With Independence Day yesterday--and celebrating it without beer for the first time in decades!--it is a good time to take stock in all the great things about the good ole U.S. of A. Sure, we have our share of embarrassments, from the Sarah Palins to the Al Sharptons, and our share of horribleness in our history (Trail of Tears, slavery, firebombing enemy civilians). However, any major and influential world power will have its share of negatives, which is why even the Belgians have their legacy of the Congo to weigh against their great beer and fries. But let's consider some of the greatness of America:
1) The World Wars. It is almost like Deus Ex Machina--the German aggressors and their allies romping across Europe and Asia, very nearly pulling off world domination, and then suddenly the full weight of American industrial and military might comes up and boots Hitler off of the Statue of Liberty and impales him on the Washington Monument. Sure, other major factors were at play (notably the U.S.S.R. in the second one) but American might clearly spelled doom for Berlin. Both times!
2) The moon landing. There is something awe inspiring about getting people safely up (and safely back) to a land that is not on Earth for the first time in history.
3) Religious Freedom. We have some of the most religious people in the world in this country, and yet it is enshrined in our laws that there will never be a state establishment of religion. The right to freely practice any religion or no religion at all has enhanced the flourishing of so many beliefs, none of which were forced on anyone by the state (as was so often the case elsewhere).
4) Moderate politics. It says something that while political rhetoric these days remains so heated, we're basically looking at whether to elect a guy who implemented Obamacare in Massachusetts or a guy who implemented Obamacare nationally. In many countries a new party in charge really does mean radical change, in the real sense, not the Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity use of that term.
5) Haven for immigrants. Not just a benefit for the immigrants themselves, but consider how much these influxes helped America. Immigrant labor helped build our cities and railroads, run our docks, fill our armies and operate our farms. The immigrants have also improved our national cuisines (from chop suey to pizza), and made great fortunes starting companies or inventing stuff. It's hard to think of another country that has been as greatly benefitted by its immigrants as the U.S. has.
6) Creativity. America has been birthplace to jazz, country-western, soul, and rock-n-roll music, it has produced most of the world's great films, and basically created the concept of the television program. Not to belittle other countries' artistic contributions (can't really challenge the Dutch painters or the Italian Renaissance) but Americans have batted above their own weight in the creative realm.
7) Sports. Inventing baseball, basketball, (American) football, and lacrosse? Pretty solid!