Letter From New York 06 14 15 Celebrations of democracy on two sides of the Atlantic….

Today is June 14th, Flag Day, a holiday I must say I never paid much attention to before moving to Columbia County. On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a flag resolution. It stated: Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.

In 1949, Congress made it official.

Hudson, the County Seat for Columbia County, takes Flag Day VERY seriously; the day outstrips the 4th of July in celebrations. The parade is bigger than the 4th’s and Flag Day fireworks are much more spectacular than those on the 4th.

Apparently, it started with The Elks. They made it mandatory to celebrate Flag Day for their members in 1908 and the Hudson Elks started marching down the main drag, Warren Street, along with the high school marching band and a few others.

It is interesting to note that when Congress made the day official in 1949, Harry Truman was President, and he was an Elk.

In 1996, the Hudson Elks opened the parade to the whole county and it has soared since then.

Every year I go to the Red Dot, have my brunch, and watch from outside the restaurant as every fire truck in the County seems to wheel down the street. Most years, the Caballeros, from New Jersey, musically march down Warren Street in white and black with red scarves and sombreros.   They’re an annual hit. Alana, the Red Dot’s proprietress, hails from the same Jersey city they do and she relishes their presence. She followed them down the street yesterday, blessing them with the soap bubble gun she had me go out and buy for her.

Children dance and cheer and wave flags their parents have bought them from vendors plying Warren Street. It was a picture postcard perfect day yesterday and it was a picture postcard event. Hudson is a town of about 8,000 and 10 to 12 thousand jam into the city for the parade and the evening’s fireworks.

I was not in town for the fireworks, having invited friends for a barbecue last night.

Today is a lazy afternoon of finishing putting the house back in order. Right now, I am seated on the deck, staring down onto the creek, gently flowing down into the pond. The overhanging trees are reflected off the mirror like water, so that all in front of me is a riot of green. Birds are chirping on the other side of the creek and overhead is the muted roar of a plane flying south from the little Columbia County Airport due north of me. All is peaceful in my little world. When I have finished this, I will start “Scoop” by Evelyn Waugh, recommended to me by my friend, Nick Stuart.

It is a lovely afternoon in Columbia County, sitting on the deck, sipping water and tapping on my laptop.

The world, of course, is not peaceful but it feels so far away when I am here.

While Columbia County has been celebrating Flag Day with a weekend of festivities, Britain has been celebrating that tomorrow is the official 800th Anniversary of The Magna Carta, the document that established the King was not above the law but subject to it. It is the foundation upon which democracy has risen.

King John signed it at Runnymede and tomorrow the Queen will be there, hosting a celebration, which will include thousands of people. There have been jousting matches and re-enactments of carrying the document down the Thames to London by barge, 800 years ago.

A thirteen-foot tall statue of Queen Elizabeth II was unveiled yesterday at Runnymede to mark the occasion.

While Britain is in the throes of its Magna Carta celebration, Talha Asmal, a young British citizen from Dewsbury, blew himself up in Iraq, becoming the youngest known British suicide bomber. He was just seventeen. He had run away and joined IS in March.

Sudan’s President, Bashir, was in South Africa for a meeting of the African Union. South Africa ordered him not to leave the country because he is wanted on charges of genocide at Darfur. However, as I write, it appears he may have slipped out of South Africa and is on his way back to Khartoum.

IS has created “flirt squads” to unmask gay men so they can throw them from rooftops.

Once I flirted with the idea of going to the Middle East, it seemed exotic and wonderful. Now I am afraid of thinking about going there.

I will treasure my afternoon, on the creek, listening to the sounds of my woods and watching the mirror like creek reflect the trees.

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