Reflections on the Fourth
By Clyde Edgerton
Dog 1: What was all that shooting last night?
Dog 2: Wasn’t shooting, it was fireworks. July 4th.
It was going until after midnight.
What is July 4th?
What does that mean?
It means that America got its freedom from England on July 4th, 1776 — and citizens have been celebrating ever since. Once a year.
Gosh, that was a long time ago.
Did anything change for dogs after 1776?
Naw. Same old stuff. Good owners; bad owners; some in-between.
What was wrong with England?
They had a king — and since we were part of England, he was our king.
What was wrong with that?
Well, nothing as long as the king was a good king. If he was a bad one, like the 1776 one was — I think his name was Louis the 15th — then bad things happened to people and dogs because they didn’t have a chance to say what they wanted or needed. See, with a bad king, somebody could come into your owner’s house and shoot you and the king wouldn’t do anything about it.
That’s right, but then when America got free, Americans, under the Founding Fathers, made a lot of rules that were better than the rules in England.
Well, if somebody goes into somebody’s house in America and shoots a dog then the police goes and gets the shooter, arrests him and then the justice system makes things right.
Who pays for that?
Well, the dog owner pays for that, of course. The dog owner has to buy property insurance to protect against the unwarranted and surprising destruction of a citizen’s property — like if somebody breaks in a human being’s house or steals a car, all that.
Oh yes. It’s done with something called “insurance.” Since nobody makes humans buy property they have to pay the policeman — on each policeman visit — a “co-pay.” Somewhere between 15 and 90 dollars. Then insurance, bought by the citizen, pays the rest. Sometimes an employee might pay part of it somehow, something called Propertycaid. But the protection of a human’s property is a human’s responsibility in the end, so they pay for that protection out of their own pocket — it’s not a “right.”
But wouldn’t everybody want to pitch in and help everybody else take care of their property? Like a big community where everybody looks out for everybody else. So that the police could be free? Maybe paid by taxes?
Oh no. Protection of property is not a right, it’s privilege that people must pay for individually — or in groups.
I don’t get it. What about when a germ invades a human’s body — why shouldn’t people have to buy their insurance for that? Something like health insurance.
Humans can’t predict if a germ is going to ruin their health or if cancer will invade their body. They pay taxes to take care of that kind of stuff — we band together as a community to take care of that since health is more important than property. That’s why health care is free and police protection is not. Or is it the other way around? Hmmmm. Let me think. Surely property is not considered more protectable than health. Oh well, just be happy that since July 4th is over we don’t have to worry about all that human noise until next year. And we don’t have to worry about bad kings anymore either, thank goodness.
Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, a memoir and most recently, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers. He is the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNCW.