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Experiment

July 5, 2012

It’s telling that we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence as our founding.  Not the drafting or the ratification of the Constitution, not our victory in the Revolutionary War, not even the day of our first act of rebellion.  It is simply the day we declared that we have a right to be free, and we choose to exercise that right, come what may.

No matter what we may have lost since then, we have kept that uniqueness.  We have a supreme confidence, and an almost universal sense of being exceptional.  This is the defining trait of the United States.  Not self-reliance, not hardiness, not honesty and fearlessness and integrity, though I do like to think we have some measure of those things as well.

What makes us America is that we think we are different.  And so far, for the past 236 years, we have been.  We foot the bill most of the western world’s military.  We are the first to aid after a disaster.  We have a fearsome military, and we ourselves are a well-armed militia.  We are a confident, resourceful people.  We invented the machine gun, football, the solar cell, the airplane, cheeseburgers, electric guitars, the assembly line,  the transistor and the microprocessor, the supermarket, the space station, the zamboni, and the atomic bomb, just to pick a few at random.  We did all this not out of necessity or malice, but out of curiosity and perhaps a certain amount of pride.  We landed on the moon; our rationale being, anything those commies can do, we can do better.  And you know what, we were right.

 

Our relationship with our government is very unique.  To understand it, look at the way we complain.  For one, we get to complain because we’re not afraid of our government or our police.  When we protest, it’s for the exact opposite reasons that everyone else protests.  Granted, we might have some fringe group protesting some stupid social issue, or occasionally we riot about police brutality or discrimination.  But by and large, while other countries protest that “the government’s not doing enough” and “we need you to fix this or that problem,” America’s protests are more like “just leave us alone!  We’re dependent on medicare and social security but we never wanted to be!  Stop getting us into stupid wars!  Just stop doing anything and we’ll handle it ourselves!  If we really need you we’ll let you know!”

That’s not to say we agree on everything.  But we agree on the important things.  We elected a president who would initiate universal health care and so we’re trying it out.  Not all of us wanted it, not all of us think it’s right, but now that we have it, we all just pretty much assume it will work.  To me that is remarkable.  Universal health care has ranged from problematic to disastrous in other countries, but if you ask any American, they’ll say…what’s that got to do with anything?  Those countries aren’t America.  Even if everyone else in the world fails, that doesn’t mean we will.

No matter what anyone says, this is a great country.  Not a perfect one, but a great one.  But it has lost some of what made it great.  We were once a country full of wild, unruly people.  But we shared the ideal that there is nothing more important than being left alone.  We pursued prosperity and happiness, and we did it without shame or second thoughts.  We believed the good life was worth fighting for.  If there is anything I would change about modern America, it’s this horrible passivity and gullibility.  This is a country that  doesn’t blink at the threat of riot police and SWAT teams, a country that laughs at the prospect of a conventional land invasion, a country that, for most of its history, feared absolutely nothing.

So if you had told me 15 years ago that we would consent to being strip searched at the airport, I would have said you were insane.  When did we become so fearful?  When did we start believing everything we see on TV?  We got attacked by some asshole in 2001, and it was used as a justification for an endless war against a phantom enemy.  There is no “terror.”  Yes, those countries are full of angry, violent people, but mostly because we’ve been there for 11 years.  You can say, oh we were tricked, but you really weren’t.  In 2003: some guy in the middle east is theoretically building some weapons.  OK?  Hey, isn’t it the UN’s job to make sure he’s not manufacturing and stockpiling weapons?  They really should get on that.  If you need us to bomb the guy’s palace, sure we can do that.  That should have been the extent of our involvement.  Post 9/11 it’s like we just…believed everything.  Hook, line, and sinker.  We’re only now regaining our scepticism.

And you know, even with all the screw ups and delays, we still killed the guy that financed 9/11.  He lived for a decade cooped up in a compound on a dialysis machine, then we flew in, killed him, and left.

I guess I am rambling, but my point is, we Americans are not blindly patriotic.  We are a great country full of unique people.  I have very real, specific reasons for believing that.  We let fear rob us of our greatness, but we can take it back again.  Demand peace, demand equality, demand freedom, demand dignity.  Do  what’s right, love your neighbor, remember your creator.  This can be the nation it once was.

We landed on the moon.  That was 43 years ago!  Soon my generation will be in charge.  Let’s set grand goals.  Let’s be the leaders again.  Before I die, I’m going to Mars, and an American ship is going to take me there.  And if the TSA wants to fondle my balls first, they can go fuck themselves.

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