Jimi Hendrix was exiting stage left just as I was making my grand entrance. On September 17, 1970, the last day the 27-year old legendary guitarist was seen alive in London, I shocked my parents who had been told to expect a boy given how my mother was carrying me – basketball-style, all tummy such that you couldn’t tell from walking behind her that she was pregnant. I was apparently none too considerate of the medical profession when I decided I’d had enough of the dark. Just after midnight, Dr. Carter, to whom I’ll always be grateful, was summoned on his own birthday for the meet and greet. Given I was to be named for a French Air Force pilot my father had befriended during Vietnam, adaptability was in immediate order as this mite of a 5 pounds, 13-ounce baby girl screamed to be recognized. And so, at 1:58 am, Daniel René became Danielle Renée DiMartino.
Looking back, September 17th was both a dreadful and wondrous day in history. In 642, Arabs conquered Alexandria and with it the world’s preeminent library. In 1562, the Council of Trent, seen as the saving grace for the Catholic Church besieged by the Reformation, took ecclesiastical canon. In 1683, Antoine van Leeuwenhoek reported the existence of bacteria. Closer to home, my second-to-favorite parallel occurred on September 17, 1766, the date of birth of one Samuel Wilson who would go on to feed U.S. Army troops and earn the adoring nickname, “Uncle Sam.”
The deepest pride I take is that my date of birth coincides with September 17, 1787, such an auspicious day in U.S. history, that it is recognized on calendars as Constitution Day. ‘Tis true, the Constitution of the United States was completed and signed by a majority of 12 delegates attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia that day. In a show of proof that bureaucrats can be efficient, the Connecticut Compromise was also agreed to on the 17th, stipulating that every state, irrespective of its size, be given an equal vote in the Senate while representation in the House was to be based on population. To ensure the continuation of the government, that day, the “College of Electors,” wherein states choose their representatives to cast votes in the presidential election, was also established.
On this Constitution Day, as I reach a milestone in my own life, chaos has ensued in my beloved nation. With 46 days until the 2020 presidential election, some 250 coronavirus lawsuits have been filed in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Most legal experts concur that it would take a miracle to know who our president will be on November 3rd. The economy and the financial markets have begun to reflect the uncertainty inherent in a protracted legal battle to the White House. At a deeper level, the chasms opening convey a sense that the country itself is at a crossroads, a moment that will redefine, and perhaps, reinforce, the aims of our founding fathers, one of which was to, “insure domestic Tranquility,” with a capital “T.”