Happy 4th of July! Here are some little facts to ponder on the day America declared its independence from the British.
According to the Pew Research Center, over half of Americans are proud of their nationality (56%) but only 44% still think the country’s best years are to come, with the younger generations being the most optimistic.
The percentage of Americans who think the U.S. is the #1 country in the world has dropped by 10% since 2011. Only 28% now believe it holds top status, perhaps a reflection of China’s rising influence.
But 58% of Americans still believe the USA is one of the greatest countries in the world.
In my hometown of London, obviously no one makes much of Independence Day apart from a passing curiosity.
People might occasionally ask what’s traditional, which leaves me kind of stumped. I usually end up muttering something about barbecues, beer and fireworks. Not exactly the most inspiring answer, but it’s what I remember doing.
I’m out of touch with what it means to be American these days. I feel like it’s an integral part of my identity and yet I now find it harder and harder to pinpoint precisely what makes me American apart from my accent.
The weirdest thing is watching your kids grow up to have a national identity totally distinct from yours. I know it’s what my Mexican parents went through, but I never appreciated how strange it is to let go of traditions you grew up with.
If I mention July 4th to my kids, they wouldn’t have a clue what it means. Theirs is a world inhabited by kings and queens, not presidents and pioneers.
But after nearly half my life spent somewhere other than where I was born, I’ve started to question whether I’m now nothing more than a mix of clashing cultures.
Here’s why I might not be as American as apple pie:
- I hate driving. At some point in the last 18 years, I Iost my love for cars. Driving a car, in fact, fills me with fear not a feeling of freedom.
- I like walking places. Despite my southern California upbringing, one in which I never even walked to the local shop, I now find myself relying on my two legs to get me around.
- I’m not a great fan of the great outdoors. I don’t know if it’s the inhospitable weather in the UK, but you won’t catch me climbing mountains, camping or making smores by a fire.
- I don’t like baseball. To be fair, I hate cricket too and don’t have a clue how it’s played.
- I don’t know the words to the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, it pains me to admit this, but I get lost somewhere after ‘twilight’s last gleaming’ and have to fake it. Mind you, I wouldn’t be the first to mime along to it. Beyoncé, anyone?
- My knowledge of American history is hazy to say the least. Yes, I know the dates of the Civil War but don’t ask me to explain anything about the Boston Tea Party or American politics. Some of the scenes in House of Cards, for instance, are as incomprehensible to me as a foreign language.
- I have a peculiar English habit of apologizing for stuff that isn’t my fault.
Despite my persistent doubts about my nationality, I still consider myself more or less an American. What is America, anyway, but a confusing mix of different identities thrown together?
A little related news from the other side of the pond: one of the 12 surviving copies of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence will be on display at the British Library from next year as part of an exhibition about the Magna Carta.
Since I have never in my life seen these important documents in America’s history, I will be visiting. I suspect this still won’t help me decipher the plot of House of Cards.