Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Lunatic Fringe

Ben Franklin: "The perfute of happineff?"
Thomas Jefferson" That's pursuit of happiness."
Franklin: "All of your S's look like F's, here."
Jefferson: "It's stylish. It's in."
 Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Volume One: The Early Years (1961)

Noting the passing of Stanley Friberg, known professionally as Stan Freberg - ad man and satirist.

Mr. Freberg's career transcends description. His Wiki entry styles him as "an American author, recording artist, animation voice actor, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer and advertising creative director, whose career began in 1944. He remained active in the industry into his late 80s, more than 70 years after entering it."

In the run up to America's Bicentennial in 1976 everything flowed red, white and blue. Yet a skit, written and recorded in 1961, surfaced as one of the most genuine bits of satire extant. Our founders were fallible, misguided and consumed of the pomposity necessary to forge a nation. Christopher Columbus's affair with Queen Isabella results in her bankrolling his daft voyage. The national bird - the Eagle - was a mistake of Charlie the Cook, who thought that the turkey looked more appealing as a main dish. Ben Franklin is a cranky eccentric more interested in the sale of his magazine than signing a paper likely to have him "hauled before a committee." Washington's victory at Yorktown was a function of a canvas painted by "The Rockwell boy - skinny kid with the pipe."

America is a strong, brave land made and remade over two and a half centuries by the best - and the most  challenged - humankind has to offer. Freberg's approach to our often inflated self-image was to point out that, in spite of it all, we were born of and continued to boast some of the world's most fallible creatures. Our strength is in the reality that Americans are also a generous people who understand we have blundered our way along, holding on to a simple principle.

We are all created equal.

Lucky us.

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