“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America,” remarked President Bill Clinton in his inaugural address, shortly after reciting the oath of office in late January 1993.
What he meant by this is unclear. But perhaps it is the sort of thing a fledgling President says to sound smart, and adept. We really don’t know.
Tomorrow is Independence Day. By now many Americans have clocked off early for the weekend to celebrate the occasion. Like Clinton’s hollow words, there’s hardly a living soul who has any inkling what the holiday means.
Can we blame them? Why pause to consider it when there’s cold Budweiser to guzzle down and bundles of cheap bottle rockets to blast off? Moments spent in contemplation are a waste of time.
Any serious mention of freedom, liberty, and independence in the context of Independence Day is saturated with conceit. Over the years such terms have been reduced from mere platitudes to outright canard. Naturally, it’s better to take their veracity with a grain of salt…or not take them at all.
What Americans Want Most
Thus our burden today is not to clarify the meaning of Independence Day…or set the record straight. We’ve done this many times before, with no avail. So long as they’ve got a paid holiday and free drugs from the government, the American people don’t give a gosh darn. Why waste your time – and ours – spilling ink on something for naught?
Rather, what we are after today is truth, and perspective. We want to appreciate America for what it isn’t. Not what it is or what it should be. We believe this is a more constructive way to go about today’s missive.
What Americans want most, for example, are illusions. Not truth. They want to believe they live in the greatest country ever conceived. That they experience more freedom and opportunity than their cohorts in other nations. That, somehow, they are exceptional and that they spread good across the planet.
They also want to believe their civil servants are actually there to serve them. That their representatives aren’t corrupt. That their government is looking out for them…not at them.
This last point, of course, is absurd. These days it’s near impossible to surf the web without the NSA ogling your every keystroke. (“Howdy there Mr. NSA…we know you’re watching.”) So, too, it’s near impossible to board an airplane without some TSA boob twister touching your most private parts. Yet a vast cut of Americans – living descendants of Davey Crockett – will submit to the indignity for the safety and security they incorrectly believe it affords.
Stars and Stripes
“Myths and legends die hard in America,” observed Hunter S. Thompson in the late 1970s. No doubt, this reflection offers the sharp insight that Clinton’s misses. It is particularly astute on the Fourth of July.
For the great myths and legends of America should have died long ago. But, despite the disfiguring of the constitution and the national character, they keep on living. In fact, overtime and much repetition, they become more alive.
So maybe they’ll never die…and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The truth bites. So why adhere to it when it’s much, much more agreeable to believe a lie?
Freedom. Liberty. Independence. Representative government. Sound money. Honest politicians. A humble and esteemable populace.
The United States has it all. We must pinch ourselves to make sure we aren’t dreaming.
Red, white, and blue. Old Glory. Stars and stripes.
Happy Fourth of July. Celebrate it with all you’ve got!
for Economic Prism