Belmont Club

Independence Day

A dangerous enterprise

Every now and again but especially on the Fourth of July an article appears describing how a foreigner falls in or out of love with America. Dozens have been written over the years. The important term in these articles is the nature of the love professed and not its object.  What does it mean when an Upper Slobovian falls in love with, or learns to hate America? Perhaps they mean admiration.  We often confuse ‘love’ for admiration when these are two different things. Infatuation is naturally bestowed on the magnificent,  but love is something different; ironically reserved for something whose flaws we know but are determined to preserve.  Infatuation comes spontaneously.  Love is learned.

To outside observers deciding whether to love or it, abstraction discloses either an America or Amerika: the City on the Hill or its opposite, a CGI rendition, a thing to be admired or despised.  But love requires something more. It means an openness to the unexpected, a readiness to be disgusted at defects invisible outside the family; the ability to be astonished at unsuspected miracles that no intellectual model can predict. In love, as opposed to admiration, there is an element of risk.

It is impossible to understand the original Fourth without appreciating how deeply the Founders admired England or how much they had to lose. The first illustrates the depth of their rebellion; the second the magnitude of their gamble.  The Fourth went beyond mere calculation or convenience.  It was undertaken in the knowledge of defects that could not be insured against, in the awareness of fallibility. What makes the enterprise so singular is that it was undertaken in the face of unanswerable questions. Why America? If you have to ask you’ll have trouble with the answer.

Consequently the Fourth is a kind of bellwether of the national comity, a mutable thing. It went into deep freeze during in the Civil War. “Contemporary accounts and newspaper stories [of the first national 4th of July after the Civil War] depict a subdued, at times somber celebration in a country struggling to recover a sense of normalcy. In some places, the holiday was barely observed at all.”  For a while the Fourth was lost.

How strange it is to read that, especially for the rest of the world, who have come to regard the United States as a fixed point in a bewildering and dangerous universe. Recently the French complained America was welshing on its commitment to protect the world, as if it were one of nature’s laws.  ‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’, said the French ambassador to the United States.

Yankee go home. Yankee went home.  Yankee come back! — this time without your “aggressive nationalism“.

But what is this rock on which the globe depends? This something to admire or hate? This year’s Independence Day is particularly significant because it occurs in a world riven by crises. The problem of debt, where a world bloated by fake information, especially money, is unable to get to amicable Haircut Day to avoid economic catastrophe. In a crisis of freedom, unable to say how enterprises and individuals can survive and innovate when privacy has been destroyed by technology and mass surveillance perhaps forever. In a crisis of war where proliferation both makes cross-border war both unthinkable and nonstate warfare inevitable.

Most astonishingly the world turns in this uncertain hour to a rock built on the mysterious notion of the Declaration. To something built on a bet. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

What can such a wager mean? If it is any consolation the men who wrote them in 1776 weren’t sure what it signified either.  Fortunately they proved willing to make it up as they went along.  Admiration grants in retrospect what only faith and love can grant beforehand.

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For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Books:

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer. This book recounts Foer’s year-long quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top “mental athletes.” He draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of remembering, and venerable tricks of the mentalist’s trade to transform our understanding of human memory. From the United States Memory Championship to deep within the author’s own mind, his journey reminds us that, in every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.

Magnum! The Wild Weasels in Desert Storm: The Elimination of Iraq’s Air Defence, by Brick Eisel and James Schreiner. This book is based upon a journal Schreiner kept during his deployment to the Persian Gulf region for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Building on that record and the recollections of other F-4G Wild Weasel aircrew, the authors show a slice of what life and war was like during that time.

Make: Electronics – Learning Through Discovery (2nd edition), by Charles Platt. This book is billed as a “hands-on primer for the new electronics enthusiast”. Second-edition additions include: photographically precise diagrams of breadboarded components, to help you build circuits with speed and precision; a new shopping guide and a simplified range of components to minimize your investment in parts for the projects; a completely new section on the Arduino that shows readers how to write properly structured programs instead of just downloading other people’s code. Full color is used throughout.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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