Our problems remain epistemological.

Monday, July 04, 2022

A Fourth of July Dayyenu

In the Seder reading of the Haggadah, the Jews remember the liberation of their forebears from slavery into the Promised Land of Israel, and God's other miracles and blessings, various and sundry, for good measure. Each element of the hymn, explained Norman Podhoretz, is the subject of its own sentence, and each sentence of the series concludes with the word dayyenu, which can roughly be translated as “That alone would have been enough for us.” The idea, said Podhoretz, is that, "not content with 'that alone,' God went on and on and on to pile up wonder after wonder and marvel after marvel: so many that those participating in the seder invariably grow fatigued by the time they finish reciting them all.'"

It seems fitting that we Americans, if we be not ingrates, should submit our own verses, punctuated with dayyenu, in remembrance of the many miracles and blessings bestowed upon our country. Our verses might include:

If mankind had only had the opportunity to discover such a rich continent and, not merely to settle it and survive off it, but to open it to the world and to thrive, that would have been enough.

If Americans had only contributed the Declaration of Independence to the annals of human achievement, without consummating it or bringing its ideals to fruition, however imperfectly, it would have been enough.

If Americans had only produced one president, George Washington, who, though his popularity could have made him a king, laid down power voluntarily and gave us a model of American virtue, it would have been enough.

If Americans had only had the opportunity to sacrifice our country for a chance at a new birth of freedom, and then to help the fight to liberate the European continent from the murderous scourge of Nazism, and then to face down the murderous scourge of communism that succeeded and exceeded it, and then to see the world out of presumptive poverty and into presumptive prosperity, it would have been enough.

Humanity's history tells a story of savagery and violence, and its language is a language of war and base survival, with only recent entries into the lexicon pertaining to rights and freedom. Without the yoke of authority, the great minds before America's founding taught life was solitary, nasty, poor, brutish, and short. If we had had only the chance to prove them wrong, if we had had only the right to argue for the miracle of liberty, instead of fighting for mere survival -- if we had only the chance to celebrate that right this Fourth of July -- it would be enough.

Happy Independence Day. Dayyenu.

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