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Book cover for The Liberty Bell by Gary NashLiberty. One word—an idea, really. One which doesn’t simply process in our brains to bring context to a sentence or meaning to the words around it, but more implicitly resonates and travels deeper into our cores, where every stirring notion of patriotism simmers. One word that immediately evinces two striking icons of the American essence: the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty.

As Gary Nash conveys in The Liberty Bell we long ago dismissed the idea that these icons were mere objects showered with our jingoistic ardor, but rather we have imbued them with a kind of reverence and love only the vestment of our souls could provide.

Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim liberty thro’ all the land to all the inhabitants thereof.” Daresay a solid number of Americans know these words as inscribed upon the bell, but perhaps more telling might be how many don’t know the passage, or only know the names Pass and Stow from the movie National Treasure. Nash’s scholastic approach to relating the Liberty Bell’s history leaves little doubt of its staggering relevance and gravitas as an enduring icon of our cherished founding principles.

Professor Nash moves sure-footedly from the pre-bell story through its period of actual use and into the larger, almost epochal journey through generations who venerated the Liberty Bell as a symbol of our democratic culture. Unless you are a historian (or history buff) you may not have known the State House Bell (or Old Bell), as it was known until around 1835, was removed from its tower in Philadelphia in 1776 and hidden in another town for fear the British, who came to occupy the city, would have melted it down for ammunition.

Many citizens don’t know of the bell’s near demise—along with the old Pennsylvania State House—in 1816, under a “Gothic mist of ignorance and vice”; just two of the rich, significant historical allegories Nash relates. Schoolchildren were inculcated with fabricated, emotionally charged stories of its use on July 4, 1776—a stigma which actually aided the tocsin in its rise to almost ephemeral reverence.

A generous amount of the book is allocated to seven separate trips the bell made over a 35-year span. If there is a singular quibble I have about the book it would be the amount of detailed information given about each and every trip—every stop, how many people showed up, etc. Without doubt there is value to such data, and in this case it serves to highlight the increasing popularity of the relic and how it served to bolster patriotism at crucial times when it was needed. I view this (very minor) discontent on my behalf as indicative of my wanting to learn the next piece of lore or passionate affect upon a new generation.

Appropriately, an in-depth look at the anti-slavery movement and the chimer’s role in it exposes the reader to many instances in which liberty was pronounced and exercised within close proximity to the bell, often at the expense of slaves.

A story from 1851, involving 33 blacks and five whites, furnished the reverberating overtones for caustic feelings from slaves being brought to trial in Independence Hall, mere steps from where the bell hung. Fugitive slaves had escaped into Lancaster County and these thirty-eight people defended them during what was termed the “Christmas riot” in which a Maryland slaveowner had pursued one of his own fleeing slaves and got caught in the turmoil and was killed. Abolitionists extolled the group as following the example of “Washington and other American heroes” in 1776. But outside Independence Hall a crowd of whites called for justice and punishment for those responsible for the killing and for “taking the lives of men in pursuit of their recognized and rightful property.” The Leviticus proclamation on the bell would seal its fame and its catapult into the world of causes—in a most moral and vitally important way.

Nash has given a beloved, if muted, icon a solid, well-researched biography, one which puts right generations of embellished legend and sets into a proper framework the genuine gift to American the Liberty Bell has become. Iconic history at its sonorous best.

As always I thank Rhonda Sturtz and the New York Journal of Books for procuring a copy of this book for review. Thanks also to Yale University Press for the review copy.

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D.O.U.


Logo for Operation Pedro PanFifty years ago this week some 14,000 Cuban children were part of a Miami-based project called Operation Pedro Pan. They were brought to the U.S. In hopes of having a better life instead of the almost certain abject poverty they would experience under the Fidel Castro regime.

One of the men who headed up the project was a simple man named George Guarch, who worked with the Catholic Welfare Bureau to arrange the lift. He was of Cuban origin himself, speaking fluent Spanish and English. He would be the one person who these kids would meet when they first arrived.

In all cases, as near as I could tell, the parents voluntarily sent their children even though it meant separation from them—the chance at a better future was the price exacted for such a steep sacrifice.

Fifty years later one of those children, Pedro Noriega—now 67, and George’s own daughter, Lynn Guarch Pardo, met to record their thoughts for NPR’s StoryCorps.

They talked of the trip, of what it meant to a child to leave its parents and home, of his recollections of seeing her father when they arrived in Miami. He recalled being taken with a good number of other children to their home where George’s wife made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. “I will never forget that,” he said. He also recalled meeting the daughter for the first time and that of a family which would “find a way” to make things work.

He also remembered George working with customs officials at the airport that first day on American soil. one eighteen-year-old boy had been sent with some siblings, and apparently coffee had been “accidentally” spilled on the paperwork
thus smearing some of the data on the forms. One of the areas needing to be re-filled was the date of birth, which was adjusted so siblings wouldn’t be broken up or older—’adult’—children wouldn’t be released onto the streets merely by virtue of their age.

It sounded like lots of coffee was wasted that day.

As the two spoke and remembered this man George you could hear their voices break, if only slightly. “He was one of my best friends,” Pepe says. Years after Pepe came here he and George began to meet once a week for lunch, until one day George didn’t show. Pepe found out his mentor had died the day prior.

“I’ve got five fingers. I only can count all my good friends with one hand, and George was maybe number 1. And every time we talk about him, you’re going to get wet eyes, too, believe me.” After an emotional pause, Pepe shakily says “I still miss him.” Lynn replies, just as tenderly, “I miss him too.”

This one man—and his family—sacrificed as much as the Cuban parents to give these children the gift of America and all the hope she promises. All the war, abuse, instability, politics, terrorism, and overall dark side of humankind can indeed be swept aside by a solitary, powerful idea. powered by Deeds Of Unselfishness.

If you’d like to hear the interview between Pepe and Lynn you can find it here.

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A Good Healthcare Screw“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Some of this information you’re about to read I’ve cribbed from a newsletter titled Imprimis. It’s a periodical sent out by Hillsdale College, a Liberal Arts university in Michigan.The ideas expressed match so seamlessly with mine I see little need to re-word what has been already written. So notice is hereby given . . . I have attributed the source.

One of my big contentions with “health care for everyone” is that not “everyone” pays for it. You, I, and others who feed the tax revenue system pay for it. Our system is hamstrung due in part to overuse by illegal immigrants. I’m not talking about immigrants or foreigners, or even naturalized citizens. Arizona and Southern California especially have HUGE problems with illegals crossing the border to have their children and obtain medical attention on our dime. This creates a mind boggling expense for hospitals, not to mention takes away from treating legal citizens who have health concerns as well. That kinda thing really pisses me off. I’m powerless to do much about it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t harbor ill feelings about it.

To make matters worse, some of these illegals feel they are entitled to many services, not the least of which is health care. I have a profound issue with that. They feel entitled to it. Yet they have no idea whatsoever what it is to be American at heart. They don’t care. They just know their country sucks and is corrupt beyond imagination, so they come here. I’m an Arizona native, so I can assure you I’m not talking out my ass on this.

Before I go on I need to say this: I have ZERO problem with those folks who are either in the pipline for naturalization, or for those who TRULY want to become American because they love this country and want to be contributors. My heart goes out to those folks.

So, having said all that, illegals, and other folks like them, feel they’re entitled to it.

They’re wrong. Period. Nobody is entitled to it. It is not a right guaranteed by our (note: OUR) Constitution.

The terms of our Constitution declare that every individual has a right to care for their health—that is not the same as a “right to health care.” Each of us has an obligation as an American to be accountable for our own well-being, to the degree we can be. You and I, for instance, are fairly healthy people. We have no business demanding that others take care of us ‘just because.’ I’d wager you and I both have too much pride for that anyway.

The right to take care of ones health is integral to our natural right to life; note the word ‘natural’. Government’s chief responsibility is to secure our natural rights. To secure them, not provide them. You can’t provide a natural right. Only God can. Any right man sets forth is typically in the form of law; man’s law does not equate to God’s law.

The right to care for ones health does not imply that government must provide health care, any more than our right to eat—in order to live—requires government to own the farms and raise the crops.

Hmmmm . . . does that sound hauntingly familiar?

It has the foul stench of Socialism to it.

The Constitution left the administration of public health—like that of most public goods—decentralized. The ubiquitous “marketplace” that occupies a cornerstone in our industrial and economic might does a pretty good job of guiding such things. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, not by a long shot. But when you ask the government to take over you invite fraud and corruption on a gargantuan scale.

Here’s something that may surprise you: I firmly believe that the health care system needs a serious enema. Few on Capitol Hill would argue. We want to embrace reform out of compassion for those who can’t get proper access to it, or who have been egregiously cheated by insurance companies in the name of profits. That sort of behavior sickens me. I wish a plague upon all insurers who pull that kind of shit. Same goes for those perpetrating fraud upon insurers, who now will be only too happy to let us foot their health care and that of their 12 children, too. Here’s a novel idea, folks—keep your legs closed!

Placing healthcare in the hands of bureaucrats is not compassionate. Bureaucrats don’t make decisions about health care according to personal need or preference; they ration resources according to a dollar-driven social calculus. Think I’m kidding? Feast your eyes on this . . .

One of the Obama administrations’s point people on health care reform—a Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel—advocates something he calls a “whole life system”—one in which government makes treatment decisions for individuals using a statistical formula based on average life expectancy and “social usefulness.”

Oooooh . . . do you smell it too? There’s that stink again. So, the government will decide what’s best for you based on some actuarial table and your “social usefulness.” But wait, it gets better.

The plans which emerged from Congress have a Medicare board of unelected “specialists” whose job it would be to determine the program’s treatment protocols as a method of limiting costs. Again, you’ll get the treatment the government best feels you deserve so long as it’s cost effective. Nice, huh?

Congratulations, America! Don’t you feel better already?

I, as many Americans, find nauseating the thought that government should make decisions about how long people should live and who should be denied care. So if you should need any further proof that we, much like the ancient Romans, have frittered away our liberty for some false security, then ponder this: The idea of government-run health care is in direct conflict with our idea of America as a free society and the constitutional principles at its foundation. How far removed are we from decrying our current form of government and installing a Caesar? I can’t make this stuff up, That’s precisely what Rome did when the Roman Senate couldn’t pull it’s collective head out of its collective ass and get any work done. Sure, that certainly helped restore prosperity to Rome; it flourished for centuries, but at a cost of their political freedom, and to a lesser degree, their individual freedoms.

I Want YOU To Pay My Bills

We are rushing headlong—and apparently, gleefully—into a welfare state. Do you really think that government subsidized health care is going to steer us clear of that? Do you want to chip in to take care of those who refuse to take care of themselves? I don’t mean people with legitimate ailments or infirmaries. I mean people who absolutely could get more exercise and eat better, but simply refuse to because, now, it costs them a whole lot less to see the doctor. Thanks to you and me.

I’m not real keen on that idea.

America will have little choice but to enter into a European-style welfare system if we continue to pour on entitlements. In some parts of Europe few people pay taxes—or pay none at all—while being simultaneously dependent on government benefits. Tax reduction becomes nigh impossible because more people have a stake in welfare than in producing wealth.

Let that bounce around in your brain for a few minutes: more people have a stake in welfare than in producing wealth. America didn’t become the nation she is without people who innovate, educate, research . . . people who do things, not wait to have them done for them. Is that what we’ve come to?

America has the best medical treatment in the world; without doubt, the most expensive. I don’t begrudge anyone that point. People come here from other countries to get care they can’t get in their own countries, in some cases because they are trapped by nationalized medical systems.

What really cheeses me about this whole thing, is that despite what Washington tells us, it won’t take long for lobbyists, special interests, and insurance companies to innovate new ways of fleecing the governent and us. They will prosper in the wake of what politicians clamored for. They have essentially gambled on pleasing a greater number of people for political gain—really, for votes. They will talk a good game about how they did it for Americans. What a steaming load. If they truly had our best interests in mind they would have given it time to be digested by we the people. Instead they opted to pull out the smoke-and-mirrors routine and set the PR dogs upon us.

Sit back and rub your tummies, America. This won’t bear fruit right away. I bet we may all be wagering our lives that in the next decade the fallout will begin. If not before.

I’m glad I have my own American flag. Now I can look at it and remember what it used to look like.

Considering the road we’re paving, Ben, I’d say you’re right . . . we deserve neither.

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Schoolhouse Rocks "I'm Just A Bill"

I’d wager that most of my readers are old advanced enough to remember Schoolhouse Rocks. One of my all time favorites, and perhaps one of the catchiest of all was part of the America Rocks series, which included the telling of how a Bill becomes Law. Keep reading . . . I have that gem posted somewhere, but you’ll have to read through this post to find out where!


Our friend Bill is found leaning against the door of the House of Representatives. He seems glum and listless. Let’s see what transpires:

Li’l Sam: Hey Bill, what’s goin’ on?
Bill: *sighs deeply* I’m feelin’ blue, Sammy. A little down. Maybe I’m bi-polar, you know, like Congress.
Li’l Sam: *scratches his head* Umm, what?
Bill: That’s a joke, son! I’m throwin’, but you ain’t catchin’!
Li’l Sam: Sorry, I just don’t . . .
Bill: Aww, hell. Forget about it. Doesn’t really matter anyway.
Li’l Sam: What’re you bummed out about?
Bill: *rubs his nose and sniffles* I just finished reading an article in The History Channel magazine. Enough to drive a man to drink I tell ya! But I can’t, really, being paper and all.
Li’l Sam: *stares blankly*
Bill: Absorption, boy! Don’t you pay attention at school?
Li’l Sam: Well, I . . .
Bill: Don’t feel bad, Sammy. Believe me, you’re not alone.
Li’l Sam: Whaddya mean?
Bill: It’s enough to break my heart, kid.
Li’l Sam: Must have been some article, Bill.
Bill: You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.
Li’l Sam: *raises a finger and begins to speak*
Bill: I know. You don’t get it. *sighs again*
Li’l Sam: Not really.
Bill: This article was titled Who Cares About The American Revolution?
Li’l Sam: We learned a little bit about it in school!
Bill: “Little” being the key word, I’m sure.
Li’l Sam: I don’t remember much, though.
Bill: Color me shocked.
See, this group took a national survey back in 2009 to see what Americans knew about the Revolution. You know, what got us here.
Li’l Sam: We fought Britain over lack of representation in Parliament, right?
Bill: Not bad kid. In a roundabout way, you’ve got a grasp on the underlying fuse that was lit. But get this. . .
The survey revealed that Americans “highly value, but vastly overrate, their knowledge of the Revolutionary period.”
They found that 89% of adults—that leave you out, son—felt they could pass a basic test on the American Revolution.
Li’l Sam: Wow! A lot of people must know a lot about it, then.
Bill: Whoa! Slow down, Speed Racer!
83% failed the test. Eighty-three percent!
Li’l Sam: *drops his mouth open*
Bill: Tell me about it. I’m right there with ya, Sammy.
Li’l Sam: That’s bad!
Bill: You’re gettin’ ahead of yourself, kid. Listen to this:
Half of all adults surveyed believed the Civil War, The Emancipation Proclamation, or the War of 1812 occured before the Revolution. See what reality TV will do to ya, Sammy?
Before the Revolution! Are you f****ng kidding me!
Li’l Sam: But the Revolution began in 1776.
Bill: *slumps harder against the door* No, it began in 1775, actually. We declared independence in 1776. Where did your teacher say the first shot of the Revolution was fired?
Li’l Sam: Umm, in Lexington, I think.
Bill: Good boy!
Li’l Sam: Followed by a battle in Concord, Massachussets, right?
Bill: Careful son, you’re stepping on my despair.
Li’l Sam: *stares again*
Bill: *waves him off*
Bill: Here’s another punch in the face:
More Americans polled knew that pop singer Michael Jackson sang Beat It than the fact that the Bill of Rights is part of the United States Constitution.
Li’l Sam: *smiles brightly* I like Michael Jackson! He did Billie Jean, and Thriller, and Remember The Time . . .
Bill: Are you finished?
Li’l Sam: *nods quietly*
Bill: Good. Don’t let it happen again. Now where was I . . .
Oh yeah—One third . . . You paying attention, Sammy?
Li’l Sam: Uh huh!
Bill: One third of the adults who took the survey did not know the right to a jury trial is covered in the Bill of Rights. Thank God for Perry Mason and Judge Judy, huh? At least they know it exists.
Li’l Sam: Who’s Perry Mason?
Bill: A TV lawyer.
Li’l Sam: Like on Law and Order?
Bill: *another sigh* Yeah, kind of. I’m almost done, son. I know you’re quickly approaching your attention span limit. So here’s yet another mind numbing result:
Sixty percent of Americans could correctly identify the number of children in reality-TV show couple Jon and Kate Gosselin’s household (eight), but more than one-third did not know the century in which the American Revolution took place.
Li’l Sam: They don’t like each other now.
Bill: Who?
Li’l Sam: John and Kate.
Bill: You’re killin’ me, kid.
Li’l Sam: Sorry.
Bill: Last one, then you can go play in the street . . .
From a list of major battles, two-thirds of Americans could not correctly name Yorktown as the last major military action of the American Revolution.
What does this say about us? What hope do I, or you for that matter, have if we don’t understand what led us here?
Li’l Sam: I dunno.
Bill: You’re consistent, I’ll give you that.
Li’l Sam: Thanks!
Bill: You’re welcome. Thanks for cheering me up, kid. *does a face palm*
Li’l Sam: See ya, Bill!
Bill: Maybe not!

If you’re even remotely interested you can see the test results, or even take the test yourself at the site for the American Revolution Center. In case you’re wondering, yes I have taken the test and no, I didn’t cheat. I was tempted to on the last question, but didn’t. Here are my results:

And if you read through the whole post, then you’re entitled to the following:

  • A small site I created a few years ago which speaks to our Constitution and the underlying principles we Americans cling to yet know precious little about: That Which Defines Us
  • The actual Schoolhouse Rocks episode I’m Just A Bill. Go ahead. Be nostalgic. This is good nostalgia :^)
  • If you go here (the last page of my Constitution project) you can find a short video with Morgan Freeman and an all-star cast reading aloud the Declaration of Independence. Have your speakers turned up and maybe a tissue handy.
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    john_and_abigail

    He’d been sent as ambassador to Holland for the yet-to-be and very much struggling United States of America. The Continental Army, under the beseiged leadership of General George Washington, was trying desperately to find its collective ass with both hands—Congress had long since stopped paying the soldiers, supplies were either scarce or not to be had at all, and between defeats and abandonment the rank-and-file were becoming thinner by the day.

    John Adams was hustled off to Amsterdam to convince the Dutch king that the American fight for independence was worth Danish backing. He’d been told it would be a tough argument, but his newborn country desperately needed a healthy infusion of money and arms, if both could be had. Benjamin Franklin was already firmly entrenched in France with the objective of trying to woo the French Court to our side as well. At least he had the built-in advantage of the French and British hating each other. The Dutch were really too self-absorbed to get involved in any international conflicts. Adams basically got the short straw. It had been Adams’ passionate arguments in the courtroom and on the floor of Congress that earned him passage overseas.

    But of passions he had no more profound than for his wife, Abigail. John Adams fiercely loved America. He’d spent a great deal of time and energy supporting the cause for independence. But the person he was most devoted to over anyone else was his wife. When he wrote to her he referred to her as “Dearest Friend,” his “best, dearest, worthiest, wisest friend in the world”—while to her, he was “the tenderest of husbands,” her “good man.” John considered Abigail his equal. She was very well read, and equally passionate about her values and beliefs; both shared a steadfast commonality in pursuing independence from the British crown.

    During one bleak point, amongst news of the “Boston Massacre” and royal needling with things like the Stamp Act, there were calls for attempts at reconciliation with Britain. Abigail set pen to paper when a petition was circulated in Braintree in support of reconciliation:

    I could not join today in the petitions . . . for a reconciliation between our no longer parent state, by a tyrant state and these colonies. Let us separate, they are unworthy to be our brethren.

    While traveling through New York en route back to Boston, John purchased two copies of a small, anonymous pamphlet that had recently been published and had been causing quite a stir. He kept one copy and sent the second to Abigail.

    It was titled Common Sense.

    John and Abigail spent four years apart while he was in Europe. They never became accustomed to the distance. In their letters to each other they repeatedly and fervently stated how very much one longed for and needed the other. To be away from somebody so elegantly but firmly woven into your soul is hardship enough, but can we today truly begin to imagine how incredibly difficult it must have been in the late 1700’s? We have cell phones, airplanes, and e-mail today. In their time correspondence took months to cross such distances, and many times never made it at all.

    Abigail, and their daughter Nabby, eventually sailed for Europe to join their husband and father, but only after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. Abigail was deathly horrified of travel by sea and many times had pleaded with John to return home. He desperately wanted to, but he had finally secured Dutch recognition of America as a sovereign, independent country and also procured loans which were still sorely needed. This sudden success resulted in his presence being needed in Paris, alongside Thomas Jefferson and an ailing Benjamin Franklin. They were to work together on what became the Treaty of Paris. As an interesting aside, Congress sent specific instructions stating they were to follow the wishes of the French during deliberations. As it turned out, all three were absolutely outraged that so much blood would be shed and such hardships faced only to become puppets to another throne. So they did as they saw fit, which history later shows us worked greatly to our advantage.

    Throughout their separation both Abigail and John suffered physically as a result of the distance. But both believed so strongly in the cause of freedom they placed themselves secondary to its germination and care. Upon once again being rejoined on the outskirts of France, they found great contentment and happiness in one anothers company. While Jefferson and Franklin often fell ill, Adams’s own health was more robust than ever, thought in large part as a result of being with the woman he so dearly cherished. John not only had his daughter and wife with him, but also his oldest son, John Quincy. While Abigail often bemoaned the seemingly interminable passing seasons in Massachusetts without her “good man,” the four of them en famille had paid dividends far beyond what she’d ever dreamt possible. She’d supported her husband from afar and held both he and her beloved America in the same stead. After some time in France, especially during winter when snow was falling upon the Parisian countryside, she would become sadly homesick, having once written to her sister Mary that it “looked so American.” “What a sad misfortune it is,” she added, “to have the body in one place and the soul in another.” Now she missed her country, but was with her best friend and husband.

    John Adams’s contribution to the founding fabric of our nation is not nearly as predominant in our education as those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln; indeed, all great leaders and icons in their own right. John Adams had, on many occasions, been accused of great self-puffery and outright vanity, yet he also retained the admiration and respect of men such as Jefferson and John Jay for his sharp mind and unwavering dedication to the cause of freedom. His two most profound loves he clearly served his life for—Abigail and America.

    Inarguably, neither can be said to be “light and transient causes.”


    Happy Birthday America! A toast to our Republic . . . “if we can keep it.”

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