A Fourth of July to Remember
By John D. Turner
5 Jul 2006

This past Fourth of July is probably one of the more memorable ones I have lived through. It started off with a bang as the Discovery lifted off the launch pad; only the second space shuttle launch since Columbia broke up over Texas on reentry in 2003, and the first time a shuttle has been launched on July fourth. It was an impressive sight – the largest “bottle rocket” in our nation’s history.

Then, later in the afternoon, North Korea decided to stage its own “fourth of July” celebration, test firing six missiles over the Sea of Japan; one of which was the long-range Taepo Dong II, assessed to be able to reach targets in Alaska and Hawaii. The rest were short or medium-range unguided ballistic missiles.

The Taepo Dong II launch was a resounding flop; the missile failed less than 40 seconds after launch. This after much saber-rattling the day before, when North Korea’s Kim Jong Il threatened to respond to a U.S. pre-emptive attack with an “annihilating strike and a nuclear war." Perhaps. It’ll be awhile longer though. First Pyongyang needs to build a long-range missile that works.

Although the Taepo Dong II launch failure made me feel good, it wouldn’t do to become too cheerful. Just because it failed this time doesn’t mean Kim is giving up. And in addition to the Taepo Dong II, North Korea is also working on the Taepo Dong III, a true intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach anywhere on the U.S. mainland. The threat has not gone away.

Finally, no day would be complete without a little levity. And, true to form, the liberal loonies in Hollywood provided it in spades. Spearheaded by Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, they have “reinvented” the hunger strike to protest of the war in Iraq. Will the spectacle of the Hollywood rich and famous wasting away before our very eyes cause President Bush to rethink his position, in the same way that Gandhi’s famous fasts confounded the British? Probably not.

Unless they are anorexic to begin with, you aren’t likely to see any of these notables looking thin. The Hollywierd crowd are pioneering a new kind of “hunger strike”; the “rolling fast”. It’s kind of like a relay race. You fast for a while, say, a day (if you can hold out that long), then you “pass off the fast” to someone else who begins not eating while you make a mad dash to McDonalds to tank up.

There are some things that lend themselves to group participation, such as the “Hands Across America” fundraiser. In fact, it is difficult to see how such could be achieved without group participation. Likewise, some activities seem, by their nature, to be individual. Such as a hunger strike. You could have a group hunger strike, whereby a group of people collectively decide to fast until they get their way; such could be termed having a hunger strike in parallel.

But this “rolling hunger strike” thing, a hunger strike in series, so to speak, seems on the face of it, ludicrous at best. I mean, who cares if some pampered, over-fed and certainly over-paid self important Hollywood personality goes without food for a day? According to the news, 2700 activists plan to take part in this “rolling fast”. Taken together that would be a fast of 2700 days at one day per person. And the best part is - nobody dies!

Perhaps they should try this with having a baby, another operation that does not lend itself to series solutions. If one person takes 9 months to have a baby, then by putting 2700 people on it, they should be able to do the same in around 0.1 day (about 2 hours and 24 minutes). That should certainly make the Guinness Book of World Records!

One thing about a rolling fast – once it gets rolling, it’s over fast.

Too bad they aren’t doing their hunger strike the old fashioned way. Some of them (Rosie O’Donnell comes to mind) could stand to shed a few pounds.

Meanwhile, Cindy Sheehan elbowed her way back into the news, with the announcement that she too, will be joining the fast. To give her credit, she plans to do a real, long-term fast. On the other hand, that is probably the only way she can stay in the news longer than a day or so. I sympathize with her loss; the death of a child is something no parent wants to experience. However her desire to extend her 15 minutes of fame indefinitely by increasingly shrill and vitriolic attacks on the President, not to mention our troops, and over-the-top exercises in attention-getting are becoming a bit much. It makes me wonder if losing her son hasn’t left her a somewhat unhinged (understandable), or if perhaps, she has come to develop a taste for the media attention.

So this Fourth had a nice variety; the Shuttle rockets red glare, North Korean missiles bursting in air. And a little Hollywood standup (or sit down, take your pick) comedy to tickle our funny bone. I must admit, when I heard about the “rolling hunger strike” on TV I laughed so hard my kids thought I was having a seizure.

It’ll be hard to top this next year.