Independence Day – 2015

Happy Birthday, United States of America

4 July 1776 – The United States Congress proclaims the Declaration of Independence, and America ceases to be a colony of Great Britain: “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Art for Independence Day – John Trumbull: “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence”

Died 4 July 1826 – Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States of America (1801-1809): “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Art for Independence Day – Childe Hassam: “The Fourth of July 1916”

Died 4 July 1826 – John Adams, second President of the United States of America (1797-1801): “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Art for Independence Day – Jasper Johns: “Three Flags”

Died 4 July 1831 – James Monroe, fifth President of the United States of America (1817-1825): “Preparation for war is a constant stimulus to suspicion and ill will.”


Art for Independence Day – Bart DeCeglie: “Fourth of July”

Born 4 July 1872 – Calvin Coolidge, thirtieth President of the United States of America (1923-1929): “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

American Art – Part I of V: Jane Fisher

Artist Statement: “The ideas for my paintings emerge as emotions. My task is to turn those emotions into images. I do this by playing on the viewer’s empathy, sympathy, curiosity and sense of humor. My paintings are figurative, presenting people in varying degrees of self-awareness. I am interested in how people behave alone as well as how they present themselves to others when they want to make a specific impression. These are the two main contexts I have used in exploring this; presenting people in moments of isolation, and presenting them in performance.
Ultimately, the figures are the metaphors for psychological states. Their body language conveys feelings of discomfort and vulnerability, anticipation and trepidation, solitude and melancholy. I seek out the right actors to portray these themes. In this way my work is collaborative. I rely on other people to express my ideas. In the end, however, it is my emotions that I want to convey through them.
My use of paint is at once loose and precise so as to be visually satisfying without intruding upon the image. The medium and surface work to convey a sense that what is on display is frozen in significance. The element of craft implies authorship but the lack of stylization suggests they are neutral documents. As the artist, my role is to step back to let the painting take the stage and let the viewer have the experience.”
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher
Jane Fisher

From the American Music Archives – Part I of III: “America”

4 July 1831 – “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee)” is sung for the first time in Boston.

From the American Music Archives – Part II of III: “America the Beautiful”

4 July 1895 – Katherine Lee Bates publishes “America the Beautiful.”

From the American Music Archives – Part III of III: The Beach Boys

4 July 1964 – “I Get Around,” by the Beach Boys, reaches the number one position on the “Billboard Hot 100.”

American Art – Part II of V: Bob Ross

Died 4 July 1995 – Bob Ross, a painter, art instructor, and host of the popular PBS series “The Joy of Painting”: “Any way you want it to be, that’s just right.”

Below – “Blue Moon”; “Bubbling Stream”; “Winter Night.”

4 July 1855 – In Brooklyn, New York, the first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” by Walt Whitman, the quintessentially American poet, is published:

From “Song of Myself”

I Celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil,
this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

Below – Walt Whitman (1819-1892), age 37, on the frontispiece to “Leaves of Grass,” Fulton St., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1855, steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison.

Died 4 July 1997 – Charles Kuralt, an American journalist best known for his “On the Road” segments on “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite”: “The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.”

From the American Old West: Buffalo Bill Cody

4 July 1883 – Buffalo Bill Cody presents his first Wild West Show in North Platte, Nebraska: “But the West of the old times, with its strong characters, its stern battles and its tremendous stretches of loneliness, can never be blotted from my mind.”

Below – Buffalo Bill Cody in 1875; Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull in 1885;
“Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and Congress of Rough Riders of the World” – a circus poster showing cowboys rounding up cattle and a portrait of Colonel W.F. Cody on horseback, circa 1899.

From the American History Archives – Part I of IV: The Statue of Liberty

4 July 1884 – At a ceremony in Paris, the citizens of France present the Statue of Liberty, designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, to the people of the United States of America.

Below – “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper,” June 1885, showing woodcuts of the completed statue in Paris, Bartholdi, and the statue’s interior structure;
“Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” (1886), by Edward Moran;
“How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull’s wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty—“ – Hart Crane

From the American History Archives – Part II of IV: Lafayette

4 July 1917 – Making their first public display of World War I, American troops march through the streets of Paris to the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolutionary War. By his own request, Lafayette had been buried in soil brought from America. To the cheers of Parisian onlookers in front of the tomb, the American officer Colonel Charles Stanton famously declared, “Lafayette, we are here!”

Below – American General John Pershing saluting Lafayette’s tomb in Paris on 4 July 1917.

From the American History Archives – Part III of IV: The Freedom of Information Act

4 July 1966 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the Freedom of Information Act that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government.

From the American History Archives – Part IV of IV: Discovery

4 July 2006 – Propelled spaceward by “the rockets’ red glare,” the Space Shuttle Discovery launches on a two-week mission.

American Art – Part III of V: Leo Garel

Died 4 July 1999 – Leo Garel, an artist and illustrator: “My earliest memories are of drawing, way before I started school. As a boy, drawing was an obsession, and I was constantly with a pad and pencil.”

Below – “New Mexico Landscape, Starry Night”; “Valdez Valley”; “Untitled Landscape”; “Approaching Storm.”

Independence Day Poetry: Emma Lazarus

“The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The spiked crown of New York's Statue of Liberty

Independence Day Poetry: Shirley Geok-Lin Lim

“Learning to Love America”

because it has no pure products

because the Pacific Ocean sweeps along the coastline
because the water of the ocean is cold
and because land is better than ocean

because I say we rather than they

because I live in California
I have eaten fresh artichokes
and jacaranda bloom in April and May

because my senses have caught up with my body
my breath with the air it swallows
my hunger with my mouth

because I walk barefoot in my house

because I have nursed my son at my breast
because he is a strong American boy
because I have seen his eyes redden when he is asked who he is
because he answers I don’t know

because to have a son is to have a country
because my son will bury me here
because countries are in our blood and we bleed them

because it is late and too late to change my mind
because it is time.

Independence Day Poetry: John Haines

“Fourth of July at Santa Ynez”

Under the makeshift arbor of leaves
a hot wind blowing smoke and laughter.
Music out of the renegade west,
too harsh and loud, many dark faces
moved among the sweating whites.

Wandering apart from the others,
I found an old Indian seated alone
on a bench in the flickering shade.

He was holding a dented bucket;
three crayfish, lifting themselves
from the muddy water, stirred
and scraped against the greasy metal.

The old man stared from his wrinkled
darkness across the celebration,
unblinking, as one might see
in the hooded sleep of turtles.

A smile out of the ages of gold
and carbon flashed upon his face
and vanished, called away
by the sound and the glare around him,
by the lost voice of a child
piercing that thronged solitude.

The afternoon gathered distance
and depth, divided in the shadows
that broke and moved upon us . . .

Slowly, too slowly, as if returned
from a long and difficult journey,
the old man lifted his bucket
and walked away into the sunlit crowd.

Independence Day Poetry: Walt Whitman

“I Hear America Singing”

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Independence Day Poetry: Louis Simpson

“Lines Written Near San Francisco”

I wake and feel the city trembling.
Yes, there is something unsettled in the air
And the earth is uncertain.

And so it was for the tenor Caruso.
He couldn’t sleep—you know how the ovation
Rings in your ears, and you re-sing your part.

And then the ceiling trembled
And the floor moved. He ran into the street.
Never had Naples given him such a reception!

The air was darker than Vesuvius.
“O mamma mia,”
He cried, “I’ve lost my voice!”

At that moment the hideous voice of Culture,
Hysterical woman, thrashing her arms and legs,
Shrieked from the ruins.

At that moment everyone became a performer.
Otello and Don Giovanni
And Figaro strode on the midmost stage.

In the high window of a burning castle
Lucia raved. Black horses
Plunged through fire, dragging the wild bells.

The curtains were wrapped in smoke. Tin swords
Were melting; masks and ruffs
Burned—and the costumes of the peasants’ chorus.

Night fell. The white moon rose
And sank in the Pacific. The tremors
Passed under the waves. And Death rested.

Now, as we stand idle,
Watching the silent, bowler-hatted man,
The engineer, who writes in the smoking field;

Now as he hands the paper to a boy,
Who takes it and runs to a group of waiting men,
And they disperse and move toward their wagons,

Mules bray and the wagons move—
Wait! Before you start
(Already the wheels are rattling on the stones)

Say, did your fathers cross the dry Sierras
To build another London?
Do Americans always have to be second-rate?

Wait! For there are spirits
In the earth itself, or the air, or sea.
Where are the aboriginal American devils?

Cloud shadows, pine shadows
Falling across the bright Pacific bay …
(Already they have nailed rough boards together)

Wait only for the wind
That rustles in the eucalyptus tree.
Wait only for the light

That trembles on the petals of a rose.
(The mortar sets—banks are the first to stand)
Wait for a rose, and you may wait forever.

The silent man mops his head and drinks
Cold lemonade. “San Francisco
Is a city second only to Paris.”

Every night, at the end of America
We taste our wine, looking at the Pacific.
How sad it is, the end of America!

While we were waiting for the land
They’d finished it—with gas drums
On the hilltops, cheap housing in the valleys

Where lives are mean and wretched.
But the banks thrive and the realtors
Rejoice—they have their America.

Still, there is something unsettled in the air.
Out there on the Pacific
There’s no America but the Marines.

Whitman was wrong about the People,
But right about himself. The land is within.
At the end of the open road we come to ourselves.

Though mad Columbus follows the sun
Into the sea, we cannot follow.
We must remain, to serve the returning sun,

And to set tables for death.
For we are the colonists of Death—
Not, as some think, of the English.

And we are preparing thrones for him to sit,
Poems to read, and beds
In which it may please him to rest.

This is the land
The pioneers looked for, shading their eyes
Against the sun—a murmur of serious life.

American Art – Part IV of V: Eyvind Earle

In the words of one writer, “Eyvind Earle (born in New York City in 1916) enjoyed a prolific career spanning 60 years. From the time of his first one-man show in France when Earle was just fourteen, the artist’s fame steadily grew. The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased one of Eyvind Earles’ paintings for their permanent collection. In 1951 Eyvind Earle joined Walt Disney Studios and was responsible for the styling, background and color for Sleeping Beauty. Eyvind Earle’s painting successively synthesizes incongruent aspects into a distinctive style.”

Below – “Ocean Cliffs 1991”; “Blue Big Sur”; “Seven White Horses”; “Stardust Blue PP”; “Spring”; “Above the Sea”; “Quiet Pasture”; “The Wave.”



Independence Day Poetry: Tony Hoagland


Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud
Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison

Whose walls are made of Radio Shacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes
Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,

And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,
He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu

Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them
Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels

Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds
Of the thick satin quilt of America

And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain,
or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade,

And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,
It was not blood but money

That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills
Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part—,

He gasped “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were
Clogging up my heart—

And so I perish happily,
Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”—

Which was when I knew it was a dream, since my dad
Would never speak in rhymed couplets,

And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes
And I think, “I am asleep in America too,

And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”
And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:

“I was listening to the cries of the past,
When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”

But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable
Or what kind of nightmare it might be

When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you
And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river

Even while others are drowning underneath you
And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters

And yet it seems to be your own hand
Which turns the volume higher?

Independence Day Poetry: Miller Williams

“Of History and Hope”

We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.
The rich taste of it is on our tongues.
But where are we going to be, and why, and who?
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,
to keep on going where we meant to go.

But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?
With waving hands—oh, rarely in a row—
and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow.

Who were many people coming together
cannot become one people falling apart.
Who dreamed for every child an even chance
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
We know what we have done and what we have said,
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become—
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free.

All this in the hands of children, eyes already set
on a land we never can visit—it isn’t there yet—
but looking through their eyes, we can see
what our long gift to them may come to be.
If we can truly remember, they will not forget.


Independence Day Poetry: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“I Am Waiting”

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Independence Day Poetry: Jim Harrison

“Poem #25,” from “After Ikkyu”

Talked to the God of Hosts about the Native American
situation and he said everything’s a matter of time,
and though it’s small comfort the ghosts have already
nearly destroyed us with the ugliness we’ve become,
that in a few hidden glades in North America
half-human bears still dance in imperfect circles.

American Art – Part V of V: Russell Chatham

In the words of one writer, “Russell Chatham was born in San Francisco on October 27, 1939. He lived in the city until 1949 when his family moved to San Anselmo, where he spent the next twelve years. For the following eleven years, he worked and lived in Marshall, San Rafael, San Anselmo, Black Point, Bolinas, and Nicasio, earning his living as a sign painter and cabinetmaker slash carpenter. In the spring of 1972 he moved to Livingston, Montana. As a painter and author, Chatham is self-taught. He is the grandson of the great landscape painter Gottardo Piazzoni. He began exhibiting formally in 1958, and since then has had nearly four hundred one man shows at museums, art centers, private galleries, schools, colleges and universities not only throughout the west in places like Sun Valley, Aspen, Santa Fe and Denver, but also in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. His work has also been exhibited in Europe and Asia. Chatham began printmaking in 1980, and today is regarded as one of the world’s foremost lithographers. Because of his work in lithography, which he developed in order to have something for those of ordinary means, it is estimated Chatham’s original prints are in the hands of at least thirty thousand individuals.”

Below – “Snow Flurries”; “Spring Morning”; “Suce Creek”; “Winter Moonrise”; “Pond in Fading Light”; “Colorado Suite”; Spring Hayfield”; “Winter Light.”


4 July 1845 – In a ringing affirmation of Independence Day, Henry David Thoreau moves into the cabin he built near Walden Pond: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Walden Day

In honor of the literary, philosophical, and spiritual journey that Henry David Thoreau began on this date 170 years ago, I am asking readers to join me in designating today “Walden Day.” I do this not merely to honor one of America’s greatest writers but also to invite everyone to follow Thoreau’s example and make the determination to live more deliberately. By way of encouragement, consider this quote from “Walden”: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Happy Walden Day, everyone.

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