This is no ordinary Fourth of July today. America, by which conversational name most people mean exactly the United States, is celebrating its 240th birthday. It might be a time of political crisis and economic turmoil but I believe that the USA is a strong country and even a stronger society than ever before no matter what.
Tearing away from royal Britain and becoming a more or less democratic republic was a bold step. With slaves and women beyond the threshold of democracy, Native Americans on the eve of the final solution, and the great expanses still wild Frontier and wilder, America had a long way to come to what it is now. It had been ninety years until abolition came around, another half-century until women were given the right to vote, and yet another few decades before the blacks were allowed to sit wherever they chose on public buses. But no country has grown to be a perfect place in the blink of an eye. No country is perfect. America is no exception.
The great deception is to think that the USA is an ideal country. Probably the same deception would be to believe that this is the cradle of all evil. It is neither. America is on a mission to become a better place and to show the world it could be a better place as Americans see it. The rest of the world may be of another opinion about what’s good for them, but here’s where every big country that believes it is a missionary is going wrong.
Just like the USA we in Russia are led to believe that our way is better and an example. Surely, by this, we mean some spiritual and hopeful expectations of a better life, not the one we actually have. Just like the USA we can point to our neighbors and call for them to follow us. It is just the USA has a tradition of making such calls with more boldness and military preparedness. But these are non-essential details.
What is essential is that both should preferably concentrate on themselves. Russia should concentrate on making life for its citizens a real example in flesh and blood rather than in some philosophical musings. America should concentrate on fostering that better life that it has. The rest of the world will follow, with no military preparedness or any calls necessary.
Actually, the world follows. The religious leaders and political clowns may say whatever they deem fit. But the world wears jeans, drinks colas, watches Hollywood blockbusters, sings along with Lady Gaga and Adam Levine, speaks English, and looks at the world through the internet and American operating systems installed on computers, tablets, and smartphones. The world is looking up to America even when it says it is looking down on it. We are all hopeful that we could either be there or be like you, America.
Hundreds of thousands keep trying to get to the land between the shining oceans and grow their new roots there. The dollar might be strong or weak, the national debt can reach new heights, guns may fire at new schools, and political scandals could send some ripples down the pond in Washington Mall – it doesn’t change the fact that with all social issues abundant in American society, with traces of racial discrimination, with frivolous foreign policy, with high poverty rates, etc., America is still the shining beacon that Lady Liberty is holding in her hands welcoming sons and daughters from around the world in her haven.
Happy birthday, America! Many happy and better returns of the day! Send those fireworks in the July twilight and enjoy your moment of celebration. Tomorrow will be time to get down to work on making you a step further on whatever road you are going. If the road tends to wind a bit along the way there’s always some reward at the end of the day, even if it is just your flag proudly waving o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave where you hailed it at the twilight’s last gleaming. Its broad stripes and bright stars will always infuriate some but show the way to many more.