For all those millions around the world who feel that America unfairly and unreasonably dominates everywhere else, the above question is a reasonable one. I mean, truthfully, what is so bloody special about America? After all, aren’t Americans just like everyone else? Some may even say that aren’t Americans actually worse than most – arrogant, fat, lazy, ignorant and are only on top because of their bullying government and their over mighty military machine. Well, I don’t believe that, and whilst I, on the whole, tend to like Americans, I am under no illusions that they are any better than the rest of us.
But, and I know that this may difficult for some people to hear, Americans are special. Not because they are intrinsically better human beings, but because of the legacy that they have been left by their forefathers.
Now, I suppose I should explain that, if you hadn’t already guessed, I am not an American, not even a little bit. However, in common with countless millions, America, or more specifically the United States of America, has been an inspiration to me my whole life. Again, like many others, I was first inspired, at an impressionable age by America through television shows in the seventies like Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels and The Six Million Dollar Man. This land of sunshine where all the women were beautiful, all the men tough guys and everybody drove enormous cars.
But this inspiration, though powerful, was essentially as superficial as Hollywood. But it did the trick. It got me interested. As I got older, I began to learn more and more about America and how it had come to be the way it is. And I learnt that the United States came into being from a very particular place. And that place was The Constitution of The United States of America.
Without going into a history lesson I am not qualified to give, not being an American, still less a scholar on United States constitutional politics, I wanted to focus on the spirit of Americanism. When I say the United States came from a special place, what I mean is that it came from a point of principle, which I believe I am right in saying, was the first time that a nation was born in such a way. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ must be the most beautiful phrase in a legal document in human history, unsullied as it is by any bureaucratic interference. It is sublimely straightforward, and unapologetic.
Now, this is not to say that America is perfect. Far from it. Very, very far from it, in fact. Of particular note is the fact that Native Americans were expressly excluded from the ‘all men’ category in referring to them as ‘merciless Indian savages’. In the very same document! Added to this expressly stated hypocrisy was the very real savagery visited upon America’s black population which lasted for a further eighty years in the form of slavery, and still almost another century or so after that in the form of vicious segregation and the institutionalised racism of the Jim Crow laws.
So, not so good. The election of Barack Obama to The Presidency, as The Most Powerful Single Person in The United States, and therefore the entire world has, in my (humble and foreign and therefore not entirely relevant) view done much to erase that fetid stain on America’s claim to be ‘The Land of The Free’. Many will argue that the current strife that America is struggling with regarding the countless numbers of unarmed black men killed by white policeman as proof that America still has some way to go
Anyway, I digress. So I think we can agree that America is not perfect and that in many areas the US can learn from elsewhere, even if it’s just to glance across it’s northern border. But my point is that America remains an inspiration to people all over the world, in a way that other places aren’t. It’s not America’s responsibility to be inspiring, but nonetheless that is the reality.
And so what is special about Americans is their legacy I mentioned earlier. The legacy of the US Constitution, and in particular, The Bill of Rights. In this document, Americans have a tool, perfectly crafted by their forefathers, to guarantee their liberty for evermore.
And that is special. And it doesn’t come more special than that.
The interesting – and depressing – question, is: Why aren’t they using it?