TERRE HAUTE —
A spatula in one hand, a cool beverage in the other, and a stash of bottle rockets in a plastic sack in the garage.
The July heat triggers sweat, and the grill temperature singes your eyebrows. Motorists gaze as they pass by in their air-conditioned SUVs, almost pitying your steamy predicament. But, rest assured, they want your burgers. That’s your reward — envied meat.
Man. Fire. Food. It all adds up inside to a feeling of independence on a holiday built around that very concept.
The observance commemorates the United States’ bold break from British monarchy. Today, most folks call it the Fourth of July, but its official label is Independence Day, because on July 4, 1776 — 235 years ago, Monday — the nation’s founding fathers issued their Declaration of Independence. (Actually, delegates to the Continental Congress passed it on July 2, 1776, and signed it a month later on Aug. 2. The delegates only dated the document July 4. Let’s not wallow in minutiae, though.)
Independence girds the American psyche, not just in patriotic, national terms, but also individually. Our coming-of-age passages are all about personal independence, and we relish them. The horizon outside the windshield looks unlimited and so inviting on the day you get your first driver’s license. You captain your own ship — “I can do this alone.” Soon, your self-reliance surges more with that first apartment away from your childhood home, and your first purchase of a car. Later, usually decades, some folks revisit that feeling of liberation when they burn their mortgage (after paying it off, not in protest).
It’s funny, though, that I also remember feeling quite alone when that first car I bought — a massive 1965 Plymouth Fury — died on a remote stretch of U.S. 41. Twenty miles from my first apartment. In the rain. I had a driver’s license, but no umbrella. The road ahead looked unlimited, and very, very wet.
Instead, I had to rely on my feet, and on the goodwill of passers-by. Fortunately, a familiar face stopped and gave me a ride back to Terre Haute.
Things happen that way more often than we realize and want to admit. On Independence Day, it’s healthy to remember how much we depend on family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, complete strangers, fellow church members, fellow Americans and, yes, even people we’ll never meet in foreign countries. Unless you’re living as a Montana separatist or a pure survivalist, almost all of us get help from others.
Albert Einstein, a fairly smart guy, confessed, “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
Interesting — the greatest free-thinking, independent mind of the 20th century acknowledged a dependence on others.
Our situations haven’t changed greatly since Einstein’s day.
We all eat, and most of us plan on consuming three meals a day. Well, 2 million American farmers produce the majority of the crops and livestock for the other 309 million folks living in this country. But farmers in other countries grow stuff we like, too. Last year, Americans imported and consumed 1.9 million metric tons of coffee, 7.9 million tons of vegetables, 8.4 million tons of cereals and bakery goods, and 10.7 million tons of fruits, according to USDA statistics. We also drank 5.2 kiloliters of foreign beverages (which might include that Corona or Heineken you’re swilling while you grill the burgers). Even the independently wealthy (except for those rugged individualists who hunt their own meat, churn their own butter, and brew their own beer) depend on farmers.
The airlines in the U.S. transport 182.5 million passengers a month. Ahh, soaring above the clouds — a feeling of utter freedom. “You’re free to move about the country,” as Southwest Airlines puts it. Yet, every time we fasten our seatbelts and fly, each of us — and about a hundred other passengers — rely on the skills of a pilot, the crew, air-traffic controllers, mechanics, TSA inspectors and Homeland Security agents to get us to and from our destination safely.
More than 200 million Americans hold that all-important driver’s license. We depend on foreign countries — primarily Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria — for 60 percent of the petroleum used to fuel our vehicles.
When we get sick, we depend on doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies to care for us in clinics and hospitals. Nearly 1 of every 2 Americans relies on at least one prescription medicine daily, and 1 in 6 of us take three or more prescriptions a day.
Even Thomas Jefferson, the founding father who wrote the Declaration of Independence, counted on a lesser-known contemporary — George Mason — for the structure of that landmark document. Jefferson drew inspiration from the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which Mason wrote and was adopted on June 12, 1776. Do the following words sound familiar?
“… that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any impact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
That was written by Mason — a fellow Virginian who also pushed for a Bill of Rights and wanted the original Constitution to abolish slavery — before Jefferson began working on the Declaration of Independence in mid-June 1776, according to the National Archives.
Perhaps folks unafraid to depend, such as Jefferson and Einstein, feel more free, more independent.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or mark.bennett@
TERRE HAUTE —
A spatula in one hand, a cool beverage in the other, and a stash of bottle rockets in a plastic sack in the garage.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
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We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
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Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
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Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
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“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
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The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
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The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
MARK BENNETT: Transparency in public decision-making includes sincerely listening to the people
Transparency isn’t universally accepted in public entities.
MARK BENNETT: This Little Light: Remote chapel keeps a light shining on story of Flight 93
Father Al explained the meaning of the lamp. He asked me to light it.
The reverence in his voice offset the raspiness, left by his latest battle with cancer. Clearly, he saw this place as special.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
- Answers to the Wabash River Quiz
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The future tends to sneak up on you. Planning for it offers no guarantees, but it helps.
MARK BENNETT: Questions of fairness, impartiality, public trust legitimate in wake of school rating controversy
The discovery of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — weakens trust. The acceptance of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — erases trust. Indiana needs to draw a clear line between the former and the latter, and not cross it.
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Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
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I fielded an hilariously disturbing question recently. A friend asked if the word “Hautean” is meant to be a derogatory label.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river