Americana

Yesterday (July 4th, if you’re reading this in the future) was Independence Day here in the United States.  In a statement that may be considered treasonous to some of my fellow countrymen, I must admit that I’ve never really thought much about the significance of the day.  I know a bit of the history.  July 4, 1776 was the date that the Second Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence (They actually approved the resolution of independence two days earlier), in which the colonies stated their intent to be free from British rule.

Independence Days aren’t exactly unique.  A brief check of Wikipedia revealed that there are approximately 200 other Independence Days celebrated around the world.  Canada, for example, celebrates theirs, called Canada Day, three days earlier, and, like their southern neighbor, they have parades, fireworks, and the like.

Still, it seems to me that America celebrates Independence Day a bit bigger than anyone else.  Of course, that could be because I live here and am surrounded by it all this time of year.  This is the day we show the world how America America really is. 

That came across as a bit snide.  However, there is this idea of American exceptionalism that is quite strong in these United States.  Some Americans believe this country was ordained by God to be the greatest country on Earth.  And the level of fervor goes down from there.

Personally, I like living here.  Of course, I haven’t lived anywhere else, so it’s hard to judge objectively.  I’ve visited England and Canada, both of which I liked.  And I’m hard pressed to think of anything I’m free to do in the US that I couldn’t do in either of those countries.  In some cases, the US is behind the curve on freedoms.  Last week’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage in the United States comes well after it was legalized in several other countries.

Maybe my problem is that I’ve watched too much Star Trek.  Countries aren’t really a going concern in the Star Trek future.  Instead, the show often talks about humanity.  I honestly wish we talked about that more now.  Obviously, America is still a great place to live.  It has its problems, but every year thousands of people emigrate here from other countries, both legally and illegally.  I work in an IT shop, and many of my colleagues are contractors from India.  They can end up waiting a decade or more for their US citizenship, but they do it because life here presumably offers them more opportunities than life back home.

But then that also seems to be true for a lot of the Western world, based on the levels of immigration to the UK, France, and other European nations.  Getting back to what I said about humanity, I would like to see us get to a time when people don’t have to emigrate away from their birth nations to look for a better life because life where they were born is pretty good and at the same standards as the rest of the planet.  I’m not sure if national identities help or hinder that effort.

So yes, I’m an American, and I’m proud of many of the things my nation has accomplished.  We helped defeat the Axis, we put people on the moon, and we gave the world the Internet, just to name a few.  I’m less proud that our country has hungry children, decaying infrastructure, and people who look at last week’s Supreme Court ruling as a sign of the end times.  None of that last sentence means that I hate my country.  You can love something while still acknowledging that it’s not perfect.  If anything, admitting that there are issues is the first step to addressing them.  What’s wrong with wanting to make a good place even better?

Much like our families, the country of our birth is a part of our identity.  Also like our families, we may not always agree on everything, but Happy Birthday, America.  I would have gotten you a card, but, as is true with my relationship with my brother, I think we’re a bit past that now. 

While we’re on the subject of Independence Day, though, I need to make one slight turn into pop culture land.  A couple of weeks ago, we saw the first official photos from the Independence Day sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.  I realize that we’ve hit the point of rebooting 90’s pop culture properties.  The X-Files revival is in the middle of filming, and Jurassic World just took in all of the money on the planet.  But was anyone really clamoring for another Independence Day?  The first movie was ok, but it’s not one that I ever had the urge to watch again.  Occasionally, I’ll catch it on TV and start trying to watch.  After about five minutes, I hit the point of, “Yeah, I’m good,” and then turn to something else.  I can’t say that I have high hopes for the sequel.

I guess I’ll see if I’m wrong this time next year.