way to interpret the Constitution.
But politicians love to invoke the Framers, or the Founding Fathers, when they’re in patriot-mode almost as much as they like to invoke generic Americans. I have questions as to how many members of the House and Senate could actually name the most prominent members of the Constitutional Convention–more than a few would look like Lynn Westmoreland on Steven Colbert’s show when he was asked to name the 10 Commandments, I’m betting. So in a way, the Framers are already well on their way to becoming caricatures. Santa Claus was based on a real person; so were the Pilgrims. Why not turn the Framers into the cartoonish symbol of the 4th of July?
Think about the opportunities for new traditions. After the sun goes down, the family gathers the kids around the smoking hulk of the gas grill and we tell them stories about how if they’re good kids and they learn all the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” or who the US declared independence from, then the Framers will descend at midnight and impart wisdom to them. Also, maybe leave a couple of bucks under their pillows for every Amendment to the Constitution they can name, or for knowing that Puerto Ricans are US citizens even though Puerto Rico isn’t a state. I’m in the early stages here.
Kids could pick their favorite Framer, and RockStar could make a video game where the Framers debate the intricacies of the early Constitution and Bill of Rights while driving through DC stealing cars and running over bystanders. Magnetic ribbons which say “Madison Rules, Jefferson Drools,” mylar balloons of their faces, a Mount Rushmore app where you get to replace its faces with your own–mash it all up into one nonsensical ball and see what comes out of it.
In other words, I’d like to turn July 4th into Christmas, and not in an electronics store blowout sale kind of way. I’d like the origins of the holiday to become, not shrouded in mystery, but exploded into myth. I want the 4th commercialized to the point where everyone feels included in this celebration, as they should be. It’s a way of moving forward with our society, I think–we need to fully mythologize our past.