Below, I present a fictional dialogue featuring The New Leaf Journal’s fictional dialogue duo, Justin and Justina, on the subject of what people are really doing when they hold 4th of July barbecues. About one week before the Fourth one year, Justin and Justina run into Justin’s old friend, Proton Von, while they are having a picnic. Proton Von invites them to a Fourth of July BBQ at his place. Justina asks why people always grill things on Independence Day. Justin has an answer that only he could come up with – Sacrifices to appease the spirits of the Founding Fathers.

The Picnic Prologue

Justin and Justina are having a picnic at a park in Brooklyn. While they are eating, a baseball lands right in the middle of their picnic blanket.

Justina: Whoa! Where did that come from?
Justin: Dumb kids. Kids can’t catch anymore.
(Proton Von runs over to Justin and Justina.)
Proton Von: Sorry about that… wait. Justin!? No way! What are you doing here.
Justin: Proton Von! I haven’t seen you since you told Justina about my pitching injury. How’d you lose the baseball? Lost your touch since you went baseball corporate?
Proton Von: No way man. I could still throw nine innings against high schoolers any day. My nephew back there threw it a bit over my head. Sorry about that.
(Proton Von acknowledges Justina and sits down between her and Justin.)
Justin: Not going to be an ace?
Proton Von: No, but I won’t let him throw batting practice like I asked you to that one time.
(Justina snickers.)
Justin: Pitching injuries are real.
Proton Von: This is actually perfect though. I have an offer for you two.

The 4th of July Barbecue Invitation

Justin: An offer?
Proton Von: Yeah. (He looks to Justina.) My friends and I are having a Fourth of July barbecue next week. Want to come? You can bring this guy too (he points at Justin).
Justina: Hmm. I think I’m free. (She looks at Justin for approval. He nods.) So do I have to bring that one?
Proton Von: Optional.

A public domain photograph of corn and kebabs on a grill.
“Kebabs on grill” by brenkee is marked with CC0 1.0

Justin: This is discrimination against people with old pitching injuries.
Justina: Hey, I have a question.
(Justin and Proton Von give Justina their attention.)
Justina: Why do people always do barbecue on Fourth of July?
Proton Von: I never thought of it. I don’t know. Great way for people to get together. Throw some meat on the grill. Talk about baseball.
Justin: No beer for you?
Proton Von: Promised the wife I’d stop drinking. Haven’t had a drop since college.
Justin: That’s harder to imagine than your being married.
Proton Von: I have to agree…
Justin: But your Fourth of July explanation barbecue… laughable.
Proton Von: Excuse me?
Justina: What’s wrong with it? I’m going to regret asking, aren’t I?
Justin: You will.
Proton Von: Alright Justin. Let’s hear it. Why do we grill on Fourth of July?

Sacrificing to Appease the Spirits of the Founding Fatherseeeee

Justin: You kids. You just don’t learn anything these days.
Justina: We’re the same age.
Proton Von: I was your classmate.
Justin: Today they teach you all of this baseness and depravity. Not how to be base. That would be cool. No history. Terrible.
Justina: Yeah, I’m regretting this.
Proton Von: This is nostalgic.
Justina: He was always like this?
Proton Von: More or less.
Justina: I’m sorry.
Proton Von: It’s ok. We love Justin.
Justin: What I’m about to tell you two is going to blow your minds. Are you ready for Fourth of July mind fireworks?
Justina: You’re going to tell us regardless.
Justin: We grill to appease the spirits of the Founding Fathers.
Justina: …
Justin: Isn’t that wild?
Proton Von: It’s something.
Justin: When you think about it, it’s less weird than that ritual you always did on game-day.
Proton Von: What!? How did you know about that? You weren’t on the team.
Justin: Classified.
Justina: What ritual?
Proton Von: Don’t worry about it.
Justin: Tell me if you tell her.
Proton Von: …
Justin: So anyway, yeah. Appeasing the spirits of the founders. That’s why people barbecue on the Fourth of July.

Justina Expresses Doubts

Justina: Wait a second.
Justin: What?
Justina: You’re the one who went on a whole rant about how A.D. is correct and C.E. is wrong.
Justin: Right. Totally true.
Justina: And then you had to leave for pipe organ practice.
Justin: Sounds right. Yeah.
Proton Von: We were all surprised when we learned he could play a pipe organ.
Justin: So was I, honestly.
Proton Von: Surprised when you learned you could play it or when we learned that you could play it?
Justin: Both. Good catch.
Justina: So now you’re telling me that Fourth of July is a Pagan ritual?
Proton Von: Not to mention – didn’t John Adams say something like America is for religious people?
Justin: Close. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Justina: Please tell me you didn’t actually remember that.
Justin: 1798. Always remember great wisdom.
Proton Von: So you say that Adams was right about the Constitution but that Fourth of July is a Pagan ritual?
Justin: There’s no contradiction.
Justina: You’re a contradiction.
Justin: Maybe.
Proton Von: Definitely.
Justina: I know I’m going to regret this, but do explain.
Proton Von: I was having fun with my nephew, but he can keep practicing fielding by himself. I need to see where this goes. Let’s ride this all the way down.
Justina: It’s easier to make him account for his nonsense when there is more than one person here.

Justin Explains How Independence Day Is Mother’s Day

Justin: Have you two heard of Mother’s Day?
Justina: …
Proton Von: …
Justin: Interesting. I thought you’d have read about it at The New Leaf Journal. So…
Justina: We heard of Mother’s Day!
Justin: Why didn’t you just say so?
Proton Von: …
Justin: So anyway. If you read Nick’s article, you’d know that the idea for Mother’s Day came from Ms. Anna Jarvis. She wanted to honor her mother and mothers everywhere.
Proton Von: I thought it was just so we could buy stuff from corporations for our mothers.
Justin: It is… now.
Justina: Right.
Justin: Ms. Jarvis was quite depressed about the direction Mother’s Day went. Wanted to abolish it later in life. A tragedy, really. But we should focus more on her original idea than what became of it.
Proton Von: But what does this have to do with July 4?
Justin: Once it was about love of country. Now it’s about sacrificing to appease the spirits of the Founding Fathers. Misguided. Commercial.
Justina: …Uh…

The Fourth Branch of Government Changes July Fourth

Proton Von: So assuming arguendo that this were the case – what caused the change?
Justin: 30s.
Justina: Oh right. The Great Depression thing?
Justin: No, but the cause was depressing.
Proton Von: Do tell.
Justin: Americans had an existential crisis when they realized that there were four branches of government, not three.
Justina: I’m pretty sure there are three.
Proton Von: What’s the fourth?
Justin: You really ready?
Justina: Just tell us.
Justin: Lean in.
(Justina and Proton Von lean close. Justin whispers.)
Justin: The administrative state.
Justina: Huh?
Justin: Not so loud!
Proton Von: So the administrative state caused people to turn a beloved patriotic tradition into a Pagan ritual?
Justin: To be precise, it was the Supreme Court’s decision in Humphrey’s Executor that set the ball in motion. Chief Justice Taft tried to save Fourth of July forever with his magisterial decision in Meyers, but he was only a mortal.

Photograph of the 1922 Supreme Court with Chief Justice William Howard Taft sitting center.
The Taft Court (1922), Chief Justice Taft sits in the center: “No Known Restrictions: Supreme Court with William Howard Taft (LOC)” by is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Proton Von: Didn’t he get stuck in a bathtub?
Justina: Wait what?
Justin: He did not. In any event, he lost weight when he became a Supreme Court Justice. Do not slander his memory – he tried to save July Fourth.
Proton Von: I’m not persuaded.
Justin: Neither were the American people. But Wickard v. Filburn was the last straw. I don’t blame the American people for thinking that the spirits of the founders needed to be appeased after that. Roosevelt telling you how much corn you could grow? Jefferson would have cursed us if he could.
Justina: …You have strong opinions about Wicky and Fillmore don’t you?
Justin: Don’t slander the name of Millard Fillmore by associating him with that abomination of a decision.
Proton Von: Why do you like Millard Fillmore?
Justin: I just don’t want him associated with Wickard. He tried. He doesn’t deserve that.
Justina: …Who’s Millard Fillmore?

Where Did Justin Come Up With This?

Proton Von: Assuming arguendo again that this is correct…
Justina: I have a question.
Justin: One at a time.
Proton Von: Ladies first.
Justin: The floor is yours, Von.
Justina: Wait what?
Justin: I know what you’re going to ask, Justina. Trust me, Proton needs to go first. He’s the ace.
Proton Von: I knew it was because I’m the ace.
Justin: Synergy.
Proton Von: So just to be clear. You’re saying that Americans concluded that a Fourth Branch of Government had been created and that this only happened because they had not properly revered the spirits of the Founding Fathers?
Justin: That’s exactly what I’m saying.
Proton Von: And you just came up with that on the spot?
Justin: Indeed. The whole thing about appeasing the spirits of the founders – I came up with that years ago to explain the overwhelming smell of lighter fluid from people who don’t know how to use a grill. I wasn’t really expecting to be pressed on it, so I came up with this account under pressure.
Proton Von: Not bad.
Justin: Thanks. Justina?
Justina: Oh, I can talk now?
Justin: Right. You ignored that whole exchange, right?
Justina: I did. I was sulking.
Justin: That’s very convenient for this dialogue.
Justina: Whatever. So what do the founder spirits like? You should be able to tell us that much.
Justin: I can.
Proton Von: What do we do? Just list founding fathers?
Justin: That suggestion is amenable to me. Justina, you first.

Justina: George Washington

Justina: How about that George Washington guy?
Proton Von: That guy?
Justin: Cherry pie.
Justina: Why cherry pie? You can’t grill that.
Proton Von: Did you go with cherry pie because of the cherry tree story or because “pie” rhymes with “guy”?
Justin: Both.
Proton Von: …
Justin: You keyed in on the problem, Justina. People think that General Washington wants steak vapors wafting toward Mt. Vernon in the sky. Au contraire. Man loves his cherry pie.
Justina: I see.
Proton Von: You do?
Justin: Just remember, in order to be like General Washington, you must be “brave, kind, and true.”
Proton Von: Where did that come from?
Justin: New Leaf Journal article on a Washington children’s poem. You’re up, Proton Von.

Proton Von: Robert Morris

Proton Von: Well I tried this New Leaf Journal site after you told me about it. I read about Robert Morris there. He was the wealthiest founding father. What do you give to the wealthiest founder?

Painting of Robert Morris by Robert Edge Pine (1720-1788).  Cropped for this article.  Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.  Public Domain.
Painting of Robert Morris by Robert Edge Pine (1720-1788). Cropped for this article. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery. Public Domain.

Justin: He used to demand whale steaks. You know, wealthy and had a merchant fleet. However, the Japanese ruined whaling for everyone. Now he settles for caviar. He’s understanding.
Justina: I love caviar!
Justin: Of course you do.
Justina: Is he single?
Justin: He died destitute.
Justina: Oh. Carry on.
Proton Von: You can’t grill caviar!
Justin: Well look at you catching on to problems with our modern Fourth of July traditions.
Proton Von: …
Justin: You’re up, Justina.

Justina: Calvin Coolidge

Justina: How about that Calvin Coolidge guy? You’re always going on about him.
Proton Von: …
Justina: What?
Proton Von: He wasn’t a founding father. He was president in the 20s, right?
Justin: 23-29.
Justina: Really?
Justin: Yeah. But that’s ok. He’s a special case.
Proton Von: Why?
Justin: Born on July 4.
Proton Von: That’s something…
Justin: It is. So we have to pay respects on Fourth of July. I don’t make the rules. I just tell you what the rules are.
Justina: So what does he want?
Justin: …
Justina: …
Proton Von: …
Justin: …
Justina: …
Proton Von: …Was that a “Silent Cal” joke?
Justin: Well done.
Proton Von: Thank you.
Justina: …?
Justin: You’re up, Proton Von.

Proton Von: Thomas Jefferson

Proton Von: Alright. Jefferson.
Justin: Wow. Man. I thought we were just having a pleasant discussion here. You just went Truman on us.
Justina: What did Jefferson do?
Justin: He’s a little sour about missing the Constitutional Convention while he was abroad.
Proton Von: That sounds familiar. Well the missing the convention part, not the sour.
Justina: Where was he?
Justin: Paris.
Justina: On vacation!? And he calls himself a Founding Father?
Justin: Sure, go with that.
Proton Von: I don’t think it was that.
Justin: It wasn’t worth the fight.
Justina: …
Proton Von: So what does Jefferson want?
Justin: Are you really ready for this?
Justina: Just tell us.
Justin: The blood of patriots.
Justina: Come again?
Justin: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Proton Von: …That sounds familiar.
Justin: Was in the news recently… sort of.
Justina: Jefferson wants you to sacrifice me!?
Justin: Even worse, Justina.
Proton Von: How is it worse?
Justin: Rare steak. How depraved is that?
Proton Von: That’s awesome! I love rare steak. If the steak doesn’t say “moo,” it’s overcooked.
Justina: I like medium rare.
Justin: You two are savages. It should disintegrate on touch. Grant and Trump are right.
Proton Von: All of you hate America.
Justin: I can’t take your debauchery anymore. Go, Justina. Your taste is a little bit less savage.

Justina: The Adams Guy With the Beer

Justina: How about Adams?
Proton Von: Oh yeah, he missed the Convention too, right?
Justin: Which Adams?
Proton Von: She must mean John, right?
Justina: There’s more than one? The one with the beer?
Justin: That’s what I thought.

1824 engraving of founding father Samuel Adams, reprinted on parchment.
Engraving of Samuel Adams. Published in 1824. Cropped from image at the National Portrait Gallery. Public Domain.

Proton Von: Oh.
Justin: Samuel Adams. Hmm. Yeah, he probably just wants his beer.
Proton Von: Good times…
Justin: When did you stop drinking?
Proton Von: Met my future wife while I was working in the video room as a scout. She set me straight. But still get a little nostalgic.
Justin: Worth it though?
Proton Von: For sure.
Justina: So I’m the only one who can have a Samuel Adams?
Justin: Yeah. But Sam Adams isn’t picky. Also accepts food that goes with his beer.
Justina: What’s that?
Justin: How should I know? Beer looks disgusting.
Proton Von: Hot dogs?
Justina: That would work.
Justin: Whew. Sam Adams really is easy-going.
Proton Von: What about John Adams?
Justin: Water.
Proton Von: You can’t grill water! Why does he want water!?
Justin: He had a 737-word sentence in his inaugural address. Who wouldn’t need a sip after that?
Justina: …How is that possible?

Proton Von: Benjamin Frankin

Proton Von: Alright, I think this is my last round. I’ll do one more and then Justina can do the last one. My nephew is glaring at me, so I can’t stay much longer. We can’t end without Ben Franklin, right?
Justin: That was kind of cruel, no?
Proton Von: What do you mean? Ben Franklin is cruel?
Justin: No, I mean you’re taking away one of Justina’s obvious choices for the conclusion.
Justina: …
Proton Von: I didn’t think of that. Did you want Ben Franklin?
Justina: Don’t mock me! I’m going to blow you two away with my last pick! It’ll be so on point.
Justin: I look forward to it…
Justina: Hmph.
Justin: Well Ben Franklin is easy. Roast potatoes.
Proton Von: Roast potatoes? But Franklin was such a character, that seems so plain.
Justina: Yeah… but roast potatoes are good.
Justin: Ben Franklin helped popularize potatoes in France. He was a practical man. Very readily appeased by roasting a few potatoes on July Fourth. You can grill them two. Cut ’em up thin and all. Whatever. Ben Franklin just wants to see you cooking some potatoes.
Proton Von: He really is a good guy.
Justina: Can I go now?
Justin: Go ahead. Let’s hear your dramatic conclusion.

Justina: Charles Carroll

Justina: Charles Carroll!
Proton Von: …Who?
Justin: I was expecting a big name. Hamilton, Madison, or Monroe. Charles Carroll? I’ll admit it’s on point, but where did you find that?

Lithograph of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, 1832. Albert Newsam (American, 1809-1864). Lithograph; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis B. Williams Collection 1940.1158. Public Domain.

Justina: Well, this New Leaf Journal site has a ton of Brooklyn content, right? Quite a few Carroll Gardens pictures.
Justin: RIght.
Justina: And we’ve walked around there before. So I was curious. Why is it named Carroll Gardens?
Justin: Mhmm.
Justina: So I looked it up. Wikipedia says Carroll Gardens is named after Charles Carroll. I read and it said he’s a Founding Father.
Proton Von: What’s his connection to Carroll Gardens?
Justin: Not much. He was from Maryland. Signed for Maryland. Lived in Maryland. Very Maryland.
Justina: So it’s random?
Justin: Not entirely. Carroll Park was named after Charles Carroll in the nineteenth century in honor of a Maryland regiment that defended the area in the Revolutionary War. Eventually they just named the whole thing Carroll Gardens.
Proton Von: That’s it? What’s unique about him?
Justin: Only Catholic signer of the Declaration. Was very wealthy. Etc.
Justina: So what does he demand on Fourth of July?
Justin: Honestly, I never thought of it. Let’s say prosciutto?
Proton Von: Why did you frame that as a question?
Justin: I mean Carroll Gardens was a heavily Italian neighborhood for a while. Still has that character. Maybe he wants to honor that since they honored him? Of course French people started moving there recently? Let’s put the two together. Have a charcuterie plate in honor of Charles Carroll!
Justina: That’s wholly unsatisfying. After all that effort to remember his name!
Justin: You did well, Justina. I know what we’re bringing to Von’s next Sunday.
Proton Von: Once again! Why is there so much stuff that isn’t for grilling!?

No One Asked About John Hancock

Justin: So are you two satisfied with my explaining how Americans wrongly turned Fourth of July into a Pagan ritual?
Justina: No.
Proton Von: I forgot the original point of this, actually.
Justin: Surprised no one asked about John Hancock.
Justina: Chicken!
Proton Von: You’re going to say chicken, aren’t you?
Justin: He’s a bit bitter about when Dick Cheney fooled him by painting a chicken brown and passing it off as a turkey.
Proton Von: That joke never made sense, but now it’s not even timely!
Justina: Wait, he was using that in high school too? I don’t get it at all.
Justin: Amateurs.
Justina: …
Proton Von: …
Justin: The real answer is lobster. Than man was intense. No love for red coats, but he likes the way they taste.
Justina: I can work with that.
Proton Von: More convincing than Charles Carroll, at least.

So Long For Now

Proton Von: My nephew looks like he is going to die of boredom if I don’t go back, so I’ll leave you two for now. Look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Justina: You too, sounds like fun. Do I have to bring Justin?
Proton Von: Don’t worry about it.
Justin: I’ll bring the charcuterie.
Justina: …
Proton Von: …