Several reporters from The New York Times board the Q train at DeKalb Avenue during the morning rush and marvel at the diversity of the 128 passengers in a single subway car and see “all the homelands, all the ages, all the professions” that comprise  “New York City in the summer of 2008.”

The Stiletto offers her own tribute to our nation’s diversity on this, the 232nd anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from monarchal tyranny – especially the diverse ways in which we choose to pursue happiness (or not) – with this collection of articles: 

† Couch Potatoes (and those forced to spend the holiday weekend close to home because of stratospheric gas and airline ticket prices): You’ll appreciate The Washington Post’s round-up of classic TV show marathons.

† Foodies: Vegetarians try to convert red blooded Americans to their cause by citing research linking red meat eating to erectile dysfunction. Here’s something else red you might want to eat along with your ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs: watermelon. The flesh and rind of watermelon contains citrulline, which is converted to the amino acid arginine in the body. “Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it,” Texas A&M researcher Bhimu Patil tells The Associated Press. But The Stiletto wonders whether you’d have to eat so much watermelon to manufacture enough arginine to equal the potency of Viagra that your coitus will be interrupted by numerous trips to the john.

† History Buffs: Writing in The New York Times, Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, makes the case that when it comes to the Declaration of Independence, it’s very much a case of E pluribus unum: 

The Declaration originated as a spoken thought, expressed on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, a delegate to the Second Continental Congress …

A written version was produced on June 28, primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson … 

Then, on July 4, the rest of the text was approved. Jefferson claimed that a “fair copy” of the document was in the room that day, and John Hancock possibly signed something, making it legal. If this manuscript still exists, it is the holy grail of American freedom.  

That same day, the Congress ordered that the document be distributed — for what is a declaration if no one can see it? … Irish immigrant … John Dunlap … spent much of the night of July 4 setting type, correcting it and running off broadsides – perhaps 200 in all. There is evidence that it was done quickly, and in excitement – watermarks are reversed, some copies look as if they were folded before the ink could dry and bits of punctuation move around from one copy to another. … 

Over the next two days, the Dunlap broadsides were sent around the colonies – now states – and to dignitaries like George Washington, who ordered the Declaration read to his troops. …

These first printings may look less dramatic than the manuscript we know and love, but they were created closer to the germinal moment than anything known to exist. 

Widmer is not the only historian who is unconvinced the Declaration of Independence was, in fact, signed on July 4, 1776. George Will cites Peter de Bolla of King’s College, Cambridge, whose book “The 4th of July and the Founding of America” suggests that Americans should be celebrating Independence Week instead of Independence Day:   

He is fascinated by Americans’ fascination with the fact, such as it is, that their country had, as few nations can claim, an “originative moment.” But what, and when, was it?  

The Declaration of Independence was not signed that day by the 56 persons whose signatures would eventually adorn it. Perhaps no one signed it that day; the evidence is murky. Still, uncountable millions believe otherwise because they have seen John Trumbull’s painting, in the U.S. Capitol’s rotunda, depicting Thomas Jefferson, at the center of six colleagues, holding “his” Declaration on July 4, as though for signing.  

What Congress actually did that day was agree to print and publish the Declaration authorized two days earlier. So, was July 2 what de Bolla calls the “punctual moment”? John Adams thought that day “will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” 

What was voted on July 2 was, however, really decided on July 1. But on June 28, Congress considered Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration, so was the die then cast? Or was it cast on June 10, when Congress voted that “a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration”? The Declaration was first actually declared — read aloud to a crowd (at the State House, now Independence Hall) – on July 8. 

And if you’ve ever wondered why we set off fireworks on July 4th – the backyard version of those “rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air” – it was all John Adams’ idea, according to Bolla. Here’s a snippet of The Wall Street Journal’s review of his book: 

In early July 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, about a momentous day during the proceedings of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Adams predicted that the day “will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” 

William Kristol’s “The Choices They Made,” quotes from Thomas Jefferson’s June 24, 1826 letter to Roger Weightman, and suggests that the enlightened leadership of our Founding Fathers is a uniquely American brand of noblesse oblige: 

The fate of equality, Jefferson makes clear, also depends on those who see further than, and act first on behalf of, their fellow citizens. In the letter, Jefferson pays tribute to his fellow signers — “that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword.” He wishes he could meet with the few of that band who still survived “to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made.” 

So the signers of the declaration made the bold and doubtful choice for independence. Their fellow citizens ratified the choice. But they might have been slow to act if the worthies had not moved first. … 

The people are conservative. Liberty sometimes requires the bold leadership of a few individuals.  

Finally, writing in the WaPo, Pepperdine University professor Edward J. Larson describes the tactics used by the Federalist Attack Machine (The Stiletto kids you not) to smear Thomas Jefferson.  

† Sports Fans: What could be more American than a “big sandwich?” How about a big flag? No, make that a ginormous flag. The New York Times reports that field-size or court-size flags during the national anthem or other sporting rituals have become de rigueur: 

On the field before the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball plans to assemble the largest gathering of Hall of Fame players in baseball history. And as fans salute their heroes, the former players will join the crowd in saluting the American flag — one that is roughly 75 feet by 150 feet, as long as a 15-story building is tall, spread horizontally over the Yankee Stadium turf.  

That is a relatively small flag by big-event standards in American sports these days. But it will signal the latest can’t-miss blend of sports and patriotism, a combination increasingly presenting itself through gigantic American flags, unfurled by dozens or hundreds of people in an attempt to elicit a sense of awe and nationalism in the surrounding crowd. … 

The trend began nearly 25 years ago, spiked after 9/11 and now seems simply part of the cultural backdrop in American sports. Where there is a big game, there is a big flag, often the size of the playing field itself. … 

“People go ape when they see it,” said Jim Alexander, a retired Coast Guard commander who runs Superflag, the company that basically invented the industry.  

Unfortunately, not everyone feels as lucky and blessed as The Stiletto and millions of others whose forebears came to this country over the course of two centuries to enjoy the freedoms that Americans consider their birthright – and have gone to court and  to war to protect. Case in point: Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Chris Satullo, who demands that we observe “a day of quiet and atonement” because “America doesn’t deserve to celebrate its birthday … for we have sinned”: 

Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. CIA secret prisons. “Rendition” of prisoners to foreign torture chambers. … 

[W]hat will history think of us, of how we responded to our great challenge? Sept. 11 was a hideous evil, a grievous wound. Yet, truth told, it has not summoned our better angels as often as our worst. 

Tell that to the Marines – especially to the family of Polish immigrant Dawid Pietrek, a 24-year-old Marine, who loved this country so much he gave his life for it in Afghanistan, without even being a citizen, reports the WaPo:  

Pietrek came to the United States three years ago on a green card, hoping to attend college and become a police officer, according to the Herald. He lived with two families in Elmhurst, outside of Chicago, as a trained medical caregiver for elderly family members. 

Pietrek’s mother [Dorota] wanted … him to be buried at Arlington and be granted citizenship. Shortly before the funeral service began … an official from the Department of Homeland Security presented her with her son’s certificate of posthumous citizenship. Pietrek joined the Marine Corps in June 2007 …

In just over a year, Pietrek had received numerous awards, including the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. 

Shortly after his deployment in Afghanistan, Pietrek wrote to his mother and sister in Poland: “If something should happen to me remember – this was my decision. We’re defending people here and fighting terrorists.” 

And while some would argue – perhaps rejoice – that America is in decline every day is a day to express love of country at venerable NYC retail emporium Lord & Taylor, reports The New York Times: 

Every morning at 10 a.m., before it allows customers to set foot inside its flagship store on Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor plays the national anthem — an orchestral recording that sounds like the Philadelphia Orchestra from the 1950s. … 

Playing the national anthem each morning has become a ritual at Lord & Taylor. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the same whether it’s a Wednesday in mid-March or a holiday like Memorial Day, which honors those who have died in service to their country. 

Setting out the folding chairs just inside the revolving doors is another ritual. Lord & Taylor does that to give early birds a place to wait until after the final chord has soared over the whoosh of the escalators and the soft jazz has come back on. 

The Times reports that Lord & Taylor’s “is probably the longest-running daily ritual that can be traced to the 444-day Iran hostage crisis that began in 1979.” 

BTW: WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson points to Colin Powell and Rev. Jeremiah Wright and asks us to “consider, as we celebrate Independence Day, how steadfast and complicated black patriotism has always been.” He adds: 

The subject is particularly relevant now that the first African American with a realistic chance of becoming president, Barack Obama, has felt compelled to give a lengthy speech explaining his own patriotism. …

It seems that some people don’t want to give Obama the benefit of that assumption, however, and I have to wonder whether that’s because he’s black. And then I have to wonder why. 

Robinson apparently missed Jonah Goldberg’s column, “Obama’s Real Patriotism Problem”: 

Barack Obama has a patriotism problem that even Monday’s flag-waving trip to Independence, Mo., can’t squelch. And it doesn’t have anything to do with his lapel pin. … 

During the debates over the Iraq war, he stopped because he saw the flag as a sign of support for President Bush. (He started wearing it again in May.) “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he added in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great and, hopefully, that will be a testimony to my patriotism.” … 

Not to sound too much like a Jewish mother, but some might respond, “What? It’s not great now?”  This sense that America is in need of fixing in order to be a great country points to Obama’s real patriotism problem. And it’s not Obama’s alone. … 

[I]n the American context patriotism must involve not only devotion to American texts (something that distinguishes our patriotism from European nationalism) but also an abiding belief in the inherent and enduring goodness of the American nation. We might need to change this or that policy or law, fix this or that problem, but at the end of the day the patriotic American believes that America is fundamentally good as it is. 

And then there’s this: Singer Rene Marie was hired to perform the national anthem at Denver mayor John Hickenlooper’s annual State of the City address. Without telling anyone her plans in advance, she instead sang (video link) “Lift Ev’ry Voice & Sing” (AKA “the Black National Anthem”), which ends with these lines:  

May we forever stand,
True to our G-d,
True to our native land.  

This is a pledge of loyalty to Africa, not to America. Given Rev. Wright’s black liberation/Afrocentric sermons, one could be forgiven for wondering whether the Obamas have sung this alternative national anthem at Trinity United Church of Christ. 

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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