July 4th Declarations: a Nation, a Panda, a Soldier

6 Min read

1 Book rec

Declaration of Independence* (5 min read)

July 4th, Independence Day

U.S. Army Air Assault

Explicit language

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July 4th is the birthday of the nation and I’ve been thinking about what to write. It’s been busy with visits from family and friends. We watched the town fireworks display on July 1st because it was Saturday, I assume, and convenient. And, on Sunday we picked up my daughter from Air Assault training, where she had started the day at 0330 with a twelve mile ruck march wearing a 35 pound combat load.

She and my nephew completed the training. My family came to pick them up and take them home for summer leave. My son’s friend, Tom, was in charge and told us her class had a solid graduation rate. The speaker kicked off the ceremony with a welcome, the National Anthem, and invocation from the chaplain. About 244 or so students began the training with 213 successfully finishing. Air Assault is the movement of ground forces and equipment by helicopter into areas to seize and hold terrain.

Rappelling from Army UH-60 Black Hawk

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I had just read Mark Manson’s best seller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, which has sold 12 million copies and been on the list for 299 weeks. Manson’s tag line for the book is, A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. The language, not surprisingly, is punctuated with fucks but this is not a read that wins attention for the artful use of language. This is marketed to bro culture. But close to 6 years as a best seller means he’s hit on something. (Charlie Munger and Le Guin on The Art of Swearing)

I’ve been reading nonfiction that dominates the best-seller lists to understand the message. What are people buying? And, what is selling and why? David Goggins and Mark Manson go at it with gusto from different corners. Goggins is the toughest man alive and Manson was the failed student and broke blogger. James Clear’s Atomic Habits is the thoughtful how-to-do-it-better book: think small changes, big results. Ryan Holiday has the Daily Stoic and the Obstacle is the Way.

Here’s what I like about Manson’s book, which I read in a day. In nine chapters he tells us that happiness is the problem, that there is value to suffering, that you are not special, that you’re wrong about everything, that failure is the way forward, that you must learn the importance of saying no. The happiness obsession and the tyranny of exceptionalism remind me–get ready, this may be as far from macho man reader as mars is to venus–of Susan Cain’s Bittersweet and her discussion of the tyranny of positivity. Different tone, different audience, similar message. Failure helps us grow and navigate hardship. Happiness derives meaning from sorrow. Light does not exist without the dark. Failure is the path to success.

Manson entertains and packs a painful message.

We joke online about “first-world problems,” but we really have become victims of our own success. Stress-related health issues, anxiety disorders, and cases of depression have skyrocketed over the past thirty years, despite the fact that everyone has a flat-screen TV and can have their groceries delivered. Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual. We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even known what to give a fuck about anymore. (p. 8)

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My favorite is Manson’s superhero, Disappointment Panda. He has a cheesy eye mask and wears a shirt with the letter T on it, with his large belly protruding beneath. The T is for truth and he goes door to door like a bible salesman and tells “people harsh truths about themselves that they needed to hear but didn’t want to accept.” He enumerates: “Sure, making a lot of money makes you feel good, but it won’t make your kids love you.” Or, “If you have to ask if you trust your wife, then you probably don’t” or “What you consider friendship is really just your constant attempts to impress people.” (p. 27)

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Sling Load (load equipment and gear) Operation with UH-60 Black Hawk

This took me back to the my daughter’s ceremony. The auditorium burst into a roar when the soldiers began the Army Song. After the cadre pinned on the Air Assault wings, some soldiers were talking about the graduation rate, the ‘heat cat’* who had dropped out. The failures on the sling-load test. A solid graduation rate meant dozens had failed and one dropped out of the 0330 timed march on day 10, when they were this close to the finish. We could learn a lot from soldiers. Failures may have a chance for re-do. Or they live with it and learn from it. Failure is the way forward.

The market seems to love these how-to books and soldiers know something about tough. As did our founding fathers and fledgling nation.

Graduation Ceremony for Air Assault Class
Air Assault Class 1 graduation, daughter and nephew on right

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Today on July 4th, since my town shot off fireworks on Saturday, I plan to read the Declaration of Independence with my family. It’s not long (at 1320 words, a 4-5 min read) and I was surprised to turn the page of my reading last night* that highlighted the document. The ending was noted as a ‘formulaic speech act’ and an “official declaration with all the approporiate legalistic phrases.”

[Ending to Declaration of Independence]

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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.

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The beginning pretends that it is an announcment from a people to the whole world, the authors write. To me, this appeals to a broad sense of what is right, what is natural to all people.

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[Beginning]

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The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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In spite of a pretentious opening and legalistic closing, the authors describe the body of the document this way: “the language is clear and direct and memorable. It is written to be understood the first time it is heard.” Here are examples:

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The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. . .

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

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FOOTNOTES

*Heat Cat – is a heat category and used in this way, it means that a soldier suffered from heat injury, a heat casualty. The Army has five different heat categories with prescribed levels of risk and adjustment to training.

*Tyranny – shows up a few times in this letter. Repetition in writing is effective in subtle ways, whether done in close order or over the course of long work. Here from dictionary(dot)com.

tyranny. noun, plural tyr·an·nies.

  1. arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.
  2. the government or rule of a tyrant or absolute ruler.
  1. a state ruled by a tyrant or absolute ruler.
  2. oppressive or unjustly severe government on the part of any ruler.
  3. undue severity or harshness.
  4. a cruel or harsh act or proceeding; an arbitrary, oppressive, or tyrannical action

**The Declaration of Independence, full transcription for your reference and reading. 1320 words.

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

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.

Jul 4, 2023

2 Comments

  1. Serena

    Once again, I found your post quite inspiring. I appreciate how you take the time to link the past with the present. I also love how you share the challenges and accomplishments of your family. It provides me with a small glimpse into a world I know so little, yet admire.

    I will definitely be reading that book.

    • mylinhshattan

      It’s crass! but it has merits and helps me understand what so many young people crave today. Thank you for reading the THL and taking the time to write.

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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