Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Don't mention the war

A novel beginning?
I've always had mixed feelings about American Independence Day. I mean, I get it - I understand the historical and cultural significance, as it is commonly understood. And let's face it, who the heck wants to be disproportionately taxed and ruled by a foreign power from overseas?

I also know 'stupid stuff'. That John Hancock's signature on the declaration was so large that his name became a byword for a  signature. Also that the Declaration was written with ink made from pokeweed.

But a deep dive into any historical period or event will likely show us the interconnectedness of cultures, nations and factions, alongside the actions of individuals. In the case of the American Revolutionary War, it was something of a global affair.

When I spent a little time over in the US, the two July 4ths I experienced were a combination of:
- Inebriated people telling me how, "We sure kicked your asses."
- Receiving consolatory pats on the back and reminders that, "We're all friends now."
- Pageantry, flag waving and celebration.
- Reflection upon what it means to be truly independent. (Hey, I never was the party type.)
- "Hey Limey, how's it feel to come second best?" (Actually, it felt pretty good - pass the tacos.)

The UK is not dissimilar to the US in many respects. We define ourselves by those times when we've been a proud nation standing up for what we believe in. And we're a little more reticent about those times when we've been less than honourable. A lot like individual people, you could say.

In our recent Jubilee public events there were critics and naysayers (do people naysay any more?) alongside those who just wanted to feel good about being British and to wave the flag without accusations of jingoism. We can neither deny nor erase history. For good or ill, everything before us has led to here. We are the inheritors of the past. Or at least, the past as we understand it.

With all - and none - of that in mind, I wish my American cousins a wonderful Independence Day and I thank them for their support, encouragement and inspiration in my writing. At the very least, I owe them a novel!



5 comments:

  1. Yes, and don't you wish British children were taught our history!

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    1. That's true. That's the great thing about the Internet - all the information is there if you know what you're looking for. There's always a hidden side to any historical period or event. For instance, I recently found out that the trade in tea from China was intimately connected with the British selling them opium from India. And the East India Company was a government agency and a law unto itself. History is always written and taught in the context of society.

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  2. I'm amazed that people would say such rude and moronic things to you about July 4th, but I suppose I shouldn't be. Idiots abound wherever you go, it seems.

    I was a history major in college and that was the first time I even began to scratch the surface of the whole truth behind so many historical eras and events. The history I was taught in elementary and most of high school was a fantasy to say the least. It's so interesting now to be able to discover so much on our own through the Internet.

    I'll be looking forward to collecting on that novel! :)

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    1. Hi Julie, and thanks for popping over. I took it all in good humo(u)r. I even learned most of the words of Star Spangled Banner as part of my integration! What's also interesting about history - and social reform in particular - is how often it's a small pocket of individuals who act as catalysts for great change. Kinda gives me hope!

      That novel I promised, Scars & Stripes, is complete and currently being looked at by an agency. I'd be happy to send you a PDF sample if your curiosity gets to overload. If you search the blog you can find snippets about it.

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  3. I had to laugh at this post, Derek. I agree. My husband is British, I grew up in Canada (but was born in US). July 4th is an overblown mess at times. Kudos

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