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Alphabet Series 2002:
Y is for Yankee Doodle Dandy
Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
July 3, 2002
"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that god is just." — Thomas Jefferson
Every other year or so I indulge myself, and hopefully readers, with an "Alphabet Series." This is a device I use to keep my columns fresh, as well as expanding its scope beyond my usual diatribe. One of the challenges has always been finding a relevant "Y." For this series I had planned to explain Yield point and Yoda's Law, but that would have resulted in a depressing piece on overpopulation and the result of over-crowding. Realizing most people in Southern California could write that one, I opted for something a bit more timely.
Most people don't realize the term Yankee was firmly established before the American Revolution; its earliest usage was Jan Kees, a long-standing nickname in Germany for someone from Holland. Roughly translating to mean John Cheese, the British used Yankee as a term of designation for Dutch pirates, and in the colonies for the Dutch in general. Perhaps when the British decided the colonists not paying exorbitant taxes to a distant dictator was equivalent to piracy; the term became a pejorative for all colonists.
The song Yankee Doodle Dandy, sung by British troops to make fun of the colonials, portrayed them as inept country bumpkins who relied on tricks to get by. Hence the phase "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni." At the time of the Revolutionary war the Macaroni family were Italian hat makers currently in vogue among the European aristocrats. Is it just me does anyone see a parallel with the corporate crimes currently rocking Wall Street?
Every child in America learns the basic facts about the emergence of the thirteen colonies, Paul Revere, and George Washington while still in elementary school. My favorite was always the story about colonists, disguised as Indians, dumping 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. Although I agreed with the act of civil disobedience, this was the late 60's early 70's after all, even then I found it rather cowardly that the dudes doing the damage hid behind the feathers of a displaced people. I was a precocious child.
Don't get me wrong; I believe the Declaration of Independence was the right thing to do, as was the struggle to break from an overreaching monarch, and a system that was extractive, exploitive, and unconcerned with the well being of all. In the Declaration of Independence the patriots provided a laundry list of grievances as to why they were no longer interested being under the command of the king. Sadly violence was the only avenue of recourse. Hence the "bombs bursting in air."
226 years later it seems North America is once again having problems with an unelected leader named George. A corporate imperialist, George W. is fighting a war over access to natural resources half way around the world, with little concern for the people living there, as a way of maintaining a lifestyle based on gluttony and greed. We sought a war to end this type of abuse, only to come full circle. I think it's time to rebel against the status quo, if the intent of the founding documents is to be preserved and protected.
Of the 22 reasons Thomas Jefferson gave for rejecting King George, the two that stand out most are:
"He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people." This immediately brings to mind Interior Secretary Gail Norton, and the Bush Administration's environmental policy.
"He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation." It this doesn't describe the Bush Administration's foreign policy regarding oil producing regions, nothing does.
This year amidst the plethora of flag waving and pyrotechnics I suggest we all consider the implications of leadership that promises representation without taxation. And who, in fact, is being represented as the Bush Administration wages war over fossil fuels.
I'm sure most people are not be surprised to hear that I am not a big fan of the Hallmark holiday marketed to Americans as the Fourth of July. As a child I was never impressed with the fireworks thing, because I had the notion they represented "Bombs bursting in air." Not that I didn't enjoy the patriotism party, I was still a meat-eater, and my Mom, a Texan, was into old school barbeque.
I get the ritual, what I didn't understand was how far myth had strayed from meaning.