Born on the Fourth of July: Your Right To Kvetch About the Land of Opportunity
The Tattler: Wishing you a very Tattler Independence Day and gratitude for everything that makes America a mixed bag
Happy Fourth of July! May your barbecue grills stay lit, your mosquitos have indigestion, and your sunblock evenly cover all the parts of you that you want it to on this Independence Day.
It often seems a bit of a mixed bag, being an American. I personally don’t remember a time when it didn’t seem like politicians and press, right and left alike, were bemoaning our decline, our entry into soft, junk-food-fueled, video-game-assisted obsolescence, always mirroring each other on just what is wrong with us. We’ve either lost our empathy or we’ve lost our drive; we either have too much freedom or too little. The rich get richer while the poor fall off the ladder completely. Our pride in our world-class hospitals and higher-education systems is tempered by the fact that to take advantage of them is to voluntarily surrender oneself to a state of indentured servitude resolvable, it seems, only by death. We have the transcendent joy of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, but we also have Princesses Long Island (aka what happens when the Bloomingdale’s PR team is hired to update The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.) Every silver lining has its cloud.
But nothing ruins a public fireworks display like the person cynically going on and on about how much they cost, so I’ve taken the liberty of putting together the Tattler list of a few American things in which we can feel whole-hearted and unadulterated pride. Have a nice vacation, and stay away from the roman candles. I know someone who put an eye out.
Red, White, and Blue. Believe me, I’ve lived in the Netherlands, and I’ve seen what it looks like to see thousands of people at once all dressed in bright orange. Or can you imagine that Argentinian powder blue? Or, God forbid, yellow? Red, white, and blue is a tasteful, classic color scheme, with enough tonal gradations and availability that there’s some combination of it that looks good on everyone. Now, that’s democracy.
The Food. Yes, other countries may have fresher ingredients, or a better food culture, or people who cook and then eat dinner at home every single night. (Can you imagine? How are the unemployed actors supposed to make a living? I’m not a lazy chef, I’m a patron of the arts.) But look, have you ever had Mexican food in Germany? Or deli in Japan? Because I have, and no. Every country has its incredibly delicious aspects, but America—at least, the relatively urban parts of America—is the only place that has all of them. Whoever first called us the melting pot had no idea they were talking about a literal pot.
The Fourth of July sales. They don’t have them anywhere else! Because they don’t have the Fourth of July! (I mean, they have it, obviously, the same way that people you don’t know still have birthdays. Pointless, really.) But they also don’t have Black Friday sales, or Presidents Day Sales, or Spring Break Savings, or Back to School Madness! Other countries only have two sales, spring and fall, and you don’t get an extra 15 percent off if you sign up for a store card in, like, France. No; America alone is the Land of Opportunity (to buy discounted shoes you probably won’t wear that much, but they’re Cole Haan and 70 percent off!). Now excuse me: I have to order my washer and dryer before the Home Depot pre-Fourth midsummer sales event ends at noon.
The DOMA Ruling. Yes, it came too late. Yes, you can argue about the inherent unfairness of making official coupledom a legally privileged state, or gripe about how now your mother is really never going to get off your back about when you’re going to settle down, already. But despite its shortcomings, the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of fairness and almost everyone seemed pretty happy about it (hi, Michele!) is something to rejoice over. As a married person, I’m not exactly all hearts-and-stars when it comes marriage as a romantic institution, but as a legal one, justice has been served.
The Statue of Liberty. She’s big. She’s beautiful. And she took your huddled (m)ass in and gave you the freedom to complain about everything without fear of reprisal or expulsion. Be grateful!
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The longtime host of NPR flagship WNYC’s morning call-in show talks about being a radio mensch, Rush Limbaugh, and city politics