readings on the 4th of july: Washington’s letter to the hebrew congregation in Newport


I haven’t done this in a few years, having moved this blog towards less political stuff and towards more pictures of cats and farm animals, but I was thinking about Washington’s letter recently, in light of all of the recent (and not so recent) claims as to the idea that our Founding Fathers (who were not a monolithic group by any means) were somehow founding the US as a ‘Christian Nation’. The idea is completely ridiculous on its face, what with the plain text of the First Amendment, but sometimes a refresher with actual evidence is nice. So here is a letter that George Washington wrote to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island:

To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport Rhode Island.


While I receive with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and happy people.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

it would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

Sure, there are a load of inherent contradictions, not the least of which involving the fact that there were plenty of people (slaves, women) who were not citizens at all, and obviously were not thought of as equal. But again, the ideals of the founders, even if not always lived up to, were a road map toward a more perfect and equal society, and we still struggle and strive to reach that ideal today.

I particularly like his dis of “tolerance” – that to tolerate something’s existence necessarily implies the majority group giving permission for the minority group to exist, when the minority group doesn’t ‘need’ to be tolerated because it has the inherent right to exist in the first place.

Happy Independence Day everyone.

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beautiful day


I’ve been hunting for a new morning coffee spot, due to the fact that the cafe I pretty much lived at during my unemployment has gone drastically downhill in the past few weeks. Things ranging from price increases to the fact that they didn’t have any sugar one morning, not to mention the bathroom being out of service for several weeks, have made me long for a change of pace. And then my dad reminded me that there’s a Le Pain Quotidien right in the center of Central Park. Now, I can generally take or leave LPQ as an establishment, but this particular setting was perfect. I spent about an hour over there this morning (during leash-free park hours, so the place was somewhat overrun by very adorable free-ranging dogs), and I can safely say that I’ve found my new spot. At least while it’s nice out, since it’s all outdoor seating.

As a bonus, this is my view walking to and from the cafe/my apartment.

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074/365: spring!!


I noticed these popping up out of the ground. I’m seriously hoping this means that winter is really ending.

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049/365: sadie


For some time now, I’ve been contemplating getting some sort of pet. I’ve been wavering between a dog or a cat – I had both growing up, and loved having both. The “fun” part of my brain wavered toward dog, but the sensible part of my brain, the part that reminds me that I will have a job at some point and will not be home all the time to go on walks, wavered toward cat. I’d been visiting the cat adoption days at the local pet store, and had a few cats that I was keeping my eye on, but then my parents called me this morning from the vet (they were bringing ollie in again for more tests/treatment for the mystery disease he seems to have picked up at the tail end of his stay with me) to say that one of the cats the vet had available for adoption would be great – she was getting along with ollie in the waiting room, and they started sending me pictures. Needless to say, I ran over to meet her…

…And totally fell for her. She’s 9 months old and had been left as a kitten in a box by the clinic’s front door. So she’s been living at the vet the whole time, allowed to roam around and play with all the other animals and people. Which probably explains why she’s been so chill since she got here. I’m still in a trial period for the adoption, but I think we’re going to get along fine. The vets had been calling her Shea, but I nixed that. So now she’s Sadie.

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norman rockwell museum and berkshire botanical garden


Labor day weekend, we took a break from our normal routine of doing as little as possible, and spent an afternoon at the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Berkshire Botanical Garden. Pictures aren’t allowed inside the Museum, so I don’t have anything except the sign below, but it was the first time I had been to the museum and was really struck by how much more…well-rounded…Rockwell was as an artist than his most well-known Saturday Evening Post americana would suggest. I (of course) had seen some of his civil-rights era art before, most notably, The Problem We All Live With, but “Southern Justice” stopped me in my tracks.

I was really shocked by it. Of course, even without looking at the title, I knew exactly what it was in reference to, but more than that, both in content and in style, it’s incredibly different from anything we “expect” when we think about Rockwell. I’m pretty sure I stared at it for about 10 minutes, just devastated. I also took a brief tour that was given, and the guide (who clearly loved his work), talked about the fact that Rockwell chafed for years against the Saturday Evening Post edict that people of color were only ever to be depicted in positions of servitude toward whites. Which explains why this painting was done for Look magazine.

Changing subjects, the following are the photos that I actually took, at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. They had three specific exhibits going on – one dealing with chairs, one dealing with dogs, and one where these little cabins were decorated extravagantly. That should make these photos pretty self-explanatory.

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The Schools Project


My brother, who just finish his Masters Degree in education, is leaving the country (again) to travel to Africa and Nepal for a year. In between climbing lots of rocks, he’s planning on visiting a variety of educational institutions during his trip in order to…well, I’ll just let him explain it himself.

I can’t believe he’s leaving again. It seems like he just got back from the Peace Corps yesterday.

(and yes, he is totally one of those do-gooder-type people who wants to make the world a better place while the rest of us obsess over the real estate market).

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365: 2010.04.02 (spring has sprung)


After a few more rainy days earlier this week (during which I was out of commission thanks to a bug half the people at our seder caught), I think spring is really here for good this time. Trees are blooming, tulips are coming up, and we can sit outside at the local cafe, which meant that my friend Ed could show off the puppy he’s training for a friend. This was as much excitement as said puppy could muster while getting toasty in the warm sun.

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365: 2010.03.28 (seder)


Our table for seder. Seder Plate, Matzoh, and the extremely traditional Passover Haggadah, as written by Maxwell House Coffees.

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365:189 (more central park)


Today was even more gorgeous than yesterday, so I picked up a sandwich and went and sat in central park with my nook for a few hours. in shorts. While the flora is still lacking enough green to make it actually pretty, the fauna has started reappearing.

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365:188 (o happy day!)


Today was the first truly nice day of 2010. Sure, it only hit the low 50s, but it was gloriously sunny, and it was that day, where everyone starts to come out of winter hibernation to venture outside. I have no doubts that some more wintry weather will reappear before winter is truly over, but today was the first time in a while that it was truly a pleasure to wander around outside. Without a winter coat. Any one of these could be the official “365” entry, but I felt like posting all of them together.

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