THE SPIRIT OF ’76
Ε pluribus, pluribus
RANGE: It would be pleasant to report that this admirable, supernatural entity is present and active at all times, in all American states and territories, that she hovers eternally above every farm and forest, town and city, over all America and all Americans, lighting, guiding, and defending. . . It would be equally pleasant to report that she is enormous and powerful, winged like an eagle, clear as a bell, bright as a flag, loud as trumpets. In fact, she is somewhat rare and rather delicate. She makes her presence felt only from place to place and turns up at the darkest times. The Spirit of ’76—all too often cited and all too seldom seen.
HABITS: It was once her function—or mission, if you like—to inspire hearts with a somewhat sophisticated and glorious love of liberty, freedom and country. But over the years, other Spirits, of Corruption, Greed and Prejudice, have been abroad in this land, as in other lands. They loathe patriotism and to mock and debase it, they tempt mortals to cheat and steal and hurt in its name. So, in our complicated time, the Spirit of ’76 is content to touch our hearts and minds only with simpler thoughts and feelings, such as Anger and Hope. Thus the surge of anger any American might occasionally feel in the face of cruelty, or waste, or injustice is the work of the Spirit of ’76. And so is the unexpected sudden shiver of hope that a child, or a bird, or a morning might bring. The Spirit is also capable of inspiring compassion, patience, loyalty and laughter—but these are only for the brave and the free.
HISTORY: The Spirit of ’76 is a hybrid, of course, descended from the English Robin of the Woods (enemy of oppression) and from the red-capped and liberty-loving Fays and Folletti of France and Italy. She still has many fairy cousins active around the world today. During the Revolutionary War, the Spirit of ’76 lived in Jefferson’s inkwell, and during the Civil War, under Lincoln’s hat, but she has steered clear of all politicians since the era of Reconstruction, favoring, as she did in her native Europe, the poor and oppressed throughout the land.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: The Spirit of ’76 is usually found at a maximum distance from monuments erected to her fame.