Happy Birthday USA

Happy Birthday USA

Steven J. Callis

So, tomorrow we will celebrate our nation’s birthday.  Gift-buying is very difficult for this occasion.  First, is America male or female?  That is, we sing of our nation with such lyrics as, “stand beside her, and guide her” in a song that prays for God’s hand upon her.  Yet, Uncle Sam clearly is an elderly gentleman with gray hair, gray goatee, and a white top hat.  By the way, the evolution of Uncle Sam is quite interesting.

In the earlier days of existence, America was personalized as “Brother Jonathan,” a character used in editorial cartoons – a typical, middle class American.  Some believe that the name may have been derived from Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull.  It is said that George Washing once uttered the words, “We must consult Brother Jonathan” when faced with a difficult issue.  Apparently, Uncle Sam is derivative of Samuel Wilson, a meat packer who supplied rations for soldiers.  The food packages required the name of the sender and the origin of the package, which was E.A. – US.  E.A. was Wilson’s company, Elbert Anderson, and US was, of course, “United States.”  A coworker jokingly said that US was for “Uncle Sam,” and the rations were soon thereafter accredited to “Uncle Sam.”

As early as 1835 Brother Jonathan made a reference to Uncle Sam implying that they symbolized different things: Brother Jonathan was the country itself while Uncle Sam was the government and its power (Wikipedia.com).  By the 1850’s the two were used almost synonymously, and eventually “Uncle Sam” became the favored term.  Uncle Sam’s current image was created by James Montgomery Flagg in a recruitment cartoon that appeared on the cover of the magazine, Leslie’s Weekly, in 1916.

OK, that is probably much more than you wanted to know about Uncle Sam!  But the aforementioned gender issue is not the real problem.  The second and foremost difficulty in gift-buying for the country’s birthday is simply this: what do you get for someone who already has more resource and blessing than most countries could ever imagine?  It would have to be something really big, something that I cannot afford on my own.  In fact, the whole nation would need to chip in to afford the appropriate gift. What does Uncle Sam need?  Peace. Unity. Revival.  Compassion.  Respect. Neighbor regard. Prayer.  As you grill your burgers and display your fireworks and such, remember to say a prayer for Uncle Sam and determine that you will continue to do your part in giving “her” what she needs.

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