Independence Day

I was asked to express what Independence Day means to me. Well, I have been living away from the USA for 15 years, so it’s a long enough time frame to reflect.

Political philosophically speaking, I’m a Yank at heart and likely to remain so forever. I cherish the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and devolved government. I value liberty — the right to live free from an overbearing government.

Regularly I see the British political establishment get itself caught up in knots — over identity cards, surveillance powers, the House of Lords — and I think to myself, ah, the American founding fathers thought through this stuff centuries ago.

But culturally, I have adapted favourably to the Irish/British/European way of life. Enjoying the benefits of socialism without having had to live through the struggles. Five week holidays. Nationalised heath insurance. No compelled overtime. Relative job security (once you get a permanent contract). Some semblance of social solidarity, i.e. not every human encounter is predicated on a commercial transaction.

So I enjoy the best of both worlds. I’m guided by a positive, can-do attitude, without (I hope) the crassness of hyperbolic optimism. Ulster’s black humour suits me fine.

As for Independence Day itself, a day worth celebrating. Nothing compares with the firework spectaculars I’ve attended in Boston, choreographed to a live session by the Boston Pops Orchestra, so I don’t try to replicate the effort in Belfast.

But perhaps more than other American public holidays, it’s a day that reminds me of the freedoms that my national ancestors found worth fighting for, and I find worth defending. But with a Norn Iron reality check.

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