CSotD: The Glorious Fourth and the Damp Squibs

Joe Heller manages to capture the two major topics this year: A divided country and fireworks.

I know which one bothers me more, but I’m capable of considering two things at a time.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Jeff Koterba)

(Edison Lee – KFS)

Not sure why Edison finds his results disappointing. I think purple is a lovely color and obviously Jeff Koterba would agree.

It does, however, raise the contrast between the Melting Pot and the Cultural Mosaic, the former being a conceit of old school American Manifest Destiny and the latter a formulation upon which Canada relies.

The Melting Pot was based on the notion that, while we welcomed a variety of ethnicities and races into our country — emphasis on “we” and “our” — they were then expected to blend in. In an actual melting pot, into which you cast various metals and other melty things, you would expect the contents to become darker if more dark pieces were put in, but that wasn’t the theory.

Proponents of the concept began to get the collywobbles whenever they noticed the mixture becoming darker in any substantive way.

That is, we love tacos and pizza and chow mein, but we’re not so sure about Catholicism and people whose eyes are a different shape than ours and perhaps it would be better if Johnny Rivers recorded that Little Richard song so we could play it on Top 40 Radio without getting complaints.

By contrast, in the Cultural Mosaic people are encouraged to maintain their own identities, with a confidence that, viewed from a distance, the picture will be of one nation, while if you look close up, you’ll see that it’s a combination of tiny pieces of different colors.

Not saying, mind you, that the Canadians have perfected the concept, but at least when people object to other languages being spoken or to Sikh Mounties wearing turbans, there’s an understanding that they should probably get over themselves.

A splash of purple here would indeed be nice, but made up of bright red and blue spots, rather than all mooshed together into glop.

While to return to a point made earlier, here’s an instructive


Juxtaposition of the Day #2


(Kal Kallaugher)


(Adam Zyglis)

I praised Kal the other day for reviving the once-prominent figure of Columbia, the warrior goddess who symbolized the US before the Statue of Liberty had became a landmark. Here he once more depicts his warrior goddess, though he calls her “Democracy” and gives her a dash of that darker hue from the Melting Pot.

But Liberty still has a place personifying the nation, and Zyglis depicts her as vulnerable and at the mercy of a hijacked SCOTUS.

Liberty can be stern and steadfast, mind you, while Columbia/Democracy might be depicted as back on her heels, when the occasion merits it.


Thomas Nast’s 1881 obituary cartoon for James Garfield is a textbook example: Since Columbia was normally depicted as a powerful, armored goddess, to see her disarmed and bereft spoke eloquently for an agonized nation.

Had Liberty been similarly depicted — the statue hadn’t been erected yet — the contrast would not have been nearly so striking.


Meanwhile, John Cole joins in the other half of Heller’s cartoon, upholding the right of dogs not to have to hear fireworks on a night when fireworks are a national tradition.

The topic has come up at the dog park, and the percentage of gun-shy dogs among our crowd seems small, which fits my experience over the years. Of the 15 or so dogs in my past, I had one or two who didn’t like fireworks or thunderstorms and would cuddle up closer when they threatened, but only one who was genuinely gun-shy and acted as a weather predictor, vomiting 20 minutes before a thunderstorm arrived.

The others might startle at the first crash and would look over at me as if to ask, “Do we care about this?” but then, seeing that I wasn’t ducking for cover, would be equally calm.

I’m well aware that it’s also about combat veterans with PTSD, though they know it’s happening, which the dogs don’t. And my friends with Vietnam flashbacks have other triggers that they can’t foresee and prepare for, so that this seems small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

It’s important, however, that Cole is complaining not about municipal celebrations but about laws allowing individuals to blow things up real good.

It’s easy to console your pup between 9 and 10 pm on July 4, a little harder when the explosions occur anytime over a drunken three day weekend, and I sympathize with calls for local laws and for enforcement of same, though I’ve enjoyed a few bottle rockets in my day.

The larger point being, however, that, while it’s not exactly like complaining about serving turkey at Thanksgiving because vegans are offended, it’s not unlike it, either, given that one evening of bang-bang is no big deal for most people and most dogs, plus you won’t likely end the tradition.

And people have tried: There was a burst of calls for a “sane” celebration back in 1914.


E.A. Bushnell evoked the dog issue in his cartoon, though the old fellow seems nearly as nostalgic as he is relieved.


Walter Blackman echoed a concern not for dogs but for fingers, with mockery of “Fool Killer” over-sized crackers, and the old tradition of firing the Civil War cannon on the town square.


Walter Allman dismissed the whole thing as a killjoy crusade against boyhood fun.


And Doane Powell used the moment to sound a political comment that seems to have regained a bit of relevance: Woodrow Wilson had recently dismissed calls for a federal amendment to ensure women’s suffrage, declaring it a matter for the states to determine.


Popular fellow, that Woodrow Wilson. He had the women lining up!


But it is, for all its faults, our nation’s birthday, as Tim Campbell (Counterpoint) shows it.


And Arlo (AMS) isn’t giving up on the country.

I’m currently seeing a lot of people on social media declaring that they refuse to celebrate July 4 this year because they feel our freedoms eroding.

Seems to me a pretty lousy reason to turn away, so, in lieu of Sousa, how about this:


7 thoughts on “CSotD: The Glorious Fourth and the Damp Squibs

  1. You hear fireworks in your neighborhood only during “a three-day weekend”? Luxury, luxury; they usually start here a couple of weeks before the 4th, and continue for two or three days afterwards.

  2. Wilson did switch sides in 1918.
    -He made a point of having the press cover his trip to New Jersey to vote yes on a state referendum on Woman’s Suffrage. It failed anyway.
    -In 1918 he came out in favor of the 19th Amendment and gave a speech to Congress endorsing it. When it stalled in the Senate he lobbied the last couple of hold-out senators to vote yes.
    (Just a reminder that Presidents can neither sign nor veto Constitutional Amendments. They can only lobby Congress pro or con)

    Like a lot of men in power at the time, he was lobbied heavily to support suffrage by his adult daughters. That sometimes made a difference.

    Of course, that doesn’t change how horribly the Suffrage picketers were treated. Sometimes, however, it takes activists suffering to motivate those in power to do the right thing. Think of the Civil Rights demonstrators on the Freedom Rides, in Birmingham, and during Freedom Summer in Mississippi.

  3. Elmer Bushnells veteran dog is recalling in particular the cruel practice of tying a round of firecrackers onto the tail of a dog (or cat) and setting them off — apparently a common July 4 practice judging from the cartoons of a century ago.

  4. Note for the non- celebrants – The notion of not celebrating Independence Day because freedoms are eroding is akin to sitting out the 2016 presidential election because Bernie didn’t win. How did that work out for you (for us)?

  5. Hard to agree with your interpretation of Bushnell’s cartoon that the old dog seems a bit nostalgic for having firewrorks tied to his tail.

  6. Mary, I interpreted the old dog’s reminiscing about the old days in the style of “you kids don’t know how easy you have it these days. You had a water bowl? Luxury, pure luxury. All we had was puddle in road.” (H/T to Denny’s Four Yorkshiremen reference.)

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