Every July 4th, I feel it’s incumbent upon me, as a freedom-loving blogger, to write something meaningful. And every July 4th, I fail to do. Somehow, instead of golden prose about our nation, I invariably end up posting a picture of a waving flag and wishing everyone a “Happy July 4th.” It’s not the magnitude of the task that’s gotten in my way. Instead, looking back, it’s the sense I’ve always had that love of country goes without saying. Sure, the Leftists are anti-American but, because it’s so obvious to ordinary people that America is a grand experiment in freedom and a truly excellent way in which to live, it seems redundant to pile on with patriotic encomiums.
This year, though, the third July 4th we’ve seen under Barack Obama’s presidency, I have a sense of a nation under siege, not from a foreign enemy, but from a Fifth Column. Day after day, I read about the administration’s assaults on our “American-ness.” By this I mean that Obama’s policies aren’t simply well-intended, but incompetent, efforts to preserve the nation in a modern incarnation of the Founder’s vision (or, indeed, of the vision of most Americans up through the 1960s). Instead, Obama and his crew truly intend to be transformational — not, as naive voters believed, to raise us up; but, as Communists understood, to tear us down and rebuild us in an image alien to the traditional American ethos.
Whether it’s by returning us to a pre-industrial era by choking off our energy supplies; reducing us to a poor nation by drowning us in debt; destroying our status as a shining city on a hill by subordinating our interests to every tin-pot tyrant the world over; leaving us prey to terrorism (and even larger attacks) by yielding at every point to enemies who have us in their existential cross-hairs; constraining our individuality by a vastly increased bureaucracy that controls our banking, manufacturing, health care, etc.; or generally projecting an apologetic, self-abnegatory, self-loathing attitude that colors a nation’s view of itself, Obama is busy making America less than it was, less than it is, and less than it could be.
Sadly, the Obamas of the world have been busy at work in our education system for the past forty years, leaving two or three generations of Americans incapable of articulating what it is that makes our country special. Worse, they’ve been told that our country is anything but special. It’s not even average. It’s bad: a selfish, gluttonous, arrogant bully. Although they might experience a sense of loss if the current administration ultimately succeeds in transforming this nation, in the here and now, as the transformation is in progress, we have several generations of Americans who, like the dodo, don’t realize that they’re staring at their own extinction. Only when the last dodo is standing will he or she starting thinking “Damn, why didn’t I stop this before it happened.”
So — what’s wonderful about America?
America’s founding myth is wonderful. I say “myth” here because I want to avoid the Leftist’s snarling, soul-destroying debate about the Founder’s personal failings, whether it was the slaves they had, the slaves they let others have, the rights they denied women, the merchant class they supported, etc. The Founders were human. But before Browning was even a twinkle in his father’s eye, they already understand that “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” In this case, they focused on the lodestar of individual liberty. Looking beyond their own imperfections, they labored mightily to produce a political system that, for the first time in history, had individual freedom as its guiding principle. Even the dreaded “three fifths” clause was an attempt to weaken slavery’s hold on the nation with the plan that the system, always economically unfeasible, would prove to be politically unsustainable in a nation predicated on the idea of individual freedom, even if it hadn’t yet attained the dreamed-of reality.
Americans readily embraced this national mythology. Even when I was growing up in the 1960s, when the taint was taking hold in education, we still understood that the American system was intended to free individuals from government. That the Founders hadn’t succeeded in freeing blacks from their fellow man was an entirely separate thing from the grand plan of limited government. For the fist time in history, men envisioned a system by which they could make their own choices, unencumbered by an all-encompassing, all-controlling, all-mighty religious and political body. That’s a wonderful thing. Sure it was a new idea. Sure it had bugs (that darn slavery again). But the myth of freedom was what counted, and it’s what drove America inexorably forward for more than two hundred years, even as other nations fell by the wayside.
America’s natural beauty is wonderful. I’m willing to be that, no matter where you live, if you can still afford to hop into your car and drive 25 miles, you’ll see something lovely, whether it’s a mountain, a plain, a beach, a river, a forest, a field, a meadow or something else that strikes your fancy. We live in a country that is wonderfully and abundantly blessed by nature. We’ve got the spectacular displays (Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, Yosemite), the eerily beautiful austere sites (Death Valley, most of Nevada, the Badlands), the colors (all of New England in the Fall), and just the regular lovelies of sunrise over mountains and sunsets over beaches. How fortunate we are.
America’s man-made beauty is pretty damn wonderful too. Sure, we’ve got the strip malls and the slums, but we also offer San
Francisco, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Seattle, Los Angeles, St. Augustine, Austin and Boston, and every other city or town, all reflecting something unique and wonderful about America. As long as you don’t limit yourself so that beauty can only be found in English castles, French chateaus or German schlosses, you’ll find beauty here.
America’s people are wonderful. I used to love traveling to Europe. Heck, I lived abroad as a student. I know my history pretty well, and found it wonderfully satisfying to see history in situ. The more I traveled, though, the more I wanted to come back home. I finally realized that it was because you don’t live in the past, you live in the present — meaning that you live with the people of your own time. And in my time, Americans are friendly. This doesn’t mean they’re all nice; nor does it mean that the more reserved Europeans aren’t nice. It simply means that, in ordinary interactions, Americans are more likely to give you a “howdy” and some help. That doesn’t sound like much, but as we move through our days, these simple kindnesses add up.
America’s people are also wonderful because they are generous. So far as I know, they are the only people in the world who, for the last 150 years, have sent their sons and daughters to battle for other people’s freedoms. Is there a disaster somewhere in the world? Americans are there, with money and with helping hands. Was your house destroyed? Americans will help you build it again. We are a helpful people.
America’s dynamism is wonderful. We go, we hustle, we do, we hurry, we invent, we innovate, we streamline, we create, we do it all. We’re like some super duper product advertised on the shopping channel. If the American spirit was a product, I’d want to buy it.
There is so much to love about America: it’s system, it’s people, it’s nature. Appreciating our virtues doesn’t mean being blind to our faults. We are a work in progress, but those who wish to destroy America are doing something very evil indeed.
Happy July 4th, America. We have a lot to celebrate.