July 4th, 2006

V for Vendetta

Independence Day

About 500 years ago, starting in 1493, the Spanish, followed almost immediately by the English and the French and the Dutch, brought forth upon this continent new colonies, dedicated to the proposition that the entire rest of the world exists for the purpose of living in poverty in order to provide Europe with cheap raw materials.

386 years ago, in 1620, a new colony was brought forth upon this continent, by British Puritans who felt the religious purity of their anti-royalist rebellion slipping away from them, dedicated to the proposition that arguments about the balance of power between Church and State would be irrelevant if everybody was brought up Puritan. In the antinomian heresy trials of 1640 they all but admitted out loud that that idea was a load of horse crap. But in the meantime, they had discovered a new reason to exist: the formula for the end of permanent social and economic class divisions. We call it The American Dream, now, and it's a formula by which (when the country isn't being raped by would-be oligarchs, foreign or domestic) ordinary people can reliably and fairly simply see their children rise to better and better stations in life.

This, of course, put them sharply at odds with the mother country, which (then as now) liked its class divisions just fine the way they are, and which was determined to keep Americans except for a few hand-picked royal officials all in the lowest class. And so on this day, eleven and a half score years ago, a self-selected committee of gentlemen libertarians publicly gambled their lives, their liberty, and their accumulated wealth on a long-shot plan to win independence from the British crown and to set up a new nation where everybody, even those (mostly Puritans) who chose to fight on the British side, would be offered a chance at the American Dream. It took those men and the army they raised a couple of years to win that independence. It took them another 90 years after that to persuade (at gunpoint) the last remaining hold-outs to extend the American Dream to the descendants of the African slaves the (piously hypocritically "anti-slavery" British) had foisted off on us.

It took us and the rest of the world roughly 200 years to tell the Europeans "screw you" to their centuries-long dedication to colonialism, and freedom still hasn't come to the French colony of Western Sahara or to the British colony on Irish soil in Ulster, more's the pity. During the Cold War, we lost our own way, and spent so many lives and so much of our treasure on defending the French colonial government in Vietnam that it bankrupted our country. And indeed, all through that Cold War, it was we, the Americans, who spent thousands of our lives and untold billions of our dollars to save our former colonial masters from becoming Russian colonies themselves. Throughout that whole time, we did all the heavy lifting, and they did all the complaining. Throughout that whole time, we borrowed and spent every dollar it took to keep them free, while they bragged about how much wealthier and more generous their economies are. And our commitment to freedom and independence as a people is, was, and always will be such that we are still trying hard not to be bitter about that.

And only just this weekend, to celebrate the 230th anniversary of our hard-won independence, the independence that made possible the wealth that made possible the armies that saved them from the Kaiser, the Fuhrer, and the Kremlin, British newspapers published the results of a poll in which the British public "described Americans as uncaring, divided by class, awash in violent crime, vulgar, preoccupied with money, ignorant of the outside world, racially divided, uncultured and in the most overwhelming result (90 percent of respondents) dominated by big business" -- as if every single one of those things weren't more true of them than of us. The same poll also said that only 1% of the British people believe that our current President is a great leader. And I don't disagree with them on that, although it does beg the question of why, if they know that, do they keep re-electing George Bush's faithful lapdog as their Prime Minister, and why they just as cheerfully as Bush did sent their army to invade and occupy Iraq?