Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Daze

Every year, on July 4th, Americans gather to barbecue meat, set off incendiary devices, watch internet video of a small Japanese man competitively gorging himself on dozens of hotdogs, and celebrate our nation’s independence from that former evil empire, Great Britain.

While I prefer the eponymous holiday moniker, “the Fourth of July,” the official name for today’s festivities, is, I believe, “Independence Day.” And although it’s lovely to commemorate national autonomy, I wonder if we really are as independent as our celebrations suggest.

It’s obvious right from the get-go that, as a nation, we’re completely dependent on other countries for oil. If Middle Eastern and South American countries decide to turn off our spigot of “Texas tea,” the US economy will collapse faster than a bottle rocket launched from a beer can. With this in mind, celebrating independence seems at best overly optimistic, at worst, deluded.

Second, although US foreign policy during the Bush administration aspires to be unilateral, even the most rabid chicken hawks in Washington admit (surprisingly) that our country has a responsibility to at least appear to act as a responsible global citizen. In that regard, we’re no more independent than your average teenager who—although he’d like to pretend he’s an orphan—still relies on his mom to pick him up after the Green Day show.

And how independent are we really with a national debt in the trillions of dollars? Or more to the point, how independent will our kids be?

As citizens of this great country, we’re not all that independent, either. Why think of all the perfectly harmless things I’m not allowed to do: pharmaceutically derange my consciousness in the privacy of my own home, marry my best friend (or my wife’s best friend, either), sunbathe nude down at the lake, or bring my kid into a bar.

I am, of course, allowed to gorge myself on dozens of hotdogs, but somehow, that doesn’t make me feel all that independent.


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