Live Free or What?

[LFOD] I feel I've been scooped by the good John Hinderaker at Power Line on a matter pertaining to my beloved state of New Hampshire. I would be derelict if I did not chime in on the issue. John says:

When I lived in New Hampshire, I enjoyed the perennial battles over the state's motto, "Live Free Or Die." It was on New Hampshire license plates then, and still is. The motto has been around for quite a while. It comes from a quote by New Hampshire's greatest Revolutionary War hero, Gen. John Stark. Stark reportedly gave a toast in 1809, when poor health led him to decline an invitation to a reunion of veterans of the 1777 Battle of Bennington: "Live free or die; death is not the worst of evils."

It's been the state motto since 1945. As I pointed out here, it's really the best state motto. (Although the competition isn't exactly Olympic-caliber. Maine: "Dirigo", Latin for "I Direct". Please.)

Liberals hate "Live Free Or Die." They hated it in the late 60s and early 70s, when I lived in New Hampshire, and they hate it still. The only difference is that liberals have grown more powerful in the state as southern New Hampshire increasingly consists of Boston bedroom communities.

Indeed. We even had a case go to the Supremes about it. (Argued by then Attorney General David Souter, who lost.) So now, "living free" also includes the right to tape over the motto on your plates, if you hate it enough. Now that's irony.

So I've enjoyed the latest motto controversy. New Hampshire, inspired by its more liberal elements--or, more likely, by its real estate developers--came up with a new jingle; it doesn't really qualify as a motto: "You're going to love it here." Feeble, no? Nevertheless, signs displaying the new slogan were posted along highways entering New Hampshire. The result was unhappiness

This is where John goes off the track a little, unfortunately.

  • The "You're going to love it here" slogan was the brainchild of a Portsmouth NH ad agency hired by the New Hampshire Department of Travel and Tourism. It's probably not politically motivated, other than by our state's ongoing effort to get out-of-staters to come in and help fund our state government. So that, um, we residents don't have to. (And don't think we don't appreciate it, folks!)

  • It in no way replaces LFOD, the Official State Motto.

  • New Hampshire's highway welcome signs haven't, generally, ever had the LFOD motto on them. (There's one, on I-89 in Lebanon, which remains. My theory is that it's there to irritate Vermonters, always an amusing activity.) The welcome signs have pretty much always been bland; the new ones simply went all the way to total smarmy adspeak.

  • But, thanks to the utter lameness of the "You're going to love it here" slogan (as John points out):

    The Senate passed a bill Thursday to require the state motto, "Live Free or Die," on highway welcoming signs. The motto could replace the "love it" slogan on the beige signs, or, more likely, appear on new signs.

So, bottom line, LFOD fans need not fret. The motto is alive and well.

Amusing side note: Current news stories have our governor, John Lynch, all for getting rid of the "generic" slogan; the Concord Monitor, however, recalls that he thought it was great when it was officially introduced last summer. Headlines the Monitor: "Lynch liked slogan before he didn't." (This formulation will undoubtedly be John Kerry's most enduring legacy.)

(Image, um, borrowed from Fosters Daily Democrat. Thanks guys. Don't sue me, OK?)

Last Modified 2012-10-25 1:53 PM EDT


[Amazon Link]

I'm catching up on James Lee Burke novels. This one is no exception to his usual masterly stuff. This is his second Billy Bob Holland book. Billy Bob is a lawyer, and ex-Texas Ranger based in Deaf Smith, Texas. Like Burke's other major protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, Billy Bob is a fundamentally decent but occasionally hot-tempered hero, incessantly haunted by mistakes in his past.

The usual Burkean elements are here too: a rich but corrupt family mired in evildoing; little people with the odds stacked against them; characters with circus-freak physical deformities; characters with psychological problems that would earn you or me a quick trip to the rubber room; a touch of the supernatural. Inventive mayhem and intense psychic travail all the way through, and a whole lot of dead folks by the end.

And I don't think there's a writer alive whose descriptions can plunk you into a scene like Burke. Rodeos, drive-ins, barbecue joints, mansions: you're right there.

Last Modified 2012-10-25 1:54 PM EDT