7 Things I Love about the United States of America on #4thofJuly #USA


1. America is Enlightened

I am proud of the fact that America is the first country that was founded on the principles of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality that were the product of the Enlightenment. Yes there were some who came to this continent for religious reasons, but the country’s foundation is firmly within the humanistic tradition. The phrase “we hold these truths to be self-evident” was originally supposed to be “we hold these truths to be sacred” but Benjamin Franklin argued for the “self-evident” wording so as to have the Declaration of Independence appeal to EVERYONE, and not just those who believed in a particular religion, or indeed any religion at all.

2. America is Optimistic

Stephen Fry, like Alistair Cooke before him in a different generation, is someone born in Britain who considers America to be his adopted home. One of the reasons why he feels pride in America is that it the national character is so optimistic. He mentions a theory that most Americans are optimistic because it is the optimistic ones that ended up leaving Europe when times got tough, whereas the pessimistic or fatalistic ones ended up staying there. When I heard him mention this theory on an interview with Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show (see clip below), I realized that his theory actually has some scientific basis as it was mentioned in the book Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. The genetic structure of members of families was compared for those families who had several generations move to America at some point in their history. The ones that were on the American side had higher incidence markers for what might be referred to as the genes controlling “restlessness”, better known as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Here’s the link to the interview:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWDzfkWDClk

3. America is Innovative

One of my favorite founding fathers is Benjamin Franklin. I just got done reading the biography of Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson. I think it interesting that he has also produced biographies on a scientist (Albert Einstein), a diplomat (Henry Kissinger), and an inventor (Steve Jobs), whereas Benjamin Franklin was all of those in his lifetime, and more. Benjamin Franklin was not only innovative when it comes to scientific ideas or inventions, but also in terms of social norms as well. He along with George Washington had contemplated the idea of the American Indians joining the United States as a separate state of their own. When he saw a group of African-American children who were educated to be literate in Massachusetts, he became even more anti-slavery than he was before. He probably would have been one of the Founding Fathers who would have been most at home in our technological age of wonders such as the Internet.

4. America is Multicultural and increasingly Multiracial

One of my favorite places to live was on Roosevelt Island in New York, because many of the UN diplomats had residence there. But Roosevelt Island was different from New York in terms of being multicultural and multiracial in terms of degree. The rest of the city is almost like a reflection of the microcosm of the UN, and America as a whole is looking increasing like this as well. For someone who loves foreign languages and learning about the different cultures of the world, this is not threatening, but exhilarating to know that we are made up of the same fabric as the rest of the planet.

To some having the white people lose their “pride of place” in being the most numerous in this country is threatening, but the America I love is the one, like the Statue of Liberty, who welcomes the newcomers.  It’s not a zero-sum game, and the immigrant experience teaching us this time and time again.

5. America is Equal

When I say “equal”, I mean “equal under the law.”  This is the essence of the breakdown of feudalism with its inherent caste system towards a truly democratic society. The worst aspect of the financial crisis of 2008 in my estimation is not the economic inequality it engendered, but the fact that nobody in Wall Street has been prosecuted for fraud, thus giving credence to the idea that there is a separate justice for the elite in this country. Even during the administration of Ronald Reagan, hardly an anti-business president by any means, those who were involved in the Savings and Loan scandal went to jail.  But not this time around.  That is why I see those in Occupy Wall Street as being conservatives in their own way because they want to restore this country to a time and place when committing a crime meant you did time, no matter who you were.

6. America is Federal

The system of concentric government, from the Federal to the State to the Municipal level is an ingenious system, and the contrasts and conflicts between Federal and State governmental powers has a long-running history in our country. From a cultural standpoint, however, I must say that America is so vast that it contains multitudes to borrow the phrase from Walt Whitman. You have so many regional cultures that have their own charm and yet all of us have multiple identities as Californians (or whatever state you’re from) and Americans. This allows us to share a common culture and yet not be homogeneous.

7. America is Progressive

There are some things worth conserving and I have some sense of sympathy for conservatives who want to put the brakes on change out of a sense of caution and a fear of anarchy. However, I do have to say that, as Winston Churchill put it, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” We were the second to the last country in the world to get rid of slavery, but we did finally do it (the last was Turkey, I believe).

The excesses of economic inequality led to periods of reform in which laws and regulations controlling the power of business were enacted. The Progressive movement in this country occurred after the excesses of the Gilded Age in the 19th century, and if history serves as a guide, it will create a backlash against the second Gilded Age in which we are living now.

These are the reasons for which I am grateful to be an American. Many of the things I mentioned now are under threat in this country, such as the American optimism I mention in point number 2.

But if we celebrate the things we love above our country, we will be in a more positive frame of mind to tackle those problems that we do face.    Our country has its faults, but it is lovable despite all its faults for the 7 reasons I mentioned above.

Happy 4th of July!

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