independence day

Many moons ago, for this very journal, I wrote an essay entitled “Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving,” offering an Englishman’s perspective on the singularly American feast that ushers in the holiday season. In that article I compared my enthusiasm for Thanksgiving with “my relative indifference to the Fourth of July:”

What is an Englishman, living in the United States, to make of all the pyrotechnics and razzmatazz surrounding America’s revolutionary celebrations? For one who grew up cheering the red, white, and blue of Britain’s flag, it is a little psychologically difficult to switch one’s allegiance to the red, white, and blue of Old Glory. In point of fact, I switched my allegiance many years ago from the red, white, and blue of the British flag to the simple red and white of the cross of St. George, discarding the imperialism of Great Britain for the beautiful simplicity of Little England.

And yet I confessed in the same article that the Fourth of July is a far healthier celebration than the “fireworks night” or “bonfire night” that is celebrated in my own country each year. On November 5, Englishmen celebrate the fact that a Catholic, Guy Fawkes, was burned alive on that date in 1605. They do so by placing an effigy of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire and by setting off fireworks as they watch him burn. Even more perverse is the annual fireworks celebration in Lewes, a town in Sussex, in which an effigy of the current pope is burnt each year alongside an unpopular contemporary celebrity. Back in the early 1980s, during my hedonistic anti-Catholic years, I looked on approvingly as the people of Lewes burned an effigy of John Paul II beside an effigy of Ronald Reagan. Last year, no doubt, Donald Trump would have had the honour of being burned beside Pope Francis. Considering that my Motherland instigated this macabre “celebration,” it is easier to sympathize with those who celebrate America’s independence from her clutches!

But what does a dyed-in-the-wall Englishman think of the celebration of America’s Independence? Were I still a British imperialist, owing my allegiance to the red, white, and blue of the flag of the United Kingdom, I suppose I might have felt a wistful regret that the colonies had deserted the Motherland. Since, however, I am an Englishman, and not a Brit, I have no nostalgia for the Empire and therefore no sense of lost proprietorship over the colonies. On the contrary, as an anti-imperialist who spends much of his time warring against the neo-imperialism of the globalists, I rejoice at the decentralization of power which American Independence signified and achieved. As a subsidiarist I advocate “home rule” for all the far-flung outposts of Empire, wherever they might be.

If, therefore, the Fourth of July was merely a celebration of American Independence, I could feel unabashedly enthusiastic about the festivities. The problem, as I see it, is that the United States, or at least the Federal Government, has itself become an imperial power. Uncle Sam taxes his citizens at an exponentially higher rate than the American colonists could ever have imagined. He exerts a control over the lives of his citizens which would have been equally unimaginable to the Founding Fathers. What I would like to see, and what I would most certainly celebrate, is a new revolution in which the individual states of the Union sought a greater degree of independence from the Empire of Mammon, situated in Washington DC.

A further misgiving arises from my perception of the War of Independence itself. Although, as already stated, I support American Independence and would, therefore, from the safe and detached distance of 242 years, see myself as being on the side of the “patriots,” I find it a little unfair that the considerable portion of the population who were “loyalists” are considered to be unpatriotic or even as being treacherous. How can one be a traitor to a country that does not yet exist? In fact, although it is seldom seen as such, the Revolutionary War was the first American Civil War. Indeed, it could be argued that it was the only American Civil War. If a civil war can be defined as a war between citizens of the same country, and indeed between citizens of the same cities and towns, and between members of the same family, then the Revolutionary War was much more a “Civil War” than was the Civil War itself. In many respects, the latter war was not so much a civil war as a conventional war, in which the power of one geographical area imposes its will on another geographical area, especially if it is seen from the perspective of its being a war between the states or, to be more partisan, a “war of northern aggression.” The fact is that history is written by the victors, which means that the vanquished become victims of historical calumny. For this reason, I rejoice at the new “revisionist” scholarship which seeks to see the loyalists in a more objective light.

In spite of these misgivings, I will celebrate Independence Day with my immediate family, all of whom were born and bred in the United States. I will be happy to celebrate America’s freedom from one Empire and will be praying for her deliverance from another. And, as I raise a glass in celebration, I will be filled with a sense of gratitude to the American people for the welcome they have given me as an immigrant to this country, and I will feel humbled by their warmth and friendship. I will give thanks for such things, which is why there will be no misgivings when I celebrate Thanksgiving.

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