You Can’t Tell ME What to DO!

The comments and actions of millions of Americans over the past five years has me thinking that it is time to start a grass roots campaign to change the American symbol from the Bald Eagle to the featured image of this post, and our national motto to the post’s title; the suggested and current symbols are seen together below:

We’ve become accustomed to the eagle, of course, especially Boomer males whose expressions look much like that of the eagle when those men are sitting at the end of the bar and yelling at the TV. The featured image, however, represents our national personality–and for those of you who are thinking, “Oh boy, here we go again, bashing the anti-vaxers”–you would be wrong. The featured image of the spoiled brat has been the personification of the American Personality since before our independence from Great Britain and would go nicely with a more appropriate national motto: You can’t tell ME what to do!

And speaking of independence, you would be wrong if you think we broke away from Great Britain to start our grand experiment because of the sentiments expressed in the beginning of the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

First and foremost, the first truth listed had nothing to do with the rebellion against King George because the equality thing was dead in the water before the Founders decided we needed to let the rest of the world know what they were doing because “… a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that (we) should declare the causes which impel (us) to the separation.” (Excerpt from the end of the first paragraph of The Declaration)

Declaring that all men are created equal was a bit laughable in 1776 given that: 1) America’s Original Sin of chattel slavery had been in place for nearly two centuries, 2) numerous Founders owned and exploited human beings, and 3) many Founders and other notable Americans are on record (from the first arrival of Europeans on this continent to the present time) stating categorically that the white race is clearly superior to all others, so, NO, America didn’t rebel in support of noble ideals.

Second, how many Americans know that those noble ideals I have just questioned were inspired by a first-century poem entitled De rerum natura, i.e. On the Nature of Things? It was written by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC) with the goal of explaining —not the Evangelical Christianity that American Evangelicals want us to believe imbued every thought and action of our Founding Fathers, but rather–wait for it–the poet was attempting to explain Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience.

You may be asking, “How can that possibly have ended up having such a prominent place in The Declaration?” Well, it turns out De rerum natura was good old Thomas Jefferson’s favorite book (he owned at least seven translations), and he considered himself, not a Christian, but rather (as he noted in one of his numerous letters), “I am an Epicurean!” Can you imagine the Patriots gathered in taverns across the colonies calling out, “Three cheers for Epicurus?” I didn’t think so. (For more information about De rerum natura, see The Swerve.)

Third, selecting the Bald Eagle as a symbol was a strange choice given that its behavior is more that of a vulture than that of a fierce predator. No less a man than Benjamin Franklin agreed. In a letter to his daughter, Franklin wrote that the “Bald Eagle…is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly…[he] is too lazy to fish for himself.” And even if the Bald Eagle was a fierce predator, is that the image we want to project into the world? Okay, that may be a dumb question.

Fourth, I will argue that the single most significant, emotion-laden concept behind the American Revolution is summed up by Patrick Henry’s well known phrase: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Not being a bona fide historian, you should be taking my claim with a grain of salt, but I think if you take the time to Google the matter, you’re going to find many historians (who know more than the old guys like me sitting at the end of the bar) who will suggest that “Give me liberty, or give me death” is indeed the emotional and primary foundation upon which the American Revolution was based. And of course, translated into the lingua franca of today, Henry’s proclamation means, “You can’t tell ME what to do!

Fifth and last, give some thought to the events in American History as well as those events in our daily lives that provide evidence that supports changing our national symbol and motto as I have suggested, evidence such as:

  • Millions of American drivers: 1) regularly exceed posted speed limits by 5, 10, 15 or 40 mph, 2) regularly and incautiously speed when they see a yellow traffic light, 3) go through the red lights that follow yellow lights because we know the opposing traffic will not get a green light for 3 to 5 seconds after our light changes to red, and 4) consider STOP signs as mere suggestions. (Give a little more thought to how Americans–including you and me–drive, and you’ll come up with lots of reasons that support changing the American motto and symbol)
  • Initial, strenuous, and failed resistance to safety-related laws and regulations (e.g. seatbelts, child car restraints, smoking in public spaces, states’ requirements for car insurance)
  • Senate Republicans block U.S. participation in the League of Nations after 44 other nations (initially including the U.S.) had agreed to support it.
  • The millions of lies we Boomers told our parents over the years in order to do what we weren’t “allowed” to do but wanted to do (I’ll let other generations “fess up” to their own transgressions).
  • Over four thousand, documented, vigilante lynchings and burnings (many of which were attended by hundreds and even thousands of spectators) from the end of the Civil War to after World War II
  • Butting in line
  • Watergate
  • Large mobs of white Americans who, between the two World Wars, chased African American homeowners from their neighborhoods
  • Bill Clinton’s (and other politicians’) sexual antics
  • Defiance of Congressional Subpoenas
  • Sneaking into a women’s dorm in the Sixties in order to have sex with our girlfriends or with girls who were just really good friends
  • A very large number of random shootings and killings each year
  • Citing contrived rationales to justify not masking up or getting vaccinated, almost always followed by declarations of … see the title of this post
  • Speakeasies during Prohibition
  • Mitch McConnell and Merrick Garland
  • Lying about weapons of mass destruction in order to bomb the shit out of Iraq
  • A bona fide insurrection
  • Millions of Americans of all ages getting high on illegal drugs, and millions of underage kids drinking alcohol
  • A President telling over 30,000 documented lies/untruths/fabrications in four years
  • A Civil War

So, fellow Americans, what do you think? Is it time for a change?

Dear Reader: your “follow” will be most appreciated (click “Menu” in this post) as will forwarding this post’s link to a friend who you think might enjoy the blog. Thanks! Jeff

The featured image has been purchased from iStock; the Bald Eagle is an image by Peter Kraayvanger from Pixabay; no copyright infringement is intended for either image, nor is there an intent or possibility on the part of the blogger to monetize the use of the images in this post.