Happy birthday, America!

4 07 2009

I love this nation. There, I said it. Living in one of the bluest areas of a deeply blue state for the last eight years this has been a difficult thing to admit amongst people who somehow confuse this nation for it’s government. I remember reading an article just after the election of Barack Obama about how suddenly American flags were in vogue amongst the intellgentsia of San Francisco and Boston. Suddenly it was OK to be proud of America now that the idiot from Crawford was no longer in power. I resent that idea. Patriotism and love of nation is not a fashion statement that you put on because your guy won. Nor should it, I believe, be predicated on the accident of your birth. I don’t believe blood defines a nation. You should love your nation because you believe in the ideals it represents, the culture it embodies, the future it promises and the daily opportunities it offers. In our case, it’s embodied in the poetic words of the Declaration — “the pursuit of happiness.”

As Robert Heinlein pointed out, America was the first nation explicitly built around the ideal of happiness, self-satisfaction, the chase of personal fulfillment in whatever shape that takes. This, then, is the great gift of America on July 4th — freedom as the highest ideal. Freedom  as a condition, the security of which the state is constituted to safeguard, not a privelege and a prize given out by the machinery of government.

Of course freedom does have it’s dark side. The Declaration of Independence merely offers “the pursuit of happiness.” It does not guarantee happiness to anybody. People can and will use that freedom in ways that disturb or offend others. People can and will use that freedom in ways that cause them to fail in various capacities — personally, professionally, morally — and this seems to offend certain people. It always seemed to me that the real fight has never between “Left” and “Right” in the American sense, but between those who would like to use the machinery of government to put safety rails around existence. Nobody ever fails that way, to be certain, but nobody ever truly succeeds either. This nation offers up the chance to succeed beyond the dreams of kings of ancient times. It also offers the chance to fail more spectacularly than you can possibly imagine. That’s the real “American Dream,” and I for one believe it’s worth both celebrating and defending,

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