Which America Do You Celebrate?

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: United States Of America Views: 2684

Conservatives particularly love those holidays that they view as the best opportunities to display their patriotism. On the Fourth of July, they will predictably be among the loudest to cheer on the symbols of the day - the waving flags, the fireworks, the parades - as a show of their devotion to America.

But what is it that they are cheering on this year? Which America is the subject of their admiration, the inspiration for their barbecues and red-white-and-blue-decorated homes?

As many of them would describe it, they are celebrating the America that freed itself from British rule in the late 18th century, the America whose birth as a nation was the origin of Independence Day observances ever since, the America that has fought wars for freedom all over the world for the last century and is currently entrenched in a war on terror in the Middle East.

There is a contradiction here, however. If we are going to look at the meaning of the American Revolution in its purest, most admirable sense, what we are considering is a group of colonies that fought a war against empire and for local governance, a group of colonies seceding from a central state and its oppressive taxing, spying, regulating and attacks on due process. The America that was embodied in the struggle for independence against Great Britain, while imperfect, was fighting for self-determination and independence from the grand empire of the world. The America that exists today, on the other hand, is the grand empire of the world - in fact, the most powerful and expansive empire in world history.

The Bush administration has continued all the tyrannical policies of the Clinton administration and so many of those before it - socialist health care policies, nationalist education policies, Social Security, income taxation, the War on Drugs, gun control, maintaining military bases and foreign aid throughout the world, and central banking. Any one of these represents an attack on liberty that matches or far exceeds the typical egregious measure of which King George was guilty.

In addition, the Bush administration has propelled America into a nightmarish foreign and domestic war on terror. On the foreign front, Bush has rained destruction on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and led thousands of Americans to a premature death. He has propped up brutal puppet regimes in the Middle East, imposed an imperial occupation in Iraq, and conducted a military counterinsurgency campaign all so he could fulfill his advisors' crazed plans for reshaping the Middle East to the presumed benefit of foreign interests, religious zealots at home and abroad, and corporate profits.

On the domestic front, Bush has obliterated the Fourth Amendment with his assertions of the power to limitlessly spy on the American people in their homes and telecommunications without anything resembling true judicial due process or Congressional oversight. Even more outrageously, he has killed Habeas Corpus at home and in his faraway dungeons, where terror suspects have been detained indefinitely without trial or hearing. The whole while, the current administration has draped over its actions one of the most frightening shrouds of secrecy ever to obscure government activity in US history.

Outside the war on terror, the administration has accelerated the nationalization and corporatization of the American economy, launched the largest expansion of the welfare state since Lyndon Johnson, exploded federal spending, and sent its officers into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to enforce martial law and confiscate weapons from peaceful Americans.

And yet this is the America that so many Americans will celebrate on the Fourth of July. Not only has it become a parody of what the American Revolution promised it could become - that is, a nation born in a struggle against empire that widened the sphere of liberty continuously until it became a free country for all. Not only has the America of the Founding Fathers been abandoned. What we see today is a terrifying empire at times much more oppressive and belligerent than that regime against which the colonies rebelled. At least compared to what average Americans have to endure under George Bush II, what they had to suffer under King George III now seems trivial.

So how do we explain this extreme disconnect? Are Americans, especially conservatives, conscious of the great chasm between the anti-imperial America symbolized by Independence Day and the imperial America we have today?

The best possible explanation is nationalism. What most rightwingers celebrate on the modern Fourth of July is simply the nation-state of America, which was in a way born as soon as independence was gained from Britain, although not truly molded into a cohesive regime until the Constitution's ratification, and made much more of a nationalist state and expansive empire with each of the big wars - especially the Mexican War, Lincoln's War, the Spanish-American War, the World Wars, and the Cold War.

Approached in this way, we can perhaps grasp the new nationalist understanding of the Fourth of July: In 1776, the American people revolted against the British Empire, thus enabling the development of their own empire, which would far exceed the relatively meager global power obtained by the British state.

And so the American nationalists will have their fireworks and sing songs about conquering other peoples. They will pray for the success of the newest imperial project even as they give lip service to the concepts of independence and freedom. They will be glad that Bush is doing all he can to protect their security, for which they have gladly traded their liberty, and the liberty of others. They will see no irony in it because for them the American Revolution is not about an imperfect life of liberty outside the state; it's rather about the stability and confidence that come with living under the most powerful government in the world, one that can wage war on any other country without anyone's permission, one that can hold the entire planet hostage with its awesome nuclear arsenal.

One problem with this mindset is it is dependent on the unreliable. Empires fall. The American empire will not always have the credit and global power it now has. It is in fact losing them with each day. It is thus much better on the Fourth to celebrate liberty, the idea of independence from the state, and hope and work for its rebirth, rather than be among those celebrating such a transient cause as the American nation-state with its current surplus of power and deficits in liberty and reason. If you celebrate that America, your cause may one day prove as lost as that of the few Brits who wish America had stuck it out under the yoke of England.

Anthony Gregory is a research analyst at the Independent Institute  who lives in Berkeley, California. He can be reached at [email protected].

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: United States Of America
Views: 2684

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Older Comments:
Interesting comments by H.A. If I may reply.

It is a common human trait to blame somebody else when things are not going as you think they should. Before the European expansion into North America the world had many problems, and after the European expansion into North America the world still has many problems. So no I don't buy into the fact that cause of the World's problems is the United States, or as many Muslims think the Jews of the world. If you want to fix your problems in the Middle East you have to do it yourself which you aren't. The Arab League or whatever you call it, doesnt do anything to stop human rights abuses in the Middle East. Also The Charter of Human rights done in Cairo over 60 years ago, had two class of citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims. So much for equality.

Former Kuwaiti Education Minister Ahmad Al-Rub'i, has interesting an viewpoint, that he has said on TV (march 23) is that Arabs have to forget about politics, and start working to make things better for themselves. I agree with this, and this would go a long way to solving Middle East problems.

Did I say my definition of succus was wealth, no I didn't I talked about freedom. So your point is off. In North America, we are the freest people in the world Along with Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The ability for people to have the OPPURTUNITY to pursue their own objectives in life is the strenght of a free society.

Talk of clothes off and on, is childish talk really. Please don't talk about comparing people to nature, how weak. His comments about Westerners showing their genitals to attract the opposite sex is new to me. Where have you seen this activity H.A.

Middle East oil, well to tell you the truth we do need it, and the Middle East needs our money, so I guess that comes out even.

I would like to thank the editors who publish my comments, as they at times don't coincide with the message trying to be pushed. They show true democracy,and should be com

I have to sincerely say that Sir Doin Phine is DOING FINE here at this website. Initially, he used complain and scream to the editors for criticizing his comments. It is apparent he has passed that phase and JUST DOING FINE.

I disagree about his comment. He said "...
Why does the ARAB world hate the US, and the West in general, it is because of the success of secular society, which contradicts the teachings of the Koran..."

In short, Sir Doine Phine does NOT know the true definition of success. God created humans to remain and behave like humans as long they live. If someone can behave like humans as long as he/she lives, THAT IS TRUE SUCCESS. Success is NOT hou much money you have in your account or What degree you hold or how big your house is! Success should NOT be equated with materilism and high spirit life style. It's all about decency.

Yeah. I agree that Western secular society is so succesful that peoples' pants fall off. They can't keep their clothes. Only animals in jungles should have hard time keeping their attire on. If you, your daughter, and wives' clothes fall off and expose yourselves in public, ask youself: Who am I? Am a human or an animal?

Only animals is jungle expose their sexual parts to attract mates. Human should NOT be doing this.

In terms of economy, sir Doine Phine does not know history. The WEST has stolen everything it has from Africa and Asia and STILL STEALING (i.e.-Iraq, stole the land of Palestine etc). Just ask the Africans, how much Europeans stole their resources.

If Middle East cuts off oil, sir Doine Phine will NOT be DOINE FINE any longer. He will have to walk to work and walk back home for eternity. Hence, he will NOt be doing FINE neither at work nor at home. Then the half-life of his bragging would be 1 sec and l letter.

More later...

You said it Jose. You claim not to know much but insist on rambling on and on. Your little rant on Muslim countries is an exercise in the art of ignorance and reductionism. We understand the US for what it is, a rogue state which is the greatest to world peace and stability. You people have fascism, not freedom. Only an idiot thinks oogling at fireworks and watching bad reality TV makes them "free."

Yes way Jose!

"The alternate view is to say America is evil, home of the devil! They steal from and currupt the whole world and they are the reason Muslims suffer."

Excellent! I couldn't have said it better myself!

I would like to say that we are celebrating the freedoms we have as Americans, the power we have as Americans and all the other blessings we have as Americans.

The July 4th celebration has NOTHING to do with George Bush or any sitting president but EVERYTHING to do with the people, their freedoms, their struggles, their successes, and the blessings they are granted.

This simple fact is something that escapes Muslims and you should stop being arrogant and try to learn something from it. Your countries are in chaos because Muslims are revolting against the outside powers not the local Sheiks and Mullahs that corrupt the resources of the land and instill a backwards 4th century mentality.

Look around the planet and you will see EVERY Muslim country has a very small, elite upper class and a very large poor, illiterate lower class. Is it because America did this to EVERY Muslim country or could it be that EVERY Muslim country on planet earth is ran by a corrupt leader and it's people are encouraged to live and think as though they are desert nomads living in the 4th century while the Sheikh takes the money to the bank?

Muslims remove the ability of "free will" from their society by chaining it to the ground to enforce Islam. Examples of this is Arabia, the Taliban and other ridiculous groups with similar mentality throughout the world. Free will is a God given right to all mankind and the ability to choose cannot be taken away by any Sheikh or Mullah else you will have a society of fools.

I don't know allot about Islam but I respect the religion as I have met many a great human beings that call themselves Muslim! If you want to understand what is being celebrated in America on July 4th, then read the stories of the first Muslims as they marched into Mecca, it does not explain all but it is a good place to start.

Quite a negative article about the US on this site, can't say I'm surprised. But I appreciate the opportunity to post another point of view.

I believe the United States is one of the greatest nations that has ever seen the day. Not for the reasons of its Military might which it does have but for the belief in freedom, and the desire to protect that right of freedom. The US was built on idealistic objectives, and it is these objectives that some times leads to errors. To go into Iraq to eradicate WMD's even when not sure or to take down a dictator that is dangerous to the US is alright. But to create a democracy, how naive an error. An error that comes from the idealistic and optimistic nature that the US was created with. The taking away of rights that the political left likes to comment about, evidently doesnt understand the physical dangers of this war on terror that was started by Bin Laden and his croonies. Like the war on communism it will be a long war, and there will be victories and defeats, but a free man, has a distinct advantage over terrorists who are slaves to their cause, which is JIHAD.

As a Canadian I have the utmost respect and admiration for the US, they have not been asked to lead the world, but from WWII were given this heavy burden, that others not having this burden, like to stick up their nose and claim moral superiority!

Happy fourth of July to all Americans, you deserve it!

Yes, 4th of July really meant something in the past. But now I am not sure being an American
these days, with Bush out to be the axis of evil
with Israeli.