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On (plant) life, (lost) liberty and the pursuit of Georges

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We asked readers to suggest ways to celebrate the ideals of the Fourth of July beyond putting flag magnets on their cars. Here are their suggestions.

How to spend July 4th celebrating the ideals the United States really stands for? Spend it in Canada!
--JOHN A. ZALOOM

Here is my suggestion to take a stand against ideals under attack in U.S. on Fourth of July:

Support the Bill of Rights and additional amendments to the U.S. Constitution against the USA Patriot Acts I and II, Homeland Security Act, and other restrictive regulations of the Department of Justice advocated by John Ashcroft.

Visit the tables of Orange County and Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committees at the Carrboro Fourth of July Celebration and/or Festival for the Eno to find out what U.S. citizens can do to restore these rights.
--MARGARET S. MISCH

I'm not the type to go all out on the Fourth, but here is a good way to celebrate what our country is all about for those of you who think patriotism is more than a flag sticker on your car:

Start the day by finding someone else's land, kill them, then invite all your friends over. Once your friends and family are all there, make the African and Asian people your slaves. If you don't have any present, the Irish will do just fine. Then let all the women know that they are not to have a say in any of the decisions going on for the day. Next step is to hang, burn, shoot, or just beat the shit out of anyone who is not white, Christian, or willing to turn away in the face of injustice to anyone else.

Now that this new land you've acquired has firm rules set in place, declare everyone free and equal!!! Celebrate by taking some more land near Mexico. This of course must be done by war. Make sure to make an effort to have all your friends think that this war is justified. If not, they may speak out against it. After all, they have the freedom of speech. Next step is to plan on how you can set up a system of labor that will distribute 90 percent of the wealth to you and your small group of decision makers, and the remaining 10 percent to the enormous "party-goers." Make sure to get plenty of taxes from your workforce, I mean friends and family. Use this tax money for whatever you want. Try sending some rockets into outer space. That costs a lot of money, and most people seem to think it is a good idea, even though 60 percent of your party is hungry and sick and could use that money to get fed, and get healed.

Well, nightfall should be around the corner, so before it's too dark, give the Africans and women the rights that you and your men-friends have, but keep the Africans poor and ignorant. Keep the women out of the major decision-making circles, and all others, just keep your eye on them. Try setting up cameras everywhere, and hire an enormous police force that does whatever you say. Make sure that they are heavily armed and that there are plenty of laws to be broken.

Just before sunset, take all that trash from the day's events and burn it, throw it in the water, bury it, or just pile it up. Don't bother doing anything constructive with it, or recycling it. After all, it's just trash.

Now that it's nighttime, set off some fireworks, or even better, drop a few thousand bombs on some weaker countries. Bombs explode with much more excitement than fireworks. Just make sure that you create a viable reason to bomb these people. After all, you don't want your party to get upset and speak out against your actions. If they do, however, simply jail them, or ignore them. Whatever ...

Under no circumstances should you ever take the advice of other parties. If others stop by to see what's going on, make them feel like honored guests, but do not take anything they say to heart. After all, YOUR party is God's party. All the others are simply followers, you are the leader.

Well, how was the party? Quite a hangover, huh?

Here's a suggestion on how to feel better:

Apologize for all your wrongdoings. Stop pretending that everything is fine, and that your biggest problem is some other party that might have crashed yours. Clean up your mess. Distribute your wealth equally, create a system of justice and equality, and tear down your wall of ridiculous laws and punishment. Set up groups to take care of the sick and elderly, as well as those unable to help themselves. Stop feeding the war machine. It's appetite is insatiable. Stop sending all of your resources and money into outer space. We need those things here on Earth.

I hope you can look yourself in the face after that crazy party. A lot went bad, and a lot was fun--for some. I think for most, the party was a let down.

Here's an idea ... Plan another party, but this time correct the mistakes of the past party. Allow advice and ideas from all groups of people, not just the rich, white men, or the minorities who bow down to their desires. The first party was kinda like an experiment. Now that you've got some answers, make your next celebration TRULY a celebration of FREEDOM, EQUALITY, JUSTICE AND HAPPINESS.

Happy Fourth of July.

All Gods, please, bless America (we need it).
--THOMAS D. HANES

How about an article about the importance of getting out to vote ... nothing matters more!
--RUTH-ELLEN FLANAGAN

What about public readings of the Declaration of Independence? The right wing can hardly object to it--isn't that what the Fourth is about?--but there are some passages that bite rather keenly these days.

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

This, if published today, would probably make Mr. Jefferson the subject of some very uncomfortable scrutiny under the auspices of the Patriot Act. But wait! There's more!

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good ...

He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance ...

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For depriving us in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury ..."

Different times, different circumstances, different Georges ... but some striking similarities, don't you think?


--REBECCA CARY

I suggest displaying the Bill of Rights at work on our office or cubicle walls. You could help by publishing a full- or half-page version of the bill in the Independent Weekly, and by encouraging readers to clip and display it.

Another suggestion is to encourage potential sponsor organizations to establish a Bill of Rights Day. The day might be recognized by events like those commemorating Earth Day. Maybe The Independent Weekly could be helpful in this regard.
--PHIL FONVILLE

I saw the call for constructive expressions of patriotism. Mine has very little to do with the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, or the short-sighted zealots who now control our federal and state government, but it's an easy way for everyone--regardless of their political persuasion--to have an instant positive impact on their country: Remove exotic plants and replace them with native species.

The United States, and the Triangle in particular, is full of infiltrators from other countries. Plants from other countries are grown and sold here, and planted in yards and landscapes all over the country. Separated from the ecological forces that control their populations in their native lands, they escape containment and spread into adjacent fields, forests, and wetlands. Native wildflowers are shaded out, trees and shrubs outcompeted. The caterpillars of butterflies and moths, and other insects of all sorts, can no longer find appropriate foods. Without the insects, birds can't feed their growing nestlings, while the adult birds themselves eat junk-food-like fruits off invaders instead of the more nutritious native equivalents. Whole ecosystems with hundreds of species collapse into wastelands with dozens at best.

The Ellerbe Creek nature preserve, which The Independent named "Best Urban Jungle" in the 2002 "Best of the Triangle" issue, is besieged by Chinese Wisteria. Eno River State Park is being strangled by Japanese Honeysuckle. English Ivy carpets large areas of the Duke Forest. Near Carrboro, a future preserve of the Triangle Land Conservancy is riddled with Russian Olive. The Johnston Mill Preserve is surrounded by Ailanthus, the horrifyingly misnamed Tree-of-Heaven. The North Carolina Botanical Garden must defend itself against Mahonia bealei, commonly called Oregon Grape but actually another Asian immigrant. Shop at most nurseries and you'll see other Asian and Euro plants like Nandina ("Heavenly" Bamboo) and various privets (Ligustrum species) prominently featured.

All of these ecological terrorists are escaping from our own backyards, rampaging through forests and fields, and eliminating the plants and animals that belong here in North Carolina. Each time a park or preserve manages to bring them under control, they re-invade from the yards of human sympathizers who often have no idea that they are sheltering invaders from other countries, or worse yet don't care. Camellias, also from China, are all the rage, while a similar species that naturally was found nowhere on Earth but the southeastern United States, Franklinia altamaha, has become known as the "Lost Camellia" because it has gone extinct in the wild and is not easy to find for sale in cultivation.

So, want to express your patriotism in a way that will make an instant difference? Check the list of "Plants to Avoid in the Southeastern United States" on the North Carolina Botanical Garden's Web site. Then go out into your backyard with a shovel and dig up any plants from this list you can recognize. If your yard is already free of them, volunteer to assist your local park or nature preserve in fighting theirs, or walk around educating your friends, neighbors and family. Show the ruthless terrorist plants no mercy. Visit your local garden shops and nurseries and urge them to cease providing assistance to these unwelcome foreigners. Take your money and spend it at the NCBG plant sale, or at Niche Gardens, where the vast majority of the plants for sale are true blue, all-American, patriotic native species that belong here in the Piedmont!

Your local neighborhood birds, butterflies, bees, frogs, lizards, wildflowers and all sorts of other living things will pay you back for your ecological patriotism with shapes, colors, and activities all year 'round, right outside your back door.


--JOSHUA S. ROSE, DUKE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY

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