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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Fourth of July -- My Favo(u)rite Holiday

Getting used to the public holidays in a new country is a tricky thing. Each one has its own atmosphere and traditions, and in America they seem to be more distinct than they were in England.

You might imagine that Independence Day would be a tricky one -- with so many people fixing Chinese-made plastic Stars and Stripes to the windows of their Toyota SUV's, the nation is awash in patriotic symbols as a reminder of the military incompetence of perfidious Albion. I like to take the opportunity to tell my frends that this is the time when Americans everywhere give thanks to their buddies the French for their help in securing their independence, then drop in a mention of the Battle of Trafalgar as being a rather more important event around that time. By the way, that's also handy when someone says, "We're the reason you guys don't speak German now!" -- the Battle of Trafalgar explains why "We (the English) are the reason why you fellows don't speak French now!"

So that leads to lively debate over a few beers.

But anyway, I like the 4th of July. It's more relaxed than Christmas and Thanksgiving, not having so many family obligations and all. In fact once the preparation for the food was mostly out of the way I went over to help a friend build a fence and gate, and drink beer. That went on longer than expected and we ended up eating late and putting the littl'uns to bed at around 10:30pm.

And the other reason why I like this holiday is for the fireworks. The tent that I bought mine from had prominent notices stating that "the possession or use of fireworks is illegal in the City of Colorado Springs", which presumably means that the cops could slap a ticket on everyone driving out of the parking lot. Nevertheless the streets reverberated to the sound of explosions for a long time last night. I wonder where my neighbours got their rockets? They're supposed to be illegal in the whole state of Colorado -- so much for "Land of the Free"!

Oh well, Thanksgiving next. Last year we deep-fried a turkey, which can also lead to fireworks. My arteries are just regaining their flexibility from that, so in another few months I should be good to go for another one.

Happy holidays, everyone.


At 10:45 AM, Blogger Tim... said...

Deep fried turkey?

You should be dead, or at least in hospital on life support after that!

Is that common practice or was it some sort of "right of passage" thing you have to do as a Brit abroad? :)



At 11:47 AM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Indeed, and fried in peanut oil also, which doesn't help.

I have to say that it's pretty tasty, although being at over 6000ft above sea level is not ideal. It seems to depress the temperature of the oil once the bird is cooking, which throws out all the minutes-per-pound calculations. But you still seem to get a very reasonably three-and-a-half minutes per pound so you have to stay alert (ie. fairly sober) to avoid over-cooking.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Tim... said...

I guess you have a bit of trouble staying alert after eating it :)

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Eddie said...

I think what your comments don't understand, and the fact that we welcome you here, is we celebrate the fourth of July because we are the land of the free, the brave. Thus, we have the freedom to buy our imported Chinese goods, our imported Toyota's, and what not. Isn't economic freedom just as important as freedom of speech?

In addition, we gave help, particularily to your country, when you needed it the most and we needed to give it the least. Germany wasn't on US soil, was it? In fact, we could have sucessfully fought the Japanese and not have even bothered with the ungreatful Europeans. If Hitler couldn't make it over the English channel, how in the world would he have made it to North America to fight on our US turf? I doubt it.

What happened over 200 years ago is amazing that you have such great recollection of it. Yes, we fought the British, I am sure with the help of the French, but that doesn't make our accomplishment any less. We won, and we won with our lives and our blood. Much as I am sure you view WW2.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Tim... said...

Take a pill dude!

At 1:25 PM, Blogger David Aldridge said...


I think that I understand why Americans celebrate their independence, but I often find myself questioning some of the beliefs that my friends have, and giving them a good-natured teasing on the subject.

For example, while some of them think that America is the only "truly-free" country in the world, the 2005 Index of Economic Freedom ranked the United States equal 12th with Switzerland behind Chile and Estonia (for example). How many US citizens would believe such a thing to be possible? Who would believe that Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States as 22nd in Press Freedom, behind many East European countries? Anyway the Wikipedia article List of Indices of Freedom is a good place to start looking for information on that.

My friends are also amused to hear that US Independence is not a theme much emphasised in the English school system, and maybe they have a point there. I always tell them that if English schools devoted much time to all of the people who have struggled for independence from us then it would barely leave time for any other topics, which is to rather dodge the point perhaps. But there is the more serious rebuttal that England has a history book as stuffed with events as any other country, and with more than most, and at the time of American Independence there were a great many more pressing matters - England was in fact fighting for its own survival against its own set of foreign enemies. So that is what we get taught, I guess.

If there's a serious point to this (apart from the dangers of turkey frying) then it isn't to belittle the people of the United States or the current or past achievements of the nation, it's to highlight my belief that people of any nation are not well served by misinformed teachings or blind patriotism. On an occasion such as Independence Day when the raw symbology of patriotism is more evident than at any other time of the year it is natural that such thoughts occur, no?

Everyone has their own perspective on foreigners I suppose. My grandfather served in the King's Royal Rifle Corps on the Northwest Frontier, and my Italian/American wife's grandfather was killed by the Royal Navy at Matapan or Taranto (I forget which). When I hear people of any nation talk of how their country is the greatest it makes me roll my eyes.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Robert Vollman said...

Ah, the classic USA vs Britain vs France debates ... arguing about who owes who the most. :)

That's why I like being Canadian. We got our independence the peaceful way: by asking politely.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

Bloody Canadians, all polite and nice ... got any job openings?

At 10:06 AM, Anonymous John Spencer said...

I too am Canadian, and we just had our version of the Fourth on July 1st. Although there are many large gatherings, not quite the show it is in the U.S.

The main difference between Canada and the U.S can be summed up in the mottoes of the two:

Peace, order and good government.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The CBC (our national broadcaster) ran a contest a while back. Complete the following phrase:

As Canadian as ....

The winning entry?

As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.


At 3:24 PM, Blogger Niall said...

You might imagine that Independence Day would be a tricky one -- with so many people fixing Chinese-made plastic Stars and Stripes to the windows of their Toyota SUV's, the nation is awash in patriotic symbols as a reminder of the military incompetence of perfidious Albion


At 3:31 PM, Blogger Niall said...

Eddie asked

Isn't economic freedom just as important as freedom of speech?

Speaking as a trained Economist (haven't been able to say that for a while), absolutely.

That means abandoning subsidies (CAP, US Cotton Subsidies and the like). It also means freedom of migration - economic migration would be a good thing under this model; increased offshoring and probably currency unification.

It doesn't mean developed countries entrenching protectionism for political gain.

when a Ghanaian citizen can come work in the US without a Green Card or visa then we can come back and talk.


p.s. yes the same applies in spades to the UK and EU.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

"...probably currency unification..."

Next thing you know, UN black helicopters will be swooping from the skies and the Illuminati will reveal themselves!

At 5:39 PM, Anonymous John Hurley said...

The difference between the 4th of July in this country and so many other Irish days of celebration is that the US was able to eventually break away from the control of one of the most widely spread authoritarian regimes the English. Unfortunately the Irish even to this day have not been able to achieve that status. Sad to see how the US has now adopted many of the characteristics of our former ruler.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger David Aldridge said...

"Sad to see how the US has now adopted many of the characteristics of our former ruler"
Ah, they'll grow out of it eventually.


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