Jul
03

Happy Fourth, Sort Of ...

Over the many years I've written this column – I think it is now 14, but who is counting? – I've taken pride in never missing a week. (Except for the couple of months years back when I impetuously quit, and then returned.) Only once has a column been spiked, or not used by the editor, and that was a wise call as I had more than the usual intemperance when it came to describing a certain clerk of the Superior Court.

But weekly opinion writing takes its toll. Some weeks the well is dry, especially when, as now, I am in the midst of a long summer vacation, idling time away at the Cape with my wife, my kids, my dogs and a pile of books. I could yield my space, and invite the publisher to find another voice, but that might be my undoing. This is, after all, my bully pulpit — I'm not yielding an inch.

So let me do what so many opinion writers do when the holidays tumble along. I will write about the Fourth of July, engage in what Edmund Wilson once called a little "patriotic gore."

Ready?

I'm not.

I confess, the holiday falls flat on my ear, and does not move my soul. Even re-reading the Declaration of Independence leaves me flat. I know I should jump up and down, and wave a flag in the name of liberty, but really? All of Jefferson's fine lines about liberty while his slaves worked his plantation? The Declaration is rhetoric of the first order, but it is dishonest rhetoric, not really believed at the time it was written, and having only a hortatory quality now.

I recall lessons in school as a child, reading about the Pilgrims, about the Founding Fathers, about Betsy Ross. One of the nifty educational tricks of the time was that reading about these folks encouraged me to think that their history was my history, too. It wasn't until adulthood that I connected some of life's larger dots: my forebears were nowhere near Plymouth centuries ago. Indeed, my father did not arrive in this county until he snuck across the border from Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit many years ago. He had arrived in Canada from his native Crete. He died an illegal immigrant, living for many decades in the United States on forged papers.

That's the America I know.

It's most people's America.

It's a land of opportunity, all right, but the chances people take here are defined more by hard luck, determination and pure grit than by participation in some broader civic dream of a City on a Hill.

I say all this with a touch of bad faith. Not long ago, I wandered into the tail end of an immigration ceremony in the courtroom of Magistrate Judge Holly Fitzsimmons. She'd minted a batch of new citizens, and they all milled about the courtroom, many holding flags, some posing for pictures with the judge. They were celebrating something I take for granted, something I apparently do not value enough. Do they read the early history of this continent and make the tales of others their very own?

I'm open to the possibility that I've grown jaded over time. I've stood next to so many outcasts in one court or another that I, too, now feel like an outcast. Or perhaps I'm drawn to the wild side of the aisle because I was born an outcast, an outsider looking in.

Such are the imponderable thoughts of a man for whom patriotism is suspect. I think I'll head back to the couch, grab a book, and lose myself in some other world. That's what vacations are all about, and the gods know I need this one.•



Read more: http://www.ctlawtribune.com/id=1202661764290/Norm-Pattis-An-Outcasts-View-Of-A-Patriotic-Holiday#ixzz36PExaHhl

 

Comments (1)
Posted on July 5, 2014 at 7:16 am by george cotz
Declaration of Independence
I agree that our country still falls short of the ideals expressed in the Declaration; and I will also agree that from our perspective there was a strong measure of hypocrisy in the universeo of "men" who the Founders regarded as their equals-- as you say, slaves were excluded, as well as women; and in most of their minds, Native Americans as well. Yet many of the founders rejected slavery, and we must acknolwedge that their concepts of equality were expressed in an elastic enough way to allow us, with their language, to include people of all races, andboth genders, to be widely regarded as equals; and it has also now expanded, in general, to embrace the lesbian and gay communities.
Looked at in the context of 18th c. thought, rather than modern concepts, it was a dazzling and daring exp[ression of hope that has inspired people all over the world for generations. There may remain a lot of room for improvement, but it is fair to say that that Declaration laid the foundation foe what has been one of the most open societies in the world; and it is still the basis by which we can justify reversinbg the growing trends towards class inequality in this country.
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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis

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