…and it’s worth every penny.
So here’s the thing:
Our nation celebrated its birthday this weekend, and as we all fired up the grills and broke out the fireworks we either have the God-given right to enjoy (Utah) or smuggled in from Indiana under the cover of night’s shielding wing (Ohio), I paused to reflect on Independence, and what it means to me.
And then I realized I’m not in eighth grade and trying to write an essay that will surely win me a Super Nintendo from the local paper, and stopped reflecting on What Independence Means To Me (working title).
Instead, I opted to think about freedom, which of course isn’t free, and what I love about living in our amazing, if troubled, land. And so, I present to you, dear readers, Claire’s List of Reasons to Love America (Even If It Sometimes Does Things That Confuse And/Or Scare You, Like Your Uncle Who Always Wants “Special Hugs”) (again, working title)
1) Want to learn something? You got it, Chester! I know that my more paranoid readers will decry the media’s stranglehold on the flow of information, and go on at length about how the government is keeping us in the dark regarding certain unspeakable truths.
This is because they need to get laid.
OK, seriously, though, while I’m sure that the government certainly has its share of canaries kept in hooded cages (hell, I live fifteen miles from the place they used to store the Roswell aliens), I also know that we are free to rattle on at length about our crackpot theories and conspiracies to our hearts’ content. Admittedly, the Patriot Act did some damage to our unbridled ability to go poking about in dark corners in our search for things like homemade explosives and/or recipes for fruitcake (a WMD if ever there was one), but here’s the thing: even if you get harrassed by the Feebs for your intellectual curiosity (malevolent or otherwise), YOU CAN STILL FIND THE INFORMATION. I recently listened to an NPR story from a roving reporter in China who attempted to look up a few bits of info on local history, and was denied. Everything is censored heavily in China, and as a result a search for Tiannamen Square or Taiwan was about as fruitful as planting a dime and waiting for the money tree to grow.
Yes, I know there are censors at some level, and for all we know, Dubya is reading this post right now (ok, having it read to him)…the point is, for now at least, America (or Amerika, for my more Hoffmanesque friends out there) is still a place where “freedom of information” is more than propaganda – as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.
2) We can have it our way. “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us…” Yeah, yeah, we’re a nation of obese go-tards, waddling our way toward ever-growing waistlines and ever-shrinking sophistication (although not as fat as some countries we could mention). But at least when we go somewhere, we can get our hamburger the way we want it. I have a friend from Japan who just blinked at me when I asked her what her favorite type of pizza was. She explained to me that, in Japan, they make it, you eat it and like it (my friend Nic has long declared his intention to open a restaurant by that very name…Redhead, head for the shores of Japan, and verily, you shall be a restaurant god, my friend). Apparently, her then-husband requested a few minor changes to his pizza order and was told “NO!” in a very firm, no-nonsense tone. There’ll be none of that in the USA, thank you very much!
(Which is not to say the Japanese don’t have a flair for pleasing the palate…what child wouldn’t love to be told “eat it and like it” by this guy?)
OK, pretty much every child, I’m guessing. Seriously, dude, get help. Or at least some pants.
Anyway, my point here is that we enjoy (or endure, depending on your perspective) a surfeit of choice in this country. Want some Pringles? We’ve got more than twenty-three varieties (May I recommend the Salt-n-Vinegar?). Want to paint your den, and you’ve got to have hypoallergenic paint because of your weird allergy to normal paint? Here’s a list of ten companies, just from one site (not to mention the millions of calculable permutations of color and blend within each brand!) Feel a burning desire to customize the Vespa you just bought because gas now costs so much you’d have to sell your kidney on eBay just to make it to work? By gum, buddy, customize away!
We are a country of folks long accustomed to customization, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. What could be more American than customizing everything down to the smallest detail, from the color of your iPod skin to the ringback tone on your cellphone to the very toppings on your Whopper (heavy pickle, no onion, hold the cheese, please)? Because you’re a singular, amazing and totally unique individual.
Just like everyone else.
3) We are a friendly and giving people. Even with the economy in the toilet, the average American still gives 3.1% of their pre-tax income to charity – including charities that help people worldwide, not just in our own problem-ridden backyard. Sure, we’re materialistic. Sure, we can be shameless wallowers in the shallowest end of the pop-culture cesspool. But we’re still, as a people, more likely to give you the shirt off our backs than demand you make us one on the cheap in some sweatshop. Don’t worry, I haven’t donned my rose-colored glasses; believe me, I know there are as many (if not more) selfish and douchey folks here than anywhere else on this benighted globe…but even the stiffs on the Conservative end of the political spectrum will stand up for America’s underappreciated generosity.
Having traveled in Mexico (America’s beard), Canada (America’s hat) and Europe (America’s…um…Europe), I can attest to the breezy, instant familiarity that sets us apart from the stuffier denizens of other locales. Many people find this tendency (known as “the Scott Effect,” after every waiter I’ve ever had in a chain restaurant. “Hi, I’m Scott, and I’m gonna be taking care of you tonight. Can I start y’all off with some Appeteasers?”) to be instantly engaging and endearing, but some (particularly those from more formal cultures) find it to be disrespectful or even rude.
This is because they need to get laid.
I kid! I kid. Seriously, though, this openness, this instant willingness to look upon anyone – and everyone – as a potential pal, is what endears my country to me. When you’re calling someone you’ve never met by their first name and sharing baby pictures within ten minutes, you know you’re in the US of A (possibly Ohio, and even more possibly, talking to my dad. Once you make eye contact, you’d better be prepared to receive a Christmas card from the Jacksons, my friend, because that’s what you’re getting come December).
Even after a domestic attack of brutal savagery…even after we’ve spent eight long years fighting a war with no apparent end…even when we’re tired, or angry, or just fed up with the latest bit of governmental nonsense, we’re still a country of people willing to look at others in need, smile, and say “Hi, I’m Scott – what can I do to help, friend?”
It’s this freedom – the freedom to find and share the best of ourselves, to let our angels triumph over our apes, that makes America a country worth loving, worth supporting, worth celebrating.
Oh, and we’ve got Robin Meade. So suck on that, Canada!
Happy Independence Day to all! And, remember friends, just like delicious marshmallow Peeps, the best part of freedom is the freedom to share it!