Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tyranny on the Edge of Town

We had a fine Fourth of July.

We discussed the true meaning of Independence and had a short ceremony honoring each of the founding fathers, though we dwelled mostly on Thomas Paine. Then we joined hands and voices and recited together the traditional Independence Day prayer:

"THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; "

After a hearty Independence Day feast of corn on the cob, fresh green beans, squash and zuchini, we continued observing the sanctity of this day by exchanging gifts beside the Independence tree. (I shall forever treasure my "Free Scooter" bumper sticker...thank you, dear)

Hearts filled with reverence, and bellies filled with casserole, we then journeyed to Roane County, Tennessee's historical center, where a famous treaty was consecrated hoodwinking the local Native Americans out of yet more land...The gravel pit in Kingston...Where this sacred day's festivities would come to an end with that most curious of traditions, so so music drowned out by the sound of ever greater explosions.

In our little county, we may have children without school books and decrepit educational facilities whose bathrooms must be kept locked lest the children actually try to use them, but nothing will stop us from sending tens of thousands of dollars literally up in smoke in mere minutes...the grandest of all "expenditure on a depreciating asset,"...the fireworks display.

(Actually, a neighboring town's fireworks event WAS stopped, when it was discovered that they were using an "unlicensed shooter"...The nerve!)

Anyway... This is our annual ceremony honoring the short fuses used by the British prevented their cannon shells from reaching their intended target 240 years ago and which provoked Francis Scott Key's famous line, "Bombs bursting in air." Had the Brits actually figured it out and corrected this during the night, our flag would have been incinerated, thereby destroying the motif for today's political banners, without which we could not possibly be patriotic.

From the high balcony of good friends, we watched the police boats herd the floating patriot navy out of the drop zone. Here in Tennessee, that quaint idea of "what goes up must come down" does not always occur to citizens with our science education, who cling to the notion that gravity, like evolution, is only a theory. The authorities did their job and as I watched the deck of the fireworks barge through my binoculars, I could see that none of the misfires managed to reach the revelers carft, but mostly just bounced around the other cylinders of explosives, spewing fire and teasing us with the possibility a historical moment of our own in a "grandest explosion of all" moment. Twas not to be as most of the ordinance wound up "bursting in Air" as was meant to be.

It was a fine evening and an even finer traffic jam, which lasted much longer than the fireworks. Our journey home took us through another fine little Tennessee town, where a nervous officer made three trips from our car to his cruiser asking for more and more documentation from me, refusing my entreaties to tell me why we had been stopped.

"I'll tell you later," said Officer 17.

I think he was lonely and wanted to talk to someone. The graveyard shift in a town of only 5000 people has to be very isolated at times. Finally he handed my license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration back to me and said, "You ran a red light." To which I said, " I don't think so."

"Yes you did"

"Which one?"

"I'm not going to debate you, you can debate the Judge."

"I'm not debating you, I'm trying to find out what you think I did that deserves a ticket."

"You ran a red light."

"Which one?"

"That one back there."

"There's seven of them in this town, which one?"

"You rear wheels were still in the intersection when the light turned red, so you ran a red light," he said, handing me my citation.

"Which one?"

"That one back there, two lights back."

"Do you really think I deserve a ticket? Do you really?"

And he walked away into the night without answering, toward his police cruiser and his duty to keep the town's citizens safe. I looked at my watch...12:05 AM...No longer the most patriotic day on the American calendar.




And now let me leave you with what will no doubt soon become Thomas Paine's most famous and often quoted excerpt from "The Crisis Papers" ,

" Paean to Scooter."

"...I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America."


And now something beautiful:

More info on the Diana butterfly, also here.


  1. Paine has some tremendous quotes, does he not? :)

    If only Libby and his ilk believed in Hell of some kind. They might just have a conscience to keep them from the evil that they do, and others from the carnage that results.

    Sorry to hear about the Barney Fife run in. Frustrating, no?

  2. Anonymous12:38 PM

    Running a red light means ENTERING the intersection after the traffic control device has turned red. Tenn Code 55-8-110. You should not be convicted for still having your rear two wheels in the intersection when the light turned red. To do so would encourage drivers to floor the accelerator on yellow lights, which would be dangerous. If you lawfully enter the intersection (i.e. not on red), then you should have the opportunity to lawfully exit the intersection.

  3. Thanks, Anon.

    Word is that several people are going to ask the Mayor to commute my sentence.

    Funny thing...Officer 17 and I have had a run in in court after he gave my son a ticket for curfew violation. On that ticket he added up the violations (1 moving or a headlight out, and 1 non moving for curfew violation) and wrote "0" for total violations.

    He knows my car.