Independence Day is an epic holiday. It commemorates the actions of revolutionaries who rebelled against the world’s superpower in the name of individual God-given rights, somehow won the ensuing war, and somehow stumbled through a series of blunders and created a model for the whole world. It’s a heavy burden, and many Americans have run from it. Lots of our intellectuals yearn for the status and stability of the Old World, the “realists” deplore our revolutionary energy and creative destruction, and the collectivists thrash to get free of “individualism,” a word Tocqueville invented to describe Americans.
If you look around today, you’ll find these defeatists and counterrevolutionaries in full moan. They tell us we’re doomed. We’ve lost our faith, they say, we’re badly led, they whine, our problems overwhelm us. Woe are we, woe are we.
The defeatists and counterrevolutionaries have been around since the beginning. If you sail around the Bahama Islands, you’ll find picturesque little towns with names like “Hope,” founded during the Revolution by Tories who “knew” it was only a matter of time–and not much time–before the silly revolutionaries were brought to heel by their proper lords and masters, and the faithful Tories could go back home. Ozymandias has a winter home just outside Hope.
The Tories are still in the Bahamas, and Great Britain may well be a failed state, and while we have problems galore, and leaders who don’t seem to have the talent or even the inclination to get out of our way so that we can get on with the remedies, we’ve been through worse than this. I was born a few months before Pearl Harbor, and my parents–who had survived the Great Depression–feared they’d brought a child into a nightmare world. Events reinforced their fears, as the Japanese moved across the Pacific, and the Nazis wiped out our would-be continental allies. Our armed forces were pitiful. And yet…and yet, we defeated our enemies, who were real enemies with real armies led by brilliant generals and admirals. We overwhelmed them with our incomparable energy and resolve. Two generations later, we presided over the Soviet Union’s collapse, the life force squeezed out of it by American superiority and their own failures.
Today’s enemies are not in the same league as those of my first years, or those of the end of the Cold War. The Muslim Brothers, said to be the Bolsheviks of the Muslim Arab world, didn’t (or haven’t yet, at least) put up much of a fight when they were shown the exit by a military they had purged and staffed with men believed to be loyal to the Islamist cause. The Iranian regime is fractured, its opium-addicted supreme leader unable to impose order even when he gets to choose the candidates for the presidential election. The fall of the Brothers in Cairo cannot bring joy to his cold heart, for he does not welcome the spectacle of millions of demonstrators bringing down a radical Islamist regime; he knows that his own people would love to do the same, and are looking for auguries that will unleash their revenge on him and his fellow murderers. The Syrian dictator fights for survival, and regime success on the battlefield is not his, but rather of the hollow Iranians or the ruthless Russians, another state doomed to failure by demography and alcohol, a state where a majority of female college students say that prostitution is their preferred career track.