03 July 2016

Is the Fourth of July Really "Independence Day"?

We Americans all celebrate the Fourth of July, but how many of us take the time to consider the real events the holiday does or does not commemorate?

Here are two reasons the Fourth of July may not really be our "Independence Day":
  1. July 4th 1776 is not actually the day Americans declared the United States independent.
  2. The day that the independence of the United States was declared seems much less important than when the United States became independent—that is, the day Americans truly secured their independence, rather than just declaring it.
First, let's just get the facts straight: The American Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain on July 2nd, 1776. Yes, the Founding Fathers of the U.S. officially decided that they wanted an independent country on July 2nd. July 4th was only the date when the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence as an official statement. We Americans may love the Declaration of Independence as a document, but we have to be honest about what we're celebrating: Did we want to celebrate the day our country's forefathers actually declared their independence, or the day they adopted the specific words they wanted to use to make their position known?

Second, regardless of whether you choose July 2nd or 4th, should that day really be called our "Independence Day" anyway? I'd argue no. The United States was not a functional, free, and independent country at any time until several years after 1776; Americans were embroiled in war! They were fighting to gain and secure their independence, and there was no guarantee they'd win. In fact, there were many reasons to believe the American rebels would lose. After all, they were up against what was probably the mightiest military in the world at the time, and many American colonists were still loyal to the Crown throughout the war.

What day truly represents the moment when the United States was independent, then? I'd say we have to choose September 3rd, 1783—the day that British and American representatives signed the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war and granted the United States Britain's official recognition as an independent country. The first article of the treaty is as follows:
His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.
That may not sound as inspiring or poetic as the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, but in terms of what they meant for America's future, they may well have been a lot more powerful. The Declaration of Independence articulated a group of rebels' reasons for revolt; the Treaty of Paris gave a nation its full liberty as its former ruler forever conceded any claim to those lands.

No doubt, the Fourth of July will continue to be our national celebration day, but when September 3rd rolls around, be sure to remember all the events that truly gave our nation its independence.

30 June 2016

West Coast vs. East Coast City Choices, Round Two

Wherever you might live in the United States—north, south, east, west, or middle—it's important to know whether you're a West Coast or East Coast person.

If you haven't done so already, please take round one of the poll right now. This second round will settle things once and for all. Choose which city you'd prefer to live in out of the following pairs to determine whether you're West Coast or East Coast. (Keep track of the number you choose on each side.)

*Note: Again, these cities are not meant to be perfect counterparts to each other, just interesting choices. Not all of the cities are on the coast themselves, either, but they're all part of the West Coast or East Coast regions.

So, are you a West Coast or an East Coast person? Leave a comment and let me know.

08 June 2016

The Final Clinton-Obama vs. Clinton-Sanders Map

In March I posted a map I created overlaying the state-by-state results of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with the 2016 Democratic primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. There are four colors: dark green for states that went Obama-Sanders, light green for states that went Clinton-Sanders, light blue for states that went Obama-Clinton, and dark blue for states that went Clinton-Clinton. Now I've updated that map for the last time:

27 March 2016

Unpopular Opinions on Revolutionary History: The Easter Rising and the American Revolution

Today is the 100th Easter since the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, when republican revolutionaries rallied to fight for independence from the British. The actual dates of the rebellion were April 24-29, but Easter's come a bit early this year, and Ireland has chosen to commemorate the centennial now rather than in a month. It's doing so with unprecedented ceremonies, as it should. The Easter Rising was brutally crushed, but it was a critical moment that soon led to the rise of the Sinn Féin republican party, the Irish War of Independence, and ultimately Irish independence in 1921.

On Twitter a few days ago, I noticed people were upset about coverage of this history from RTÉ, Ireland's national broadcaster. I never got the chance to see any video of the coverage in question, but here are some of the relevant tweets:

Not All Native History Is "Ancient"

Moctezuma Xocoyotzin, early modern leader—not "ancient"
(actor Cristian Esquivel, source)
The Aztec Empire—was it "ancient"?

I hope your answer is no, because no empire formed less than 600 years ago qualifies as an "ancient" one. If it does, I guess we need to start calling Leonardo da Vinci an "ancient" artist and scientist.

(Leonardo's life, by the way, was fully contemporaneous to that of the Aztec Empire, and he died the same year that Cortés landed in Mexico.)

On two occasions this week, I saw the word "ancient" used in reference to indigenous histories that are anything but. The first example was what you just read: I saw someone refer to the Aztecs as "ancient" and it just made my head spin.

17 March 2016

Clinton-Obama 2008 vs. Clinton-Sanders 2016: The Map

Many political commentators have made connections between the current Democratic primary and the one in 2008, fought between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. After all, one of the candidates in each race is exactly the same person (even if her political experience and some of her positions have changed in the intervening years).

One thing I haven't seen, however, is a map showing how well Clinton has done compared to her race in 2008, and how well Bernie Sanders has done compared to Barack Obama.

So, I decided to make my own. Here it is:

16 March 2016

What If We Let the South Choose the President?

I haven't blogged here at all yet about the 2016 presidential election, but the primaries for both parties are at very important turning points right now, so I thought it was about time.

There are now three candidates left in the race for the Republican nomination—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich. Trump has a sizable lead, and he most likely will become the Republican candidate. No one really expected that months ago, but his ability to excite voters with his nationalist rhetoric has been pretty powerful.

via Wikipedia

If you look at the map of the Republican primary so far, you can see the South has gone overwhelmingly for Trump, with the exception of Texas, Ted Cruz's home state. The only way Ted Cruz has a shot is if he wins the majority of the West in the upcoming primaries, and perhaps if Kasich is able to pick up a win or two in the Northeast, cutting Trump's advance. Given the results so far in states as diverse as Massachusetts, Illinois, and Nevada, though, that seems unlikely. Trump's appeal has been broad; voters just haven't seen a presidential candidate like him before, and many Americans love it.

In the Democratic primary, most of the states that have voted so far are the same as in the Republican one: All of the southern states have voted, but not much of the rest of the country.

via Wikipedia

Hillary Clinton won every state in the South. Elsewhere, however, Bernie Sanders won nine states out of fifteen, came in close to Hillary in Nevada, and came extremely close in Iowa and Missouri. Clinton's strength among Democratic voters in the South was overwhelming and undeniable. Elsewhere, however—in swing states and more liberal states—Bernie Sanders has been winning.

Many people are saying right now that Hillary Clinton has clearly won the Democratic primary: She holds the majority of pledged delegates so far, and she's won a large majority of the states that have voted so far. However, nearly half the states in the country haven't voted yet, and the South has made up the vast majority of Clinton's support.

If people think Hillary Clinton's already won the Democratic nomination, I think it's fair to ask this question: What if we let the South choose the President? 

Here's who would have been elected President in the last six elections.

  • 1992: George H. W. Bush (Sorry Bill Clinton, you won some of the South but not enough.)
  • 1996: Bob Dole (Sorry again, Bill, you never would have been President.)
  • 2000: George W. Bush in a landslide (though maybe President Dole would have run for reelection)
  • 2004: George W. Bush in an even bigger landslide
  • 2008: John McCain (Obama only won Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.)
  • 2012: Mitt Romney (Obama did even worse, losing North Carolina.)

And finally, what would almost inevitably happen if we let the South choose the President this time as well?

  • 2016: Donald Trump

I hope you'll agree we still need to hear the voices of primary election voters in the rest of the country. I will be voting in the Alaska Democratic primary on March 26th, and if you haven't had a chance to vote yet in either primary, do it!

21 January 2016

Are Spoilers Actually Good?

The new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released about a month ago, and it's made nearly two billion dollars so far. In fact, it made a billion dollars faster than any movie in history.

It would seem that anyone who cares about Star Wars must have obviously seen the film already. Not me. I do care about Star Wars: I watched Episodes IV-VI as a kid and loved them, and watched Episodes I-III as they came out while I was a preteen and teen. (I mostly loved them, too, but later—like most fans—realized they had some significant failings.)

Instead of watching The Force Awakens, though, I accidentally spoiled one of the major plot points for myself, and then the internet spoiled another for me. However, now that I think about it, I'm actually happier knowing the major surprises of the movie without having seen it, and I can wait even longer before I take the time to watch it. Perhaps—and hear me out on this—spoilers actually a good thing.