Each year at this time I like to read something which connects to the Fourth of July, a holiday I very much enjoy. Most years the topic is centered around the Founders of the nation, their lives, and their work at creating the start of what we now enjoy as Americans.
About a week ago, I came across the description for a book that instantly ramped up my interest in reading it, so it was ordered from Amazon. This, then, is my Fourth of July book.
Once I started it the reason became even more clear. On July 4, 2011, the British-born historian Simon Winchester took an oath to become an American citizen. Yeah, that is super grand.
I first came across Simon Winchester during the pandemic with his book The Professor and the Madman which is a grand look at the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. (After reading the book I foolishly watched the movie which was so limp and lacking in the fullness of the written words that it was a serious letdown.) The style of writing from Winchester, which flows effortlessly along with an ability to tackle an enormous topic and then present it with clarity is not an easy undertaking. He succeeded to such a degree that when I saw his name on The Men Who United The States I knew I would be hooked.
I fully recognize the toxic environment in which we find ourselves since 2015 and the start of that cycle’s presidential election season. But it is for that very reason which the book connects with me. By looking backward with the Lewis and Clark expedition, digging into the geology of the land, and following as Winchester writes of the five so-called classical elements we are presented with an enduring truth. Something we must not forget. And something especially vital to recognize on this, or any other July 4th.
The United States endures regardless of our bombast, and the, at times, willful disregard some of our fellow citizens have for our institutions and common-sense norms. We may have sectional differences, a plethora of wildly diverse and loud opinions, but our flag of a united nation still flies coast to coast.
That then, is the large generic take of the book, as I enter chapter four.
However, it is the arguments of deeper questions and ponderings which propel the book and make it worthy of my time. Perhaps yours, too.
Happy Fourth of July!