Independence Day

July 4: National holiday of the United States, one of the more nationalistic countries in North America (see Canada Day). The occasion is marked by a long weekend of fireworks, hotdogs, and lugubrious rhetoric.

George Scott in "Patton."

George Scott in “Patton.”

Since the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the annual American celebration has been marked by ups and downs. It looks like 2013 is going to be one of the down years. After a half-decade of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has semi-recovered, but large numbers of people remain out of work or under-employed, and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure continues to crumble, as does the American environment, because of Congressional deadlock caused by the ultra- conservative Republican Party. Debates about the reform of health care, the status of gays. and the student debt crisis caused by post-secondary education tuition rates stagger on, although modest (and often unappreciated) progress has, ok, arguably, been made.

The empire’s foreign policy seems as much adrift as any time since the terrorist attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The U.S. is awkwardly disengaging from decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and appears thoroughly baffled by political developments in the Middle East (but then, so do the people who live in the Middle East). Both the vastness and intrusiveness of U.S. international spying programs, and its drone war program to combat terrorism, especially in Pakistan, are internationally unpopular.

The election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, in 2008, was a high point for hope and change in recent decades. But the actual policies of the moderate liberal president have been contested by both left and right. The American right-wing is in one of its looniest phases, and regards Obama as a foreign-born socialist intent on expanding an already too large, liberty-crushing central government. The left-wing opposition to Obama sees his administration as more-of-the-same American imperialism, while far too timid at home. Oh, well, happy unhappy birthday to our neighbours to the south.

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