Thursday, July 5, 2012
What really happened the day after the Declaration of Independence was signed? Everyone probably went back to work. The Revolutionary War was already happening. Last night, fireworks downtown flashed through haze on the horizon in every direction. Rockets and muffled bangs first here, now there, whumphing slow explosive booms and staccato pops. Late, not warning where to expect more harmless artillery fire. Like tracers over the neighborhoods of some unfortunate colony. A routine evening battle.
A few weeks ago in Kansas, we rode to the geographic center of that New Nation. Katelyn and I picked our way through gridded flatland roads on the border of Kansas and Nebraska. There's a gazebo, a plaque. A tiny chapel, a battered wheat field. The closest town is the ramshackle shell of what was a functioning economic outpost made of peeling paint, broken windows and wormy gables. "Kansas can make it without the United States, but the US can't make it without Kansas." Attributed to Eisenhower. So reads a two-page instruction manual for entering the state. "We don't care what a feedlot smells like to you, it smells like money to us," continues the Declaration in an educational tone.
I'm not sure whom in Kansas has the money to buy nine million acres' worth of winter wheat, but independence is a venerable notion. The shape of this country depends that continued fantasy of self-reliant independence. The freedom to pursue individual wealth is what fortifies our vast interdependent continental quilt of capitalism. Independence is what makes the United States United.
Money comes from everywhere and goes everywhere. It spreads a uniform blanket of roads across the country. You can buy a burrito in any state using a magnetic card from any other state. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Nobody is independent.