Of the dozens of Independence Day tweets that flooded my feed yesterday, this one brought the biggest smile to my face:
Oh, last thing to be proud of: The USA is founded on a philosophical experiment and didn't immediately go autocratic! That's very rare!—
Zach Weiner (@ZachWeiner) July 04, 2012
Too true. And isn’t it marvellous? I don’t care if the Founding Fathers struck lucky and a social scientist can prove that America’s success depended on factors out of their control. Setting up a nation from scratch that has soared to such heights whilst retaining the political system envisioned from the outset surely licences just a dash of romanticism. And I am deeply envious of the ability of Americans to have a day of patriotic sentiment centered around such beautiful liberal values.
But the politics is only part of the story. To truly appreciate the country’s power, you have to step back and see its technological and artistic contributions. I am typing this post to you on WordPress.com, on my Apple computer, only to no doubt share it with you via Twitter or Facebook, assuming you haven’t stumbled across my blog on Google. Last night I saw Regina Spektor play; a Russian and a Jew but primarily a product of the States. Two weeks ago I saw Springsteen, the archetype of Americana. In the past fortnight I have watched Good Night and Good Luck, The General, Zodiac, His Girl Friday, Broadway Danny Rose, Training Day, Bonnie and Clyde, Public Enemies, Milk and Brokeback Mountain: from pioneering silent slapstick and screwball through to telling documentations of political history. I’m reading Gatsby at the moment whilst my girlfriend indulges in Lolita. What diversity and magnificence, expressed in one short paragraph.
I’m a parasite on American culture from across the Atlantic. And so, most probably, are you, albeit to a lesser extent. It’s love-hate, of course. The paradox flowing from a country that’s formally secular but in reality soaked in religiosity is naturally infuriating. And I’ll never understand why the otherwise healthy stress on individualism has to manifest itself in such a fierce and vicious fetishisation of property. But the US remains unparalleled. If I don’t get to live there at some point, I will undoubtedly die feeling incomplete.