On July Fourth, the kind of “originalism” we should keep in mind

“Fellow citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to me? . . .

“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival . . .”

— Frederick Douglass, on July Fourth 1852, quoted in “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn.

If all our thoughts were displayed on subway cars in graffiti

“. . . the subway cars are graffitied with so much text it’s like being screamed at, like the voices inside my head and everyone else’s have manifested their yelling outside, ill-spelled with spray paint.”

  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

“advancing the interest of this very small number of people”

“. . . the marshaling of little guys to protect the big guys ‘happens all the time.’ Small business owners protest estate taxes they will never pay. Community banks protest regulations aimed at the large banks that are their biggest competitors. Minimum-wage workers are somehow framed as the targets for IRS enforcement proposals aimed at the ultra-rich.

‘Not only does it distort discussion of incredibly important policy, it ends up advancing the interest of this very small number of people and industries that have a chokehold on public policy in Washington.’”Quote by Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets included in a New York Times story by Jonathan Weisman printed in The Seattle Times, Dec. 11, 2021, under the headline “Family rift reflects challenge of taxing rich.”

“the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges”

“When economic interest is seen behind the political clauses of the Constitution, then the document becomes not simply the work of wise men trying to establish a decent and orderly society, but the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges, while giving just enough rights and liberties to enough of the people to ensure popular support.”

  • “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn

“The decency of womanhood has disappeared”

“As each player goes through the first hoop, as he undergoes a metamorphosis . . . the male antagonist becomes a creature too vile for language. The decency of womanhood has disappeared by the third hoop.”

  • Living Age, circa 1898, quoted in Croquet: A handbook of all the rules, strategies, techniques, and tips you need to be a better player by Steven Boga

So this is why the Europeans did all they did

“At some point in history, Europeans had the brilliant idea of sending the dead to the outskirts of their towns. It wasn’t exactly ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ but it was definitely ‘out of sight, out of urban life.’ Graveyards were built beyond city walls; ghost were separated from the living. It was all done quickly and efficiently, like removing the yolks from the whites. The new arrangement had proved highly beneficial. When they no longer had to see tombstones – those ghastly reminders of life’s brevity and God’s severity – European citizens were galvanized into action. Having pushed death out of their daily routines, they could focus on other things: composing arias, inventing the guillotine and then the steam locomotive, colonizing the rest of the world and carving up the Middle East . . .You could do all that and much more if only you could take your mind off the disturbing thought of being a mere mortal.”

  • 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak.

‘. . . still be asking the hopeless eternal questions’

“To-night, as ages hence, people would say this, or shut their doors on them, turn in bereaved agony from them, or toward them with love saying: ‘That is our star up there, yours and mine;’ steer by them above the clouds or lost at sea, or standing in the spray on the forecastle head, watch them, suddenly, careen; put their faith or lack of it in them; train, in a thousand observatories, feeble telescopes upon them, across whose lenses swam mysterious swarms of stars and clouds of dead dark stars, catastrophes of exploding suns, or giant Antares raging to its end – a smoldering ember yet five hundred times greater than the earth’s sun. And the earth itself still turning on its axis and revolving around that sun, the sun revolving around the luminous wheel of this galaxy, the countless unmeasured jewelled wheel of countless unmeasured galaxies, turning, turning, majestically, into infinity, into eternity, through all of which all life ran on — all this, long after she herself was dead, men would still be reading in the night sky, and as the earth turned through those distant seasons, and they watched the constellations still rising, culminating, setting, to rise again – Aries, Taurus, Gemini, the Crab, Leo, Virgo, the Scales and the Scorpion, Capricorn the Sea-goat and Aquarius the Water Bearer, Pisces, and once more triumphantly, Aries! – would they not, too, still be asking the hopeless eternal questions: to what end? What force drives this sublime celestial machinery?”

— “Under the Volcano” by Malcolm Lowry