This seems like it should be an easy question. But then again answering who America broke away from should be an easy question…and yet 26% of the country seems to have problem with that…Still while this should be an easy question, I feel it is one that should be asked and answered. I feel this because some of the really stupid news reports I saw on Sunday nobody seemed to give a reason exactly why this should be an important day for people…other than it’s our independence day, not because there is something actually different about America–and that should be the reason why the 4th of July is special because there is something special about America. But what makes America so special?
Well it sure as hell isn’t our culture…or lack thereof. I don’t think any country is particularly smarter, but in reality no country has so well marketed our lazy, low class, and uneducated into a popular forum as well as America (well, maybe Ancient Rome). Granted the US created jazz, rock’n’roll, turned film from a simple curiosity into an art, has a smattering of great poets and writers, but hey it’s year 234, what did England have on it’s 234th birthday (1300 CE)…they had Beowulf, that’s it, (Chaucer was still 60 years away from publishing anything). So I’ll give America a break that we haven’t yet produced a Shakespeare or Beethoven or Michelangelo. But still our culture of McDonald’s, Reality TV, Britney Spears, Twilight and Twitter is nothing to be really impressed about.
Our politics perhaps. We weren’t the first republic or democracy, but we’ve managed to last longer than most. And we’re certainly more fair than most in history…but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that our politics are beyond screwed up. Yes we are free society where anyone from any class can be successful (but nowadays lots of countries get to claim that). Yes we’re better than everybody else (if you exclude the fact the the Heritage Foundation and the Wallstreet Journal says Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, and Austria are more free–and The Economist lists 17 countries as more democratic ) but we’ll just forget that for the moment…actually no we won’t forget that. If we were to pride ourselves on our government and freedom we would do everything we could to make it to the front of lists like this–and yet we elected a man who is making sure our rating is going down, down, down. Also the corruption, the inefficiency and just general waste is also nothing to brag about. And the insane way we go about trying to find candidates in primaries is beyond insanity.
Our history. Okay so we’re the first country to successfully break away from the mother-country and form a successful republic…to which I would suggest you read the above paragraph. You could argue we’re the only country to free another people and then leave…but then again we haven’t done that in a while and given the way we’ve backstabbed the the Koreans and Vietnamese (who we went to war for and then left them to communist tyrannies), Tibetans and Hungarians (who asked for our help which never came) and coming up soon the Iraqi’s, Afghani’s and Israeli’s (who we are about to betray), our history is not always something to say we are great nation.
Lots of stupid people used to claim that our economic prowess was proof that we are a great nation. First this is stupid; Germany in the 30′s was an economic powerhouse, yet certainly not a great nation. But more relevant our economy isn’t great. And I don’t mean because it’s falling like a rock, I mean because our economic philosophy sucks. And while I believe we will eventually pull out of this, nothing short of a massive and hard hitting pandemic will end our economic woes in the short run. We have a president who believes in Keynesian economics, long since disproved by common sense and history…but what did you expect when you have a country where 36% of people believe socialism is a good thing (of course my favorite part of this poll is that among those who identify themselves as liberals, 60% have a positive view of capitalism and 61% have a positive view of socialism…means that at least 21% clearly don’t understand that the systems are so diametrically opposed you can’t be in favor of both of them…and what is with the 20% of conservatives who have a positive view of socialism, those people clearly don’t understand what conservative means).
So what does make this country special? And make no doubt it is special.It is our ideals. It is always the ideals of a country that make it good or bad, superior or inferior. Now some countries change their ideals over time with the changing mood of the era, but America is different. This is probably because we etched them down on paper and kept that document around and untouched and open to the public once it was adopted. So what are those ideals? Well we all know the words,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
And what makes these so special? How about the idea that life is actually about achieving Happiness…not seeking to appease a god or monarch, or sacrificing your existence to this or that religion, but that life is to be lived for the purpose of achieving Happiness. And that it is only through liberty that these can be achieved. And even though this is so obvious a fact, people still delude themselves with ridiculous beliefs duties to the preposterous belief that life is only to have duty to others, and no other country I know of has adopted this ideal.
Further, while our present administration doesn’t quite get this (probably because I doubt The One’s ability to read anything but a teleprompter) government is formed only to protect these rights, not to give anything. As it says later in that blessed document : “we do in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies”–that is “of the people, and by the people”–it would take a man who had absolutely no respect for the Constitution and saw America only as land to add such evil and illogical shit as the concept that government is “for the people.” The government isn’t there for the people, only to protect their rights from being infringed upon by others…the Founders knew that, and while many have forgotten it, it is still an ideal of this country and always will be.
And the nice thing about ideals is that they have a very long shelf life. Just as the ideals of Athenian democracy (for all of it’s flaws) now rules much of the world, and will likely continue to spread even though Athens itself is no longer the center of the world; just as Roman republican values of law and infrastructure continue to essentially be a guiding light despite a rather well publicized fall of the Roman Empire; just as while the sun now sets daily on the British Empire, Britain still has left a permanent and wonderful mark on the world through the genius of British common law—so shall the United State forever be in charge. The ideals that formed the U.S. in an ungodly hot Philadelphia room in the summer of 1776 and were then refined over the course of the next two hundred years are not likely to die from the world. And that is only part of America that must be preserved at all costs. Whether the United States of America itself is top dog is unimportant, so long as the idea of it remains in charge the world over. Because it is that part that makes America great, not the economic power or the military might, not history, culture or even our process–those are only effects of that great idea, and as long as the idea remains powerful so shall America live forever.
And that is what makes America so special.
Seems a shame we only celebrate that once a year.