Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, July 09, 2010

Jihad in Space - Heaven Help Us!

“As above, so below.” Hermetic maxim
The ancient Hermetics believed that what happened on earth corresponded with what was happening in the heavens. “Herm” was a stone pillar used in ancient Greece to communicate with the gods. Hermes was a generic name for god. He only became known as the God of Knowledge in the 2nd century A.D. The Chinese, the Indians, and the Persians all developed methods of astrology as well.

Which has nothing at all to do with astronomy, the scientific, empirically-based study of the universe. From ancient times, cultures all over the world studied the heavens. In the West, the studies began with the ancient Babylonians (Iraq).

The Greeks then made great advances in the science of astronomy. In the 3rd century BC, Aristarchus of Samos calculated the size of the Earth, and was the first to propose a heliocentric model of the solar system. In the 2nd century BC, the ancient mathematician Hipparchus calculated the size and distance of the Moon and invented the earliest known astronomical devices such as the astrolabe.

Hipparchus also created a comprehensive catalog of 1020 stars, and most of the constellations of the northern hemisphere are taken from Greek astronomy.  The Antikythera mechanism (c. 150–80 BC) was an early analog computer designed to calculate the location of the Sun, Moon, and planets for a given date. Technological artifacts of similar complexity did not reappear until the 14th century, when mechanical astronomical clocks appeared in Europe.

Hipparchus’ work, however, vanished. Fortunately, Ptolemy of Alexandria recorded his observations in The Almagest. The Almagest has also been valuable to students of mathematics because it documents the ancient Hipparchus' mathematical work. He wrote about trigonometry, but because his works have been lost, mathematicians use Ptolemy's book as their source for Hipparchus' works and ancient Greek trigonometry in general.

The Dark Ages befell Europe, with its wars and plagues and falling off of knowledge. So it was Islam to the rescue, or so we’re told. Now followers of the seventh century religion, Arabic astronomers (borrowing on the advances of the Greek and Egyptian cultures they’d overrun) made great discoveries like the Milky Way. They began adding stars to the star catalog, naturally giving them Arabic names and translating some of the Greek and Roman names already in the books into Arabic to teach in their universities.

But according to The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, by Robert Spencer, all above is not all as it seems below. The Muslims, believing God was free to do what he wanted, didn’t create the Universe by any rational laws. A rational law would dictate that there’s something that God cannot do.

Christians call them miracles. The Muslims considered science heresy and drove off many of its great minds. Science flourished through these immigrants to Europe; it stagnated in the Middle East.

Then, too, many of the scientific and mathematical discoveries to which they laid claim, such as algebra, had been discovered centuries before. Al-Khwarizmi introduced Europe to algebra in his treatise, Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, from which the world algebra is derived. But he didn’t invent it. Even the Arabic numerals, according Spencer, are not Arabic, but Indian.

He and other Muslim scholars flourished in Europe and were ignored in their own lands, Spencer says, because Muslim schools relied largely on memorization of the Koran and not much else. You had the word of Allah, so what else did you need? Philosophers were considered infidels, heretics.

By the time Columbus discovered America, Islam pretty much dominated the Middle East. In school, we’re taught that Columbus was seeking a shorter route to the Far East. The truth, Spencer tells us, is explorers were seeking a less dangerous route to India and China.

“The Fall of Constantinople to the Muslims in 1453 choked off the trade routes to the East. This was devastating for European tradesmen, who had until then, traveled to Asia for spices and other goods by land.” p. 97

Another consequence was the aforementioned emigration of Greek intellectuals and philosophers to Europe. “This,” Spencer explains, “led to the rediscovery of classical philosophy and literature.”

Now Obama has charged the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) with a new mission – to serve as ambassador to the Muslim world, to acknowledge the religion’s “contributions” to science and space exploration.

The Muslims were responsible for the name of one interesting star, “Algol”, Arabic for “the ghoul” or demon star. Modern science no longer names individual stars, as I learned in my college astronomy class years ago. Instead, it alphabetically catalogs the stars, according to their constellation and their brightness (i.e., Alpha Centauri).

Not content with claiming credit for scientific discoveries they didn’t initially make, and persecuting those among their own kind who did make contributions, nor with their quest for global jihad, in which every non-Muslim who survives will be reduced to second-class citizenship, they’ve expanded their reach to conquer the universe.

This is the stuff science fiction movies are made of. Learning from history, they’ve come to realize that their subjects invariably find a way to elude them, witness the discovery of the New World. Now that the West has done all the hard work, they can put our space program to the greater purposes of serving Allah, or so they think. After all, Allah can do anything. There are no rules.

Obama has foreseen that we might try to escape his clutches. He’s usurped NASA’s initial mission of space exploration and reserved it for the proselytization of Islam. I wonder how they’re going to find the “east” in outer space? I guess it will be enough to calculate the position of earth and point their spaceship in that direction.

What a spectacle we will make in outer space, a theater for the rest of the appalled galaxy. A brave band of futuristic freedom fighters fleeing a totalitarian theocracy. Will they forbid any of us to land in their star systems, blasting us all out of the sky (as they probably should)? Will they harbor the freedom fugitives? Will they side with the oppressors?

Or will they be bigger, stronger, and even meaner than the Islamists, ensuring the enslavement of the entire universe? Stay tuned.

And pray.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Tale of Two Memorials

Queen Elizabeth II visited New York City this week. Tea Party Patriot though, I am, I would have loved to have gone over to the City to catch a glimpse of her. I just love her hats and she and I share a common birthday.

However, as we were in the midst of grueling heat wave, hat or no hat (which turned out to be “recycled” anyway), even though I had the day off as part of the July 4th weekend, I decided I wasn’t brave enough to forge through Lower Manhattan traffic on the hottest day of the year just to see an old hat.

She briefly visited Ground Zero, where she laid a wreath in tribute to the British citizens who were murdered there on September 11th. Then she and her entourage went down to Hanover Square, which is on Water Street, where the original boundary of Manhattan resided. There, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened a British garden in tribute to the September 11th victims.

Not surprisingly, she did not visit the Irish Hunger Memorial, mere steps from Ground Zero. Anyone who doubts Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus, should visit this memorial (as well as the British Garden at Hanover Square).

Potatoes were originally only meant to be a delicacy for aristocratic tables in England, a supplementary food. Only for the poor was the potato a main staple, as rice is in China.

In 1801, Parliament accepted representatives from Ireland, all landowners or sons of landowners. They were all Protestant. Once united with Great Britain, Catholics, who made up 80 percent of Ireland’s population, were disenfranchised. They were not allowed to own land.

The absentee landowners found that it was more profitable to raise cattle and sheep than to grow crops, and they found that by subdivided the land, they could gain more tenants and more land. The tenant farmers would driven off the best lands, now reserved as pastureland and reduced to small parcels of land which were not sufficient to grow large crops. About the only thing that could be grown by the tenant farmers in this poor, rocky soil were potatoes.

But the potato was subject to a number of “blights” and diseases. Between 1728 and 1851, there were no less than 24 general potato crop failures. It’s estimated that the blight phytophthora ifestans arrived sometime between 1842 and 1844. One theory holds that the infection may have originated in the northern Andes region of Peru. European ships introduced the infection to Europe and the British Isles in the form of guano, which was in great demand as a fertilizer. Even in North America, a potato blight was recorded for those years.

Two and a half million Irish people perished. The British attempted various remedies and relief projects for the disaster, even importing corn from America. Lord John Russell Whig, believing hat the market would provide the food needed but at the same time ignoring the food exports to England (the food that could have fed the Irish sat rotting at the docks), then halted government food and relief works, leaving many hundreds of thousands of people without any work, money or food.

The government then abandoned its relief projects and turned to a mixture of "indoor" and "outdoor" direct relief; the former administered in work-houses through the Poor Law, the latter through soup kitchens. The costs of the Poor Law fell primarily on the local landlords, who in turn attempted to reduce their liability by evicting their tenants. This was then facilitated through the "Cheap Ejectment Acts.

The "Gregory Clause" of the Poor Law prohibited anyone who held at least a quarter of an acre from receiving relief. This in practice meant that if a farmer, having sold all his produce to pay rent, duties, rates and taxes, should be reduced, as many thousands of them were, to applying for public outdoor relief, he would not get it until he had first delivered up all his land to the landlord.

Between 1849 and 1850, nearly 200,000 tenants were driven off their lands. European farmers fared no better, but Ireland suffered the greatest losses. As a result, they were compelled to find new opportunities in the New World. It was that, or die by the roadside, as thousands did.

Ironically, Great Britain became a socialist state, with its citizens dependent on the state for their health and well-being. The Irish, and other European immigrants, came to America to help build a great, free nation.

My Irish relatives arrived during the early years of the Irish potato famine. They settled in the Pittsburgh, where they became steel workers, and paired up with the German immigrant side of our family. The result was big, burly men with a hearty appetite for potatoes. At holiday dinners, we can’t make enough potatoes to satisfy them.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wrote Lazarus. She forgot about the hungry.

The British Garden at Hanover Square is supposed to represent an English country garden, the seeds provided by the Prince of Wales from his Highgrove Estate including yew and boxwood hedges, topiaries, and formal flowerbeds, with garden walkways paved in a dark, reflective stone from Caithness, Scotland. A lighter-toned limestone from Morayshire, Scotland, will be carved into a "ribbon of counties" representing the entire United Kingdom. A water rill built from Welsh slate will run through the triangular garden, between benches carved from Portland, Ireland, stone and iron bollards fashioned in London.

The Irish Hunger Memorial features an authentic Irish cottage and is made to resemble Ireland’s West country, wild and moorish. You can almost imagine yourself in the Emerald Isle. The cottage at the memorial is from Carradoogan in the parish of Attymass in County Mayo. The cottage belonged to the Slack family but was deserted in the 1960s. The Slack family donated the cottage to the memorial in “memory of all the Slack family members of previous generations who emigrated to America and fared well there.”

You can see the Statue of Liberty from the Irish memorial (though she always looks small from the New York side). The British Garden is built along New York’s old waterfront, where 19th century schooners docked from all over the world before it was filled in.

The World Trade Center was meant to serve, symbolically at least, as the new “customs house” for New York City. President Chester A. Arthur had once served as collector for the Port of New York. That never really became its function, and in any case, those dreams were dashed to the ground a mere 30 years after they were constructed.

So on one side of Lower Manhattan, you can find a tribute to the victims of poor government and economic planning. On the other side, where trade once thrived, you can find a tribute to the victims of an assault on free trade. In between, you can find the ruins of that terrible day, freedom still struggling to rise up through a morass of bureaucracy, politics, stubbornness and stupidity.

Meanwhile, a lady waits out in the harbor, built to commemorate the centennial signing of the Declaration of Independence and conceived as a tribute to a slain president dedicated to freedom, still holding up her torch as a symbol to the entire world, not as an example of her charity or largesse, but of the enduring hope of freedom.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bird Brains

This Spring, I replaced my six-perch birdfeeder, in which hornets had grown a nest, with a new-fangled, 12-perch feeder. It’s easier to fill and hang. The old feeder I had hung out my kitchen window, where the remains of a kiddie swing dangle, making the perfect hanging spot.

Away from the door, the spot was ideal for the birds, but not so ideal for my patio furniture. When I bought the new feeder, I hung it from a former window planter hanger outside the dining room window. I don’t have to clamber up on a stool to hang it, grasping for the swing chain like the heroine in Perils of Pauline. Once inside, I can observe my feathered constituents from the comfort of my dining room table without alarming them.

My older brother, the frugal one, thinks feeding wild birds is a waste of money, when there’s a whole woodland filled with bugs, insects, and other birdfare on which they can feast. They’re perfectly capable of finding their own meals. Billy thinks feeding them is like taking coals to Newcastle and upsets the balance of nature. What bird is going to hunt for worms when the feeder is within flying distance? He calls it “bird welfare”.

This is an expensive proposition, too. Birdfeed isn’t “cheep” and the bags weigh a ton. Since hanging the new feeder in mid-May, I estimate they’ve consumed about 20 to 30 pounds of seed a week. At $5 per bag times 7 weeks, plus a bag or two more, that’s about $45 worth of birdseed and 140 pounds of seed. I can fill it up in the morning, and on a hungry day, by the time I get home, it’s empty.

I pride myself on the number and diversity of birds my feeder attracts: finches (the official bird of New Jersey), sparrows, wrens, nuthatches, chickadees, orioles, cardinals, robins (although they’re groundfeeders), mourning doves, pigeons, starlings, grackles, and crows. Plus squirrels who manage to grab hold of the feeder and shake the seed to the ground and the cute, but ever-pesky chipmunk who not only feeds on the seeds but has destroyed my pansy beds.

There are days when the feeder is seriously in need of air traffic control. Meanwhile, I’m providing endless hours of entertainment for my two housebound cats, who sit on the windowsill, hidden by the dark screen and the curtains, stalking their “prey.”

I can’t decide whether the birds think the human is a fool for storing all that precious seed outdoors in a container that’s not only riddled with holes but contains convenient perches for them to steal the entire horde, or if they think it’s a trap.

If they think the latter, they’re correct; it is a trap. I relish spying on them, luring them to my patio with a free lunch and then observing their every movement, their behavior at will behind my curtains or the blinds on my door. As soon as they discover my presence they flee, fearing for their freedom.

What a pity that birds with brains about the size of a pea have more sense than humans who gorge themselves at the government’s expense. Obama keeps filling his bird feeder with Obamacare seed and TARP suet and Financial Reform feed and the birdbrains keep flocking to it, oblivious to the trap into which they’re flying.

Why go to all the trouble of gathering our own meals of bugs and flies, never certain that the supply will sustain us, when the government trough is overflowing? Why not get our share? Why work so hard when the free lunch is hanging right there for the taking?

Never mind that there’s a dark cat with sullen yellow eyes stalking us behind the window, just waiting for the chance to spring. You can hardly see him for the dark screen anyway and cats are renowned for the ability to sit patiently until the time comes to pounce.

My cats’ ears are particularly attuned to the flapping of wings. Commotion, bickering, fighting, the flapping of distressed wings immediately gains their attention. Distress is the signal that it’s dinnertime. The whining of the poor, the hungry, the oppressed in the editorial pages of the newspapers signal to socialists that it’s their time to spring their trap.

Though the world is filled with food, they hang out their socialist birdfeeder, filling it at our expense, inviting the hungry of the world to come feast for nothing. The birds needn’t worry about the cost. They get so fat that they can’t fly away anymore and soon come to depend upon the government bird feeder, where political fat cats can watch them with lean, hungry eyes, counting the votes that will be placed on their dinner table.

Meanwhile, the bugs overrunneth the earth, and seeing this peril, the environmentalists come up with green answers, stamping out all the jobs that could have sustained the hungry. It’s all the fault of the humans, they complain. But instead of allowing nature to come up with her own solutions, they come up with human answers that only perpetuate the problem, for of course, the bureaucrats are dependent upon the dependent birdbrains for their votes.

So, the birds get fatter. The government fat cats get fatter. The birdseed manufacturers get fatter. Everyone gets fatter, until no one can fly away.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Coherent Vision

“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain
According to Washington Post, Howard Kurtz, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, predicts that the Tea Party “will die out.”

I can’t decide whether Graham is merely a Nietschean (“God is Dead” – German philosopher philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The statement first appears in a publication called The Gay Science ) or the emperor in Star Wars, gleefully cackling to Luke Skywalker that his pitiful rebellion has failed.

He charges the Tea Party with having no coherent vision for governing the United States. Actually, we have an extremely coherent “vision” – it’s called the U.S. Constitution, which those currently in charge of governing of us have been derelict in following.

They’ve violated the very first principle of the original Founding Fathers – a small government. Perhaps the concept of freedom is simply too pedestrian for the illustrious senator to grasp, to wit, his support of the bank bailouts, climate change, and immigration reform.

Congress was not designed to be a law-making factory. Since FDR’s reign, the size of the government has grown exponentially, choking away America’s freedom, the way a vine takes hold of a tree, gradually choking off its oxygen and its water.

He and other critics charge the Tea Party with having no central authority, no central message, no national leader. Good for us. We leave each other alone. If they don’t know what the Tea Party message is, it’s because the Tea Partiers allowed themselves to be badgered out of carrying their signs.

If I were the national leader of the Tea Parties, my first charge to my followers would be: Get those signs back up!! Laying them down would the same as soldiers in the Continental Army laying down their muskets.

My second “command” would be to get those horrendous pieces of legislation – Obamacare and the newly-minted Financial Reform bill – repealed, right away. There is a huge thicket of socialist legislation choking our country and it has to be hacked away. Obamacare and financial reform are the outermost tentacles of this monster.

The Tea Parties do represent many messages beyond the obvious economic concerns. We are being confronted by an enemy that attacks us on many fronts. Never fear, though, we are up to the challenge.

As long as we are under attack, the Tea Parties will forge ahead. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not a “fad” or a gimmick. We reject the pejorative images of racist crazies. We’re well-educated, well-informed, and well-prepared for a lengthy battle.

I would “command” my followers not to fear the media’s cameras – the 21st century equivalent of the Revolutionary War cannon. This is a hard edict for average Americans to obey. Naturally shy and reticent, they’re not accustomed to the spotlight, as legislators like Sen. Graham know very well. They see what happens to those who fall into it, and for the young, in particular, it’s a formidable weapon.

Above all, the Tea Partiers should not give up or think all is lost because of the cacklings of a moderate like Graham. His greatest weakness is that he forgets himself. He comes from a largely Democrat state and thinks himself safe. Perhaps he is. He votes close enough to conservative lines to satisfy South Carolina’s Republican machine, but is liberal enough with government welfare for all to get himself elected by South Carolina’s voters.

But his fellow legislators don’t necessarily enjoy that same safety, or arrogance. Critics accuse us of being shrill and alarmist. We mustn’t upset the boiling frogs or they might just leap out of the pot. Graham’s attitude is, apparently, once they’re boiled, what can they do about socialism? Nothing, as 60 or 70 years of history have proven. And the Tea Parties will die. They’ll be boiled out.

The Tea Parties are beginning to realize that the Lindsey Graham’s of the government are merely puppets in this play. They’re insignificant compared to the power of the voter, for all their money and expensive suits. Unless Graham finds a way to outlaw our currently legal right to assemble peacefully on our town squares, and even in front of Congress, we’re not going anywhere.

We may be insects in the view of this lofty senator, to be squashed under the heel of his expensive shoes. But we can make a lot of noise. And we can sting.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Light a Roman Candle

“Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Motto of the American Christopher Society
Our band did not play last night. Initially, I was mad, and so were the 50 or so other musicians in our group. We were scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. about the time the fireworks starting going off.

However, the rock bands ahead of us (and groups had been playing all afternoon) went too long. They didn’t observe proper community concert etiquette (where you know other groups are waiting to go on) and strung out their endless riffs and twangs. Nor did the concert organizers hold them to the schedule. By the time the last group had finished, the fireworks were just going off.

They hadn’t even cleared their equipment from the stage. The fireworks would long be over by the time they got their electronic equipment off and we got our chairs and stands set up. The crowds, with their worn-out children, would already be on their way home.

Our director made the decision – forget about it. Go home. I wondered why the fireworks team couldn’t hold off for ten or fifteen minutes to give us a chance to get ready. But then I recollected that the police department was probably on double-time and every minute delayed was costing the town money. The fireworks had to go off as scheduled.

Which meant we were out. We’d gotten ourselves ready, practiced at rehearsals and at home (well, the woodwinds and brass anyway) for over a month on some marches we knew well and others that were rather intricate. Volunteered our Wednesdays night for the last month for nothing.

We don’t think the rock bands did it on purpose. There was no sinister design in the oversight (though I wonder about the organizers). Musicians are always very considerate of one another. The last band - a “Cajun band” - was suitably embarrassed, although it wasn’t their fault. They played to the schedule (they were also fun to listen to unlike the hard rock band that preceded them). They were scrambling to get their equipment off, and even yelling at each other, but there was just nothing they could do.

Rock bands are new to the community concert band scene, a new addition, and have yet to learn stage etiquette. They simply can’t indulge all these 20-long guitar riffs that they perform as they would in one of their own concerts. It eats up time and it’s just not fair to the other bands waiting their turn to perform.

I could see early on, while the hard rock band was still playing, that there was going to be a serious problem. I asked the director if we were really going to have enough time to play. I was also going to ask him whether it might be better if we just set up our chairs in front of the stage. We’re pretty a loud group – we don’t need amplifiers.

I never asked the second question because he assured me we’d get on, and that first answer made the second moot.

My close companions weren’t as fazed about it as I was – they took it in stride. They said it was the organizers’ loss – and the audience’s if they didn’t hear patriotic music. But I was already extremely out of sorts. We’d spent 45 minutes to an hour listening to that hard rock band twanging endlessly away until I thought I would go out of my mind.

My apologies to Ted Nuget and all those other patriotic hard rockers, but hard rock just isn’t my thing. I’d sooner a dentist drill every tooth out of my head than listen to hard rock. If I was keeping some terrorist guy secret, all the CIA or FBI would have to do to crack me is put in a room alone, playing hard rock music.

Still, if it’s what the audience wants, I have no problem sharing the stage with them. I think they’re out of their minds, but hey, tastes differ. We were right near the generator powering the amplifiers and I was eying the contraption with some insane notion of sabotage, of pulling out the wires. I figured I’d be doing my band a favor. At this rate, we were never going to get on.

They finally finished and we thought it was time, but then the Cajun band ran on stage and that was it for us.

I was upset and so were the other musicians. My companions and I had arrived earlier however, because were carrying heavier equipment. The driver told the cops he had the gout and couldn’t make the long walk to the parking area. But that meant we were there for the duration of the fireworks.

We were going to walk, disgruntled back to the car. But there was a picnic table right in our area and we had a front row seat to the fireworks. I said as long as we were there, we might as well at least watch the show. Still, I was grumpy. I’d been looking forward to playing and my companions were irritated at my wet blanket attitude (although I did love the fireworks).

This morning, I remembered a talk I had with God about doing this concert. I talk with Him a lot. I said I was happy be doing the concert – I just love patriotic music – but being on stage and on duty, we’d miss the fireworks, which was unfortunate. But that’s the sacrifice all musicians make on holidays.

In the movie, Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby’s character explains why he wants to open an inn on holidays only. ‘We work hard all year,’ he says. Then along comes a holiday and what do we do? We give an extra performance.’

Fred Astaire just shrugged, but it is true. The Tea Party Patriots asked on their website what sacrifices people make for freedom. Well, speaking for musicians, whether they’re on a professional orchestra, a Broadway pit band, a marching band, a drum and bugle corps, a Dixieland band, a country music band, or yes – a hard rock band – you give up a good portion of your holiday to perform for others and make them happy.

We love what we do. We know it’s part of the deal and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. Musicians sacrifice a lot of family reunions, barbecues, days at the beach, picnics in the park, boating on a lake, sailboating, camping in the woods (as my supervisor is doing with her family in some remote, upstate New York park) to practice their craft.

We spend hours and months, in addition, preparing for those performance. We invest our money in instruments and music, sound equipment, and transportation to get us where we’re going (when necessary). It’s work, but it’s a labor of love.

I told my friend I was going to tell my blog how fightin’ mad (again) I was today. (“I don’t doubt it,” said he.) However, it seems God decided to answer my prayer (I hadn’t realized He was listening) to take a hand. Because we’ve all worked so hard for so long, He decided to give us a break and let us enjoy the Fourth of July show ourselves. Instead of cursing the silence, we enjoyed the roman candles.

Happy Birthday, America!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fightin' Mad!!

I’m fightin’ mad! I’m still smarting over the silent scolding I received at yesterday’s Tea Party for being fighin’ mad.

Maybe it’s because I’m part Irish. Maybe it was my upbringing – my ultra-conservative Dad, who was on hand for the socialist riots at the City College of New York, and my feisty mother who, as a young, 21 year-old reporter, drove a steamroller and learned to pack dynamite. Maybe it was my grandfather, a veteran seaman who taught at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, who never failed to badger the politicians at the local city council meetings.

Maybe it was being picked on at school because I wasn’t, shall we say, exactly an oil painting. Maybe it was the inspiration of my mother, who finding I was developing a tic from the abuse of a classmate, burst into the classroom one day, caught him in the act of ramming his desk into my chair. She threatened the teacher with his expulsion and her termination if something wasn’t done.

Maybe it’s the memory of the Sixties, seeing on television soldiers returning home from Vietnam to have bags of feces hurled at them. Maybe it was the site of hippie protestors burning my beloved American flag. Maybe it was the Holocaust survivor I met when I was four, the memory of Hitler’s atrocity burnt into his eyes and onto his forearm.

Maybe it was the many books on freedom my father assigned me to read, extracurricular from the garbage I was assigned to read in school. The last book before he died that he asked me to read was Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

Maybe it was the words of Pres. Richard Nixon, about our being “the Silent Majority” or Pres. Gerald Ford’s admonition that a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything that you have.

Maybe it was because, during the History Class Revolution of 1976 (our high school, by the way, was located on Bartholdi Avenue, the founder of our town being a good friend of the Statue of Liberty’s sculptor), I wasn’t the best student in the class.  I only maybe had a B average in history.  It was all I had to give, but I gave it my all.

Maybe it’s because back then, as everyone has done today (at least up until the Tea Parties), I took history for granted. I liked the subject and was certainly capable of passing it and did, but I didn’t excel at it (or any other subject, for that matter). I was above average but didn’t try harder than that. Up until that moment in the late winter of 1976, I hadn’t realized just how important it was.

It was scary, standing up like that to defy this teacher. The kid in front of me stood up first. In an instant, I knew I had to follow him. But omigosh, my parents would flip. Fail a class? On purpose? One that I could easily pass (unlike math, where I had genuine problems) and had to pass if I expected to graduate the next year?

But if I didn’t, everything my father and mother had taught me about America, and freedom, was all for nothing, if we let this teacher get away with this, without so much as a squeak from us in protest.

My older brother had this same teacher. Billy was always the better student, and the true history buff among us children. He passed the same course, with the same teacher, with straight As (I believe). But he passed it because he laid down the very principles our parents had instilled in us and allowed this teacher to stroke him into placidity with reassurances of good grades and acceptance into good colleges later on (and the concurrent, implicit threats if he failed).

Billy was pretty much the model son, as he was the model student. I was the ram among the sheep, always questioning authority, and getting myself into tons of trouble. Billy was also a bag of jello. An honest, hard-working, thrifty and forthright bag of jello. But a bag of jelly, nonetheless.

We think too much of the consequences of speaking up and not enough of the consequences if we don’t. “What will happen if we don’t fight?” asked the William Wallace character in the film Braveheart. “Nothing.”

When I spoke at the rally in April 2009, I was going to say something about cameras being the 21st century equivalent of the cannon. Only no media showed up that day to shove cameras in our faces, and as the organizers wanted me to cut my speech shorter, I simply dropped the useless references out.

But cameras are the canons we face today. We’re terrified of the media and what our image will be if we’re “caught.” We’re afraid of mussing our hair, as some ladies were a few days ago at work when I needed them to wear hard-hats for a photo.

What are we afraid of? That we might stand out? That someone will notice us? That someone might laugh? Let them. We already know what the media are. Are we also overgrown adolescents afraid of peer pressure, that we won’t be invited to the next party or dance?

Maybe that’s why I’m fightin’ mad. I see far too many good conservatives cautiously backing away from the fight, fearing a bad grade, as my brother did, listening to soothing voices warning them not to “overreact” or speak too loudly or boldy or to carry signs that might be deemed unpopular or controversial.

The racist signs have disappeared, as they should. But so have many of the signs that protested a government that has become a model of socialism, which is about to swallow us up whole. We only have a few short months until November, and we’re allowing the media, nervous politicians playing to the middle, and cautious moderates to slowly drain our energy.

Think of that when you watch the Fourth of July fireworks tonight. Are you going to sit silently with your hands folded politely, or are you going to ooh and aaah and cheer for the greatest nation on the face of the Earth?

I’ll be performing at one of those fireworks concerts today, and I’ll have to be perfectly behaved, with my eye on the conductor (or he’ll get fightin’ mad). But I’ll also be one of the few musicians standing and while I’m watching him and his baton, I’ll also be able to see you Americans out there and what you’re doing.

I want to hear some by-gosh, good old-fashioned American yelling and cheering! Or you’ll hear from me in this blog the next day!