(or Fourth of July, or Independence Day, or whatever)
Yup, I’m a British person acknowledging the Fourth of July, a holiday in which America finally moved out of it’s parent’s, Britain’s, basement, and began exerting itself on the big wide world all by itself; it’s just like any other growing up story, but involved slightly more eloquent protestations of ‘You can’t tell me what to do any more!’ and a bit less awkward making out on one’s parent’s sofas.
Also, I’m addressing that title to ‘you’, an entity I’ve already defined on this blog as a friend of mine; I have American friends, but I also have British friends, Asian friends, African friends and Elvish friends, and this post isn’t particularly directed at any one of those groups.
I’m wishing you a happy Independence Day not out of unexpected American patriotism (apart form their heroic World Cup performance against Belgium), but to highlight my personal apathy towards anything resembling patriotism; even in sports, I’m more supportive of Costa Rica’s ‘small team doing well’ narrative than my native England’s ‘big team doing crap (again)’ narrative.
I don’t feel any particular attachment to the lump of rock I was born on; patriotism is illogical to me, as one is expected to feel loyalty and love for a characteristic of oneself that one had no control over; if I was born in Britain or France, I’d be the same baby, but ‘patriotism’ would mean wholeheartedly supporting two different countries for no real reason. Also, I feel that, while intended to be a celebration and a constructive feeling, patriotism can easily turn into something destructive; there’s a fine line between loving your country and your culture, and the next logical step that your country must therefore be superior to others, and the final logical step that other countries are therefore lesser than yours, and so must be treated with little respect, or outright hostility. I’m not saying that all patriots are xenophobes, but this progression makes more sense to me than the concept of patriotism in the first place.
So today I want to draw attention to the values this patriotism stands for, the whole ‘liberty!’ and ‘woo freedom!’ baloney; and while I can’t say I necessarily agree with all these things – I would honestly rather live in a world where the potential for individual wealth was compromised in favour of a raising of living standards for all – it is important to consider and discuss these ideas. It is very difficult to have a debate about patriotism – ‘My country’s better than yours!’ ‘No it’s not!’ … ‘Okay then!’ – but it is easier and more enlightening to talk about the values this nationalism stands for; we can discuss the relative merits of liberty versus equality, and learn more from it, than having a flag-waving competition.
And this is something I like about America; despite the practical discrimination of aspects of the country today – and don’t even get me started on the ‘all men are created equal’ bit of the Constitution – America was theoretically founded on ideas of equality amongst people, and I feel that the Fourth of July would be more effective if it focused on reinforcing these values, rather than just degenerating into a nation-wide belting out of The Star-Spangled Banner.
So have a good Independence Day, enjoy your barbecues and easily-available miniature flags, and try to remember why you’re celebrating what you are. And if you’re British, it can be another day of grumbling about our government, weather, and sports teams, but with the added bite of the Americans being happy for once, which always helps with national moaning.