“Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have.”—Harry Emerson Fosdick, liberal protestant minister

 On Saturday, Americans feted the war that gave birth to this country with fireworks, picnics, parades and protests. Due to a resurgence of Covid-19 cases fireworks displays and parades were limited or virtual. Picnics and parties in backyards and at the beach were restricted by social distancing. Yet patriotic Americans continued to celebrate with precautions and mandated mask-wearing.

Inspired by a meat packer named Samuel Wilson from Troy, N.Y., many patriotic folks were decked in red, white and blue from “face mask” to toe. Red symbolizes courage; white is for liberty, and blue for loyalty. Wilson, aka Uncle Sam, supplied meat to the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. Soldiers joked that the initials “U.S.” stamped on meat barrels stood for “Uncle Sam” Wilson. The real Sam Wilson was clean-shaven and didn’t look at all like the depiction of Uncle Sam as an elderly gent with white goatee dressed in the colors of the American flag. Drawn by 19th century political cartoonist Thomas Nast and others, he wore a star-spangled blue jacket, red and white striped trousers, a red bow tie and matching red and white striped top hat with white stars on a hatband of blue.

In 1917, artist James Montgomery Flagg created a World War I Army recruitment poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger with the caption: I Want You For U.S. Army. The iconic Uncle Sam was officially adopted as the national personification of the U.S. federal government and the United States as a nation in 1950.

Uncle Sam and other national symbols, such as, the American flag, the bald eagle and the Statue of Liberty, express patriotic feelings, but also have been used to protest the government and its policies. During these uncertain times of civil unrest, pandemic and the occasional hurricane it’s difficult enough to plan dinner let alone organize July Fourth fireworks celebrations and parades.

*The final word…Protesting is not new in this country. America’s 13 colonies revolted against British rule primarily because of monarchic policies of government, such as in May 1773, when Parliament imposed a tax on tea and created a monopoly on its sale. That was the catalyst for the Dec. 16, 1773 Boston Tea Party, one of the events that triggered the War of Independence.

It has been estimated that more than 45 tons of tea were dumped into Boston’s harbor. That would equate about a million dollars in losses today. The cost would have been greater if the tea had been thrown into the St. Johns River, because it would have been followed by tons of sugar; folks in the south like their tea sweet.

In 1776, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence officially making the United States, as Congressman James G. Blaine (1830-1893) said, “the only country with a known birthday.”

And so we wish America a Happy 244th Birthday and many more!