My mother was a British tour guide and used to take Americans around London. Whenever she gave them a little history lesson she always referred to King George III as “the stupid man who lost America for us”.
Of course, the mistakes of the “stupid man” in question are indirectly celebrated by Americans at home and all over the world during Independence Day celebrations on July 4.
Americans always like to party – even though they are undoubtedly among the hardest working nations in the western world. Well, perhaps that’s WHY they like to party! Europeans may work fewer hours but – it seems to me – tend to be more introverted and less exuberant when it comes to letting off steam. Every July 4, on the other hand, you can be sure that Americans take to their local neighborhood or parks and … blow their heads off, figuratively speaking!
If they’re abroad, there’s even more reason for those American who may be shrinking violets over the course of the year to let it all hang out. The culinary fare is all part of the deal too. Cue large servings of barbecued ribs, thick pancakes (not the wafer-variety favored by Europeans), waffles, chocolate brownies, burgers, fries, pizza, southern fried Chicken and sweetcorn as well as sundry sodas and blueberry pie and cookies. Next comes a cacophony of sound so that everyone within a 10-mile radius knows that Americans are having a blast. Perhaps there will even be a Dixieland jazz band to mark the celebrations in style?
Not a hyphenated America
Americans tend to have a sense of nationalistic pride that is impressive considering it’s a nation with so many immigrants. Although many first and second generation immigrants refer to themselves by hyphenated forms – Italian-American, African-American, Irish-American – they still view themselves as Americans first and foremost. This is not necessarily so in other countries. In the UK, for example, there was once a debate over whether second generation immigrants supported the UK or their country of “origin” (however distant) during a cricket match. No prizes where the loyalty of most of the people in question probably lies!
Nearly all Americans, by contrast, come together on July 4 to unfurl the flag. How many American homes have the Stars and Stripes flying over their roof or in their porch? In the UK, for example, that would be rarer. Doubtless, some politically correct busybody would come along and declare it “a betrayal of cultural and ethnic diversity”!
All 50 states have a common identity
The celebration of America on such days as July 4 has perhaps become even more important in the 12 years since 911. It helps to refute the myth that “everyone hates America”, that somehow it’s unpopular. The commemoration of independence is a good time to put forward another thesis. People still envy America because it’s the land of opportunity, where if you work hard – so we’re told anyway – there’s no limit to success and good fortune. And despite its infinite and extraordinary size, and variety, it’s still unthinkable that any of its states would want to break away. Attempts in Europe, by contrast, to bring about a sense of European identity have evaporated as the federal idea has lost popularity.
Bring out those favourite brands
So let’s get to the party! You may well find that if your overseas Independence Day commemorations are a really major event – perhaps supported by the US embassy – that brand names like Starbucks and McDonalds and KFC will want to set up a stall. It’s a canny advertising strategy for them. Of course, if you set up your own stall and sell your own merchandise it’s liable to go down well not only with the American community but also with the locals.
Thousands of miles and two different coastlines may separate the residents of New Jersey and California. But they’re still Americans. And that same rule applies to Americans in temporary “exile” overseas. So we hope you have a great celebration on July 4. “The stupid man who lost America” for the Brits may be rolling in his grave but who cares?