Well, it’s your birthday again, the big 232. Sorry I didn’t write earlier; I was at work. Yeah, on the Fourth. Nope, no extra holiday pay. It kinda sucks.
Anyway, I know how you worry all the time, so I’ll just say it right off: YES, I still love you. Yes, I’ve not been the best guy — we’ve already been over the times I’ve said some mean things about you in front of my friends, the fling with Italy, a couple of one-night stands with Canada. I’m not really sorry; after all, you’re getting awfully fat, and there’s a lot you could learn from Italy and Canada (and a lot they could learn from you – let’s be fair here). But we’ve been over all of this.
On the bright side, America, you do look amazing for your age, and listen, you’ve had the same government for all these centuries. That’s more than we can say for just about anybody out there, friend or foe. Your people are still freer than just about anybody, especially in the speech department, as the recent hate-speech trial of Mark Steyn has shown us (come on, Canada). We’ll have to just overlook those couple of citizens (and a friendly software guy visiting from Canada) who happened to have the same names as terrorists and got stashed in secret prisons for a couple years. Let’s face it, they aren’t typical. But how many times do I have to tell you, just because someone’s named “Mohammad” or “Hussein” doesn’t mean he’s an Islamofascist Axis of Evil Mujahedeen? Just like you keep saying everyone named “Britney” is a ditz. You can’t say stuff like that, and I don’t care how many airheaded Britneys you know. Got it?
You mentioned me giving you the “silent treatment” in your last letter, but I’m not going to apologize for that either. I think I should’ve done it more, especially four years ago when you served up one of the worst electoral Catch-22s ever. I still can’t believe I took the path of least resistance and voted for Bush. Look where that’s gotten us. Listen, I don’t want to have to give you the silent treatment again. I liked Barack Hussein Obama quite a bit. Is it you who’s forcing him to waffle on all his distinctives, or is that his own damn idea?
Listen, 232 is old enough to hear a little tough love. I don’t mean to be cruel. I really only have two things to advise you on. Number one: don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little. Yeah, we might need to drill a little for some offshore oil, but seriously, we can get free of our addiction to Hummers and smoldering heaps of coal. We can give tax breaks to green jobs, and to working people who need them most because their wages never keep up with these prices. We don’t have to react the *exact* same way to every rogue state. Sanctions, saber-rattling. Saber-rattling, sanctions. Maybe we could give a little more money to artists and universities and things that can help make everybody’s lives better, and a little less to corporate tax-breaks and all that supply-side hogwash. Maybe we could think about offering paid maternity leave to all women, and health insurance to all children, kind of like every other G8 country, and, oh, you know, Pakistan. Maybe not tomorrow. But think about it. If Norway beat us to the idea by a couple decades, it can’t be that horrendously difficult.
Here’s the second thing: please try to think way back to when you were little, and these States were just a huge crazy experiment, a kind of strange new blend of an Enlightenment utopia and the New Jerusalem, mixed in with a huge dose of common sense. That’s what we’re supposed to be celebrating tonight, right? Even if all the rednecks with the fireworks never read the Declaration of Independence, it’s still the point. So think way back and tell me: what did patriotism mean back then? Did it mean fighting in a war or having the biggest army? Saying certain words and waving certain symbols? (See this very thought-provoking article in Slate). Or was it the idea of freedom from tyranny? From things like taxes we have no say over, like getting soldiers billeted in our houses without compensation, like getting tangled up in French-and-Indian Wars that have nothing to do with us? Wasn’t it something to do with a just government with checks and balances? Weren’t you guys really terrified of the president, even forbidding us to call him (or her) “Your Excellency” because of that whole imperial tendency? The whole idea of having a place where you can speak out and not have to worry about getting put on a “list” or having your mail opened or getting “disappeared” in the middle of the night by goons?
The people you’ve put in charge of you for the past half-century, for the most part, think that patriotism is about having the biggest army, kicking some ass overseas, and storming hills. Now, we’ve stormed some impressive hills in our history when we had to to do things like, oh, save the world from fascism. But that’s what we have to do, not what we’re all about. What we’re about is freedom: freedom to speak, assemble, bear arms, read, make love, live, pursue happiness. Guantanamo and the Patriot Act notwithstanding, you’re doing a great job of that. Just don’t let the other guys – the Machiavellians who want us to be all about threats and guns and torture and whatever else is “necessary” – win out, okay? At least promise me that, and I don’t care if it’s the Republicans or the Democrats who win (see me sometime after work – I’ve got some great ideas for third or fourth parties).
And just in case you think I’m being a little harsh, listen: I’ll always love you to death. I’m telling you this because of that, not for any other reason. Hey, finish your cake. You can work it off tomorrow riding your bike somewhere. Hey, did I mention these gas prices are killing us?