The remainder write for Slate Magazine. This venerable publication, perhaps in an effort to see if anyone was actually reading it over the holiday, published separate articles attacking barbecues, flip-flops, fireworks and pie. I don't know how many Americans actually dialed up Slate on their iPads while attending a barbecue, setting off fireworks in their flip-flops and eating pie to discover they were being scorned by Slate. I just hope I wasn't the only one.
To be honest, the barbecue article wasn't so much anti-barbecue as blithely uninformed. Will Oremus tells us that the practice of cooking outdoors "spread in the first half of the nineteenth century." I am practically certain that it was earlier than that. The practice of cooking meat over an open fire goes back to the invention of fire, if not quite as far back as the invention of meat. So the article contained some factual errors, but wasn't actually dismissive of barbecuing.
Not so Dana Stevens regarding flip-flops."Your Flip-Flops Are Grossing Me Out" is the aggressive headline on her diatribe. Ms. Stevens does not wish to see us slipping around town in this most convenient of summer footwear, going as far as to describe the flop, and by extension the wearer, as "lazy and lacking in character."
This gratuitous insult is calculated to offend any flip-flop aficionado, but is especially wounding to any Hawaiian, of which I am a former one, since the flip-flop is the Hawaii state shoe. We call them "slippers" instead of flip-flops. We don't need to distinguish them from little booties worn to protect the feet when first placing them on the cold floor in the morning, since we don't have cold floors in Hawaii. I remember the words of the wise Hawaiian who first counseled me to obtain a pair of flip-flops. I had decided going to the beach barefoot was a good idea and was hopping painfully across the superheated black macadam of Kalakaua Avenue en route. He looked at me and said earnestly "You need buy da kine rubbah slippah, brah."
And so I did, and wore them proudly, on all occasions, as Hawaiians tend to do. I advise Dana Stevens to stay away from the place. And Nathan Heller can stay away from my picnic table, after describing pie as "gloppy, soggy and un-American." Here's a piece of celery, Nathan. Stick it in your pie-hole and go sit somewhere else, and to hell with your health-minded nanny-state suggestions of tortes and tarts instead.
But David Weigel takes the cake, pie, tortes and tarts by headlining hisanti-fireworks screed "A Waste of Gunpowder and Sky." Wrong. Fireworks are what you have to take your children to see on the 4th, and your reward is the look of shiny wonder on their little faces that is only replicated on Christmas Day, and you have to spend more on toys than David Weigel spent on his vasectomy to see it then. On the Fourth it's free. That's a deal.
The Fourth is the most patriotic of our holidays and I enjoy every minute of it in spite of suspecting that I am less patriotic than many people. I lightly resent being forced to participate in public displays of nation-worship and personally think that baseball would be the same game with or without the Star Spangled Banner being played in front of it. Whenever somebody says "America is the greatest country on earth" to me, particularly if it's some yick-a-doo who's never been further than twenty miles from the backwoods hollow in which he was born, I always answer "How would you know? Have you been to all the other ones?" And everybody's level of patriotism varies from day to day; nobody stands by the mailbox and sings "God Bless America" when they get a notice from the IRS.
But when those fireworks are blazing in the Fourth sky, I can't help thinking of the rockets' red glare and the men who fought desperately beneath it to found this outsize country. And I really think fireworks should be just that, just fireworks, full of sparkle and boom, but nowadays fireworks technology permits the pyrotechnician to shoot hearts, smiley faces and geometric shapes into the air. I was watching this year's fireworks with my son, as family tradition still orders, even though he's legally old enough to drink now, when another strangely-shaped form burst into the night sky.
"What's that one?" my son asked.
"I think it's supposed to be a 44-ounce soda," I replied. And I knew I was in America.