Thoughts on the 4th of July

I’m American, but not much of a patriot.  I live in a foreign country, and I’m damned happy about it.  Health insurance, better schools for the kids, clean drinking water straight from the tap, almost never any mass shootings, etc…


Philadelphia, 1776

Also, I believe that all the world is one and we should start thinking about it that way.

Still, today is the 4th of July, so it’s a good time to talk about what that means to me.  It’s not my least favorite holiday, but it’s certainly not my favorite (that would probably be Halloween).  I like the barbecues, could live without the fireworks although if I were in the U.S. I’d probably go to a display and enjoy it, and am downright disturbed by all the flag waving and jingoism.

But, let’s go back.  July 4th, 1776.  The war had been going on for over a year already (we probably should celebrate April 19th as Independence Day, but whatever) when a few brave souls met in Philadelphia to declare independence from Great Britain, which was probably enough to get them hanged, if we’d lost, so kudos to them.

The importance of it is not just American independence from Great Britain, but the very idea of independence.  It was (not exactly July 4th, 1776, but the result of the whole war, which didn’t end until 1783) an end to monarchy.  The French Revolution happened a few years later, with even bloodier results.  Come down to it, it took over a century for the idea to spread worldwide, there were actual, functioning monarchies right into the 20th century, but the American Revolution was the beginning of the end of them.

Of course, there had been Cromwell back in the 1600s, but he was such a tyrannical asshole and religious killjoy that he actually made people want the king back, any king, so the American Revolution was the first that worked.  It meant independence from kings, and the first modern democracy.

For all its flaws (Brexit, George W. Bush, Hitler) democracy  is, in the immortal words of Winston Churchill (who churned out a lot more immortal words than effective battle plans if you want to know the truth) “the worst system of government ever invented…except for all the others.”

That right there is a good reason to be proud to be an American.


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