Monday, July 05, 2010

Celebrating the Fourth on the Fifth

Speaking of "verbal fireworks" - Chesterton would have laughed out loud about the silliness of celebrating the Fourth of July on the fifth of July - so perhaps you will enjoy this excerpt which is quite humorous - but also very thought-provoking.

--Dr. Thursday

Prohibition is a joke; and its most optimistic supporters can only pretend that it is a practical joke. But the absurdity of a foreign nation having to take seriously what the natives take flippantly adds a sort of final flourish of frivolity to this triple tangle of falsity. Take first the case of the Fourth of July. The Anglo-American rhetoric in honour of it has run so long in official ruts that it has become utterly formal and fictitious. We know exactly what the British Minister and the American Ambassador will say about the Fourth of July, and we know, alas! that, considered as history or practical prophecy, it would be more suitable to the First of April. Independence Day is, in fact, the most fantastic of all feasts. The Americans celebrate it because they have forgotten what it meant. The English now celebrate it because they have never found out what it meant. It is comic enough, in all conscience, that an Empire should be called upon to jump for joy because it has lost its largest colonies, and dance with never-ending delight on receiving the repeated news of its own defeat. But it is funnier still that it should show a warm and generous agreement with the ideals of the victors; ideals which, rightly or wrongly, the English disbelieved in then, and mostly disbelieve in still. The orators tell us a hundred times that the English and the Americans had ultimately the same ideal of liberty; which is exactly what they did not have. They had two opposite ideals of liberty, for both of which there is a great deal to be said. One was the aristocratic ideal of liberty, with its sense of humour, its instinct for leisure, its loose local custom, and casual compromise. The other was the democratic ideal of liberty, with its dogmatic abstractions, its generalizations about millions, its universal type of citizen, and its wide level of human dignity. I believe I am one of the very few Englishmen who really do believe in the doctrine of the Fourth of July. That is why I am one of the very few Englishmen who flatly refuse to celebrate it. I have enthusiastic admiration for Jefferson; I have a very warm respect for Lord North. But to pretend that Jefferson, but for a mere misunderstanding, would have been as Imperial as Lord North, is a lie. To pretend that Lord North, but for a mere blunder, would have been as democratic as Jefferson, is a lie. Lord North, as a matter of fact, was a very good specimen of an English gentleman; but the ideal of an English gentleman and of an American citizen are not the same and never will be, and it is nonsense and clap-trap to pretend that they are. I am enough of a democrat to wish seriously that England had developed as a democracy; but I do not think the case is met by America developing snobbery.
[GKC ILN July 31 1926 CW34:134-5]

1 comment:

  1. I am a newcomer to this Blog and not particularly wordy as yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed your humor about certain historical events, which in today's climate of politics and religion I find seriously lacking.


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