U.S. INDEPENDENCE DAY POST

The following two stories were both written by Paul Aurandt.  The first is from his book, Destiny, and the second from Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story.

John Cheese

THEY WERE THE FIRST minority on Manhattan.  They were disliked and distrusted.  They were the objects of unflattering humor.  They were called all sorts of names, one so insulting they adopted it into their own native language.

     They were the Holland Dutch.

     The Dutch were there first, you know.  It was Dutchman Peter Minuit who purchased Manhattan from the Indians in 1626.  The settlement was called New Amsterdam and would become the seat of government for the colony of New Netherland.

     The Dutch West India Company paid little attention to the settlers at first.  For three years New Amsterdam attracted a rough bunch–privateers, smugglers, and so on.

     The first organized social system in the colony was a kind of feudalism.  Huge estates with dozens of tenant families on each.  The early governors and councils ruled without popular assemblies and were renowned for their harshness.

     Meanwhile, the British were growing perturbed over the presence of New Netherland, an obtrusive interruption in the sequence of their coastal possessions.  In 1664, a small English naval force set out to capture the Dutch colony.  The Dutch surrendered without firing a shot.

     Seven thousand of them decided to accept British rule in order to keep their homes.  For a while Anglo-Dutch relations were not bad.  Yet as hostilities developed between the respective motherlands, the English inhabitants of the colony now known as New York grew increasingly unfriendly toward the Dutch minority.

     First privately, ultimately publicly, the British New Yorkers began making fun.  Anything negative was automatically characterized as being “Dutch.”

     Many related phrases remain a part of our vernacular: anyone who is stern and hypercritical we still call a “Dutch uncle.”

     A “Dutch treat,” of course, is no treat at all.

     Getting into trouble we often refer to as “getting into Dutch.”

     The slurs don’t stop there. . . .

     “Dutch widow” once meant prostitute.

     Frogs used to be called “Dutch Nightingales.”

     One who was said to have taken the “Dutch route” had killed himself.

     “Dutch defense” was surrender.

     “Dutch praise” was condemnation.

     “Dutch courage” was extracted from a bottle.

     And a “Dutch medley”?  That’s when everyone sings a different tune–simultaneously.

     And the list goes on.

     But there was one epithet to which the Dutch themselves particularly objected.  You know how ethnic slurs often reflect the foods with which a minority may be identified?  Well, the Dutch were supposedly characteristically fond of cheese.  So the English began referring to the Dutchmen as “John Cheese.”  That upset the Dutch so much that they eventually turned the nasty nickname around, actually calling Englishmen “John Cheese.”

     In the language of the Netherlands, naturally.

     It was that epithet which made the most indelible impression of all.

     In time the world would forget that a hangover was once defined as “Dutchman’s headache,” and that “Dutch gold” meant the phony stuff.

     What we remember is the unflattering term “John Cheese,” a label the Dutch ultimately laid on us.

     The way they said it was “Jan Kees”.

     You know.

     Yankees.

     Now you know THE REST OF THE STORY.

An Anthem for the Enemy

     War song.

     The two words themselves are somewhat in conflict with each other.  And yet, for the sake of world culture, this is a type of music of stirring importance.  Remember, our own national anthem is a war song of sorts.

     Anthropologists theorize that this was among the first music to be sung.  Primitive people probably conjured their cult rituals with the war song . . . used it to accompany fiery dancing.

     In ancient Greece, the songs of Tyrtaeus were sung by Spartan warriors at their campfires.  Still other songs were used to harden the spirits of those about to enter battle.

     The words to many anthems of war are based on sound psychological principles.  What could be more encouraging than the brave deeds of forefathers or a victory projected, predicted, in music?

     By the end of the fifteenth century, army units began to have trumpeters, drummers, pipers attached to them.  Their music supported the discipline of marching . . . the urge to battle.

     It was so in the American Revolution.

     You know the songs we sang.  But now you’re going to hear about an enemy anthem . . . a rhyme for the Redcoats.

     Some say this British tune in two/four can be traced to a song of French vineyard workers.  Others argue that it came from a Spanish sword dance or a German harvest tune or a Dutch peasant song.

     We’re just not sure.

     But we do know that British soldiers sang it during the French and Indian War . . . a full two decades before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  And they would use it to shatter the courage of the colonists throughout the Revolution, sometimes posting troops to sing it outside a church during colonial religious services.  It was meant to taunt us, to make us afraid.

     Then a curious thing happened to this demoralizing melody.  We stole it.  Just lifted it, words and fall, from the voices of our enemies.

     One patriot suggested that we should change the words, befitting the colonial cause.  Although he, a man named Francis Hopkinson, successfully came up with a new set of lyrics, our forefathers favored the original.  Oh, Hopkinson’s “Battle of the Kegs” was sung, all right.  But we, perpetuating a long tradition of musical psychological warfare, knew what hurt the most.  So the enemy heard their own song, their own words, thrown right back in their ears.

     And it worked.

     It became a favorite in every camp.  It was heard in battle, in defeat, in victory.  It was even played at the final surrender of General Cornwallis.

     Yes, the enemy anthem worked for the Americans during the Revolutionary War.  Such was its subsequent popularity that it brilliantly survived the war itself.  Benjamin Carr used it in an orchestral medley, the “Federal Overture”, written in 1794.  A century later, visiting European composers would write variations on the tune, honoring the Americans and their efforts during the Revolution.

     This song was intended to needle American troops during our Revolution . . . until with incomparable American mischief we turned the needle around and they got the point.

     The Redcoat rhyme that we made our own forevermore . . . was “Yankee Doodle”!

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