It’s the Fourth of July, and despite the fact that the whole thing is about my country losing a war I thought I’d commemorate anyway. Truth is, I like America, even though it’s fashionable not to, and so here are four reasons to love America (because it’s the Fourth – no-one can say I’m not inventive):
1. Mythic Landscapes
I’m not just talking about deserts, mountains and forests, although America has all these in abundance. I’m thinking of vast open roads, rickety amusement parks on the horizon, strange roadside attractions and museums. To non-Americans, there’s something about the States that feels like the backdrop to a fantasy movie, a magic-realism novel waiting to happen.
2. Park Rangers
I have a lot of respect for the US National Park Service, mainly because of one man – a park ranger at Alcatraz, whose passion for the job, and communicating it to visitors, was tangible. It may have been bordering on geeky but that’s fine by me. Anyone who can take a vast knowledge of history and nature and convey that to others is a bit of a hero to me.
Superman is quintessentially American; an immigrant fleeing disaster who finds a home in the US, a farmboy who becomes a great hero, an example of the American Dream’s importance countered by Lex Luthor’s embodiment of the same Dream’s failings. Superman is a character that emerged from a very specific setting, and while I think he’s a universal symbol of heroism, I don’t think he can be divorced from the corn fields and skyscrapers of his American home.
In 2002, my friend Andy and I were in New York and we paid the obligatory visit to Ground Zero. It was only a year or so after the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the church used as a refuge for the emergency services on the days immediately following the attacks was still covered with flags, messages of support from throughout the world. Amongst them all was a St. George’s flag, placed there by supporters of West Bromwich Albion, the football team Andy supports. While it’s probably not all that unlikely, it seemed like a coincidence at the time, and so we found a pen and added our signatures to it – it just seemed like the right thing to do.
That’s one of the moments that will stick with me from my trips to New York – the stories of the victims of that day, the heroism of those who ran into the buildings to save innocent lives, the flags of all those who wanted to stand by them in the tragedy. Forget the politics, I try to remember the people; the people and all those flags. God bless America.