Here’s Dr. Barry Pascal, ready and willing to celebrate the 237th anniversary of our declared national independence and—fortunately for us—able to clear up a few historical misconceptions about how we got here, and what it’s all about. Alfie.(You can find Barry‘s comedy books for sale here.
By BARRY PASCAL, Pharm.D.
Humorist, Satirist, and All-Around Nice Guy
Every July 4th since 1777 (1776 was a very busy year), we have celebrated our country’s birthday. We have parades; picnics; parties; pageants; processions; proceedings; and potato salad. (Sorry; I ran out of P-words). We have a holiday from work; from chores; from duties; and from politics. The entire country has one frame of mind: Happy Birthday, America!
This is the day we watch fireworks displays and celebrate with America’s favorites—hot dogs and hamburgers. Most of us say we know what we’re celebrating, but it seems to me that a growing number of Americans don’t know why it’s a holiday. Perhaps some of us know why, but we’re not talking about it, not instilling it in our children, and not sharing the knowledge for the common good. It appears that we have forgotten the sacrifices, hardships, and costs that were needed to create this holiday, this country, and our way of life.
Hence, as a public service from yours truly: a brief history of the birth of America. Our former English landlords (“them”) tried to raise the rent and force their tenants (“us”) to do things that we did not want to do, or to pay for. So we stopped paying, started vandalizing our overdressed overlords’ property, and began speaking in slang instead of the required, elegant English. Eventually all we tenement dwellers got together and wrote up a new set of common-area rules and regulations. This really upset the landlords, so they started throwing rocks and things at we upstarts, and we returned the favor—and the rocks, and other stuff.
It occurred to many of the quick-witted and best-educated neighbors that, if someone who knew the rules got hit on the head with a stray pebble or something, he might forget what had been agreed upon, so they wrote down the new, common-area rules and regs; called it the “Declaration of Independence; and signed and dated it.
“But,” you ask, “why July 4?” Excellent question. In truth, the Afsembled Delegates had all signed off on the particulars of the Declaration on Tuesday, October 31, 1775, at a Halloween party at John “Big-J” Hancock’s place, but decided that future generations would not remember the document properly if they were all at parties drinking fermented pumpkins and rye. Then, some of them got busy. Little Tommy Jefferson was busy interviewing good-looking help for his house and farm—a process he thoroughly enjoyed. Toothless Georgie W. was surveying new land and bottling applesauce, the only thing he could chew. And wise old Benny “the Waddle” Franklin was stealing quotes from the corner chemist, who always said smart things so that customers would come back. Those who weren’t as busy fell to arguing among themselves, which persisted until Thursday, July 4, 1776—the absolute last day they could wrap it up Why? Because it took everyone three days to get home, and Sunday, July 7, was “Free Fresh Apple Pie” day throughout the colonies. No one wanted to miss that, so they decided to finally get it done that day.
After that, the conflict between landlords and tenants got a bit dicey. The British lost all the good neighborhoods in Boston that year, but they managed to capture and hold New York City. (Apparently, they all had discount tickets to Broadway shows and were not leaving until they had seen the entire new season. But I digress.)
We have celebrated the signing of The Declaration of Independence each year on July 4th ever since. We drink, have fun, and go to parties. What we should be doing is reading and rereading the document that started it all. We should be making sure that everyone, from any political party or part of the country, of any age, understands what it means.
One of the most important parts, The Preamble, states that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.” What exactly does all that mean? I looked up self evident and it means apparent; unquestionable; understandable; unequivocal; obvious; absolute; fundamental; certain; and accepted. “That all men are created equal” means that every man is entitled to the same rights, privileges, and benefits as every other man. However, if you make a reservation for dinner at a fancy restaurant on July 4—or any other time—it’s recommended that you refer to yourself as “Doctor,” because restaurants ignore the Declaration of Independence when taking dinner reservations. Also—unlike the founders—it seems that the only color restaurants care about is the color of your money or, after that, your credit card. Interestingly, nothing is said about women in the document. Do you think the signers meant “all men” in the general sense, referring to all of humankind? Or do you think their wives were yelling at them: “No need to put us in that document…We don’t need any of your rules or regulations…We will continue to boss you around now, and for generations to come.”
These days, it does appear we’ve forgotten about the “everyone is equal” stuff, though. Why else would we still be arguing about equal pay, who can marry whom, and who can vote?
If we can’t be bothered to reread the Declaration of Independence today, the least we could do is make up cocktail napkins with those sacred words printed on them.
About the Author: Barry Pascal, former North San Fernando Valley Honorary Mayor and former Honorary Sheriff, owned Northridge Pharmacy for 32 years and is now retired. He has written seven comedy books and writes a humorous column for the California Pharmacists Association Journal as well as the North Valley Community Connection. Barry has been making reservations at restaurants for years as “Doctor Pascal.” However, whenever he plans to dine alone and eat things Shirley won’t let him have, he reserves two tables.
© Barry Pascal 2013