Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Reality Check on the Fourth of July

Fourth of July: lucky are the American children born today. Their birthdays will always be celebrated with fireworks and parties; parents will be home for a vacation day; the television news will be full of noise and color and reminders of American exceptionalism. You couldn’t blame a fourth of July baby for feeling a bit special, what with all the foofaraw and fanfare.

George M. Cohan thought himself fortunate to be a 4th of July baby. It was he who wrote —along with 1,5000 other Tin Pan Alley songs — “Yankee Doodle Dandy”:

I’m a Yankee Doodle dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s,
Born on the Fourth of July.
I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,
She’s my Yankee Doodle joy.
Yankee Doodle came to London,
Just to ride the ponies,
I am a Yankee Doodle boy.

Cohan was of Irish descent, born in Rhode Island. Amazingly prolific, he is considered the creator of the American musical comedy form. His baptismal certificate states he was born on July 3rd, 1878, but the family insisted that he’d arrived on the 4th. Given that mothers were often not present at the child’s baptism, this could indeed have been the case. At any rate, that was the story and everyone stuck to it.

Can we sing Mr. Cohan’s songs anymore? Is his celebration of America too dated? Are we too cynical to feel pride in our heritage? Have we been beaten into submission about our racist, crime-ridden, empire-driven nation?

Some people would say so. And others would trumpet any bashing they had to offer about our enfeebled, sinful condition. For every person who enthuses about America, there are ten MSM accounts of the latest droppings from Ward Churchill and his ilk. It wouldn’t be so bad if these bashers were accurate, but their bias is so blatant that you have to pause in wonder at the gullibility of the reporters who quote his incredible speeches.

However, there are others who ignore the poisoned pens of the self-haters. There are those who can report from their own experience that they’d rather be here, thank you.

Jake Barnes, the proprietor of the blog Spyral Notebook, has this to say about his adventures here and in Europe:

Last year I was sailing near Victoria, British Columbia and saw several beautiful houses near the shoreline. The local crew on the boat explained that the properties were most likely owned by rich Americans who had moved north to escape the pervasive crime in the US.

The British wife of a school friend frequently tells me that she would love to live in America, if not for the dangers crime would pose for their young daughter. She feels they cannot take the risk.

And during the 2004 Republican Convention, a lady friend visiting New York from Italy told me that the police power on display was proof positive that the US is a dangerous country. Why else would we need so many cops?

There is a general perception by Europeans that rampant crime is a condition of American life.

It’s not surprising that we got this reputation. In the 1970’s and 80’s, crime in American cities ran out of control. I, for one, was almost murdered on a sunny afternoon in the Boston Commons in 1973. Two thugs tried to choke me with a homemade garrote. Fortunately, I escaped with my life, if not my hockey equipment.

However in the last twenty years of living in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Diego, I have not even witnessed a crime, let alone been attacked, robbed, or had my home burgled.

Not so living in Europe.

My house in a leafy suburb of Brussels was robbed three times in two years. The last time, the robbers simply pulled a truck up and removed every unattached object from the house. My car was keyed, smashed, jumped on, and finally burned to an empty shell. Roving gangs of Muslim thugs were a common site in areas throughout the city.

In London, on a route I walked daily between St. John’s Wood and my school’s campus on Regent’s Park, I was regularly harassed and threatened by men loitering in front of the London Mosque.

And during one year in Paris, my girlfriend was attacked in broad daylight across the street from the Arch de Triumph, I was robbed in the Metro, and incidents of petty crime and intimidation seemed commonplace. This year France has experienced a kind of rioting and violence not seen here for many years.

Crime in the US is clearly not what it used to be. Granted, murder rates are still very high, which is no small thing. But as our crime rates came down in the 1990’s, Europe’s took a precipitous climb in the opposite direction. Serious property crime is epidemic in the major continental cities. It has been a stunning reversal of roles.

European perceptions of crime in American have not changed as the streets have gotten safer here. Nor do Americans appreciate how dangerous European cities can be, even if one does stay in the “right” neighborhoods. People on both sides of the Atlantic need to appreciate the changes and take a reality check.

“A reality check,” indeed. Our friends, the British, don’t think much of us, or at least many don’t. A poll in The Telegraph had this to offer as a birthday present:

Britons have never had such a low opinion of the leadership of the United States, a YouGov poll shows.

As Americans prepare to celebrate the 230th anniversary of their independence tomorrow, the poll found that only 12 per cent of Britons trust them to act wisely on the global stage. This is half the number who had faith in the Vietnam-scarred White House of 1975.

Most Britons see America as a cruel, vulgar, arrogant society, riven by class and racism, crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite.

On the other hand, an essay from The First Post had much more substance to its assessment of America. The author, Mr. William Langley, had this to say:

You’re a Grand Old FlagMost of the world is ignoring the lessons of America’s remarkable cultural renaissance, of which dramatic falls in crime are only a part.

It is much easier, and far more fashionable, to portray the United States as a dying empire mired in a misbegotten war, outstripped economically by China, and unable to keep even tin-pot states like North Korea in line.

Yet on a recent trip back to Washington DC where I lived for the Clinton years, it was impossible to escape the good news. Almost all of America’s important social indicators — the measures of the true health of a nation — are pointing in the right direction.

Welfare cases have fallen by an astounding 60 per cent in the last decade. Marriage is growing in popularity, while divorce rates, having soared in the Sixties and Seventies, are falling — as are the rates of teenage pregnancy, drug use and suicide. Alcohol consumption among the young has fallen by 31 per cent since the mid-Eighties, and smoking by almost 50 per cent.

Young Americans are discovering sex later than their parents, and have fewer partners. A new, virtuous, generation is emerging.

Educational achievement, particularly among minorities, is rising, and the philanthropic instincts of the rich — as witnessed by last week’s $31 billion gift to charity by legendary investor Warren Buffet — are resolute.

Crime rates, not only in New York but across the country, continue to decline rapidly. According to the Department of Justice, violent offences overall have dropped by 55 per cent since 1993, while teenage offending is down by 71 per cent.

Property crimes are at their lowest level since Federal statistics began in the early Seventies. Beyond the lawless pockets of a few big cities, America is now one of the least crime-troubled societies on earth.

How has all this happened? And why, amid the relentless onslaught of America-bashing, do we hear so little about it?

New York Times commentator David Brooks gives a simple explanation: “People have stopped believing in stupid ideas; that the traditional family is obsolete, that drugs are liberating, that it is every adolescent’s social duty to rebel.”

This is essentially correct. From the Sixties onwards, America witnessed widespread social decay in the form of family break-up, drug tolerance and attacks, in the name of liberal values, on what had traditionally been viewed as the parameters of decency. A new generation of Americans, having seen and reviewed the results, wants to change things.

“Americans today,” says Brooks, “are leading more responsible, organised lives. The result is an improvement in social order.”

You feel it everywhere. In the courteousness and generosity of ordinary Americans, and the pride they have in their country. We don’t hear much about it, because it doesn’t fit our Euro-jaundiced view of what the United States is…

Thus another “reality check,” this time by a visitor.

Do we have problems to address? Certainly. And some of the worst of them are at the very top of the hierarchy — beginning with our Imperial Congressional Horde. But even they — with their narcissistic posturing, corruption, and blatant waste of tax-payers’ money — even they cannot spoil this day.

Take a reality check, everyone. It’s still a grand old flag.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

UPDATE: From commenter Thanos’ blog:

Foreigners misunderstand America, and what freedom here really is. They do not understand how our constitution protects individuals, not classes or groups. They neither grasp the laws designed to limit government, nor the responsibilities and duties that we free individuals must carry. The tree of liberty is fed with tyrant’s blood, and that is just one of many responsibilities that we all know.

The ultimate effect and genius of our government is that each person is a sovereign individual, a king or a queen in their own right. It’s no mistake that fathers in America oft call their daughters princess, although there is neither title, divine right, nor grant of nobility to do so. We are each of us noble in America, and in America we write our own grants of nobility as we walk this land of 300 million kings and queens.

So foreigners misinterpret our easy grace with freedom and our ability as ego, they mistake our declarations as braggadaccio, and they see this brawling country of three hundred million souls and fear our great powers.

Yes, read the rest. It’s worth the ride.


Zerosumgame said...

Just remember how Israel celebrated our bicentennial on July 4, 1976 -- by striking a blow against Nazi terrorists (hey, they were Germans who separated out Jews for slaughter, remember?) at Entebbe.

Also a sad day -- 60 years to the day of the Kielce pogrom -- which to some of us shows that faith in "New Europe" is badly misplaced.

Dymphna said...


time to leave your emotional/cultural/psychological ghetto and get out into the real world.

Do you want respect or will pity do? You certainly aren't offering dialogue with your obsessive comments.

Never were the words "get a life" more needed.

You could start with reading a wonderful book:

"The Provincials" by Eil Evans. I read the original but it's been updated.

In this classic portrait of Jews in the South, Eli N. Evans takes readers inside the nexus of southern and Jewish histories, from the earliest immigrants to the present day. Evoking the rhythms and heartbeat of Jewish life in the Bible belt, Evans weaves together chapters of recollections from his youth and early years in North Carolina with chapters that explore the experiences of Jews in many cities and small towns across the South. He presents the stories of communities, individuals, and events in this quintessential American landscape that reveal the deeply intertwined strands of what he calls a unique "Southern Jewish consciousness."

Your constant kvetching is, in the final analysis, tedious.

I am not nice, like the Baron. I cannot abide whining, whilst he has a much higher whine tolerance than I.

Just quit it!

X said...

The poll also stated that 53% of the people answering absolutely trust the BBC. Once again I would like to point out that the state of the media in this country is such that people simply don't know about any alternative sources. The BBC puts itself about as the final authority on everything, and has done for the last 50 years. For most of that time it's all a lot people have known, so when it tells them that blogs and other media aren't to be trusted, they tend to believe it. Better the devil you know, they say, and the BBC is so wonderfully familiar... why, they used to wish us goodnight at the end of the day. They do those wonderful nature documentaries and speak with such authority...

This isn't the United States. In certain fundamental areas we aren't free like you. We've spent the majority of the century being indoctrinated and taught that the state knows best, quietly and subtly, to the point that most people simply don't know any better. Why do I have to keep pointing this out?

Besides, You Gov is not the best polling organisation in the world these days.

I agree that it's a parlorous state for the nation to be in, but don't hold it against us. We're educated stupid.

Here's another opinion. He actualy agrees with you, but I think he put it a bit better, but he also makes the point I just made about the media.

*awaiting the wrath* ;)

Zerosumgame said...


Pointing out the eternal anti-semitism of Europe is not whining.
It is July 4 -- pointing out other significant anniversaries on July 4 pertaining to Jews (when you talk of how you stand with us) seems quite related to the thread. In fact, General Shomron claims that the decision to strike on our bicentennial was deliberate and symbolic.

As for the Provincials -- I'm way ahead of you on that one, I read it many years ago -- in fact, IIRC, Evans' father was mayor of Durham, NC (which being the home of Duke, would make it a somewhat unusual town for the South).

There is an inherent tension in both standing with the Jews and standing with Eastern Europeans that have made our lives miserable for centuries. You and most Americans can reconcile the two in your minds. Most Jews cannot.

In the end, there are some things where Jews and their Christian supporters will not see eye-to-eye.

Eastern Europe is one. Mel Gibson's movie is another. Most controversial social issues are also in this category.

X said...

Ah, yes, that movie. It strikes me that the people complaining about it don't know the religion or history too well. The so-called blood libel was fairly explicit in its terms: "on our heads and the heads of our children". About 50 years after Jesus was crucified, the romans sacked jerusalem and crucified thousands of jews; those men, and their children, suffered the same fate they inflicted on Jesus. They cursed themselves and they suffered the curse. And that was it. Done. Finished.

Everything since then has been a huge, incredibly stupid misunderstanding on the part of the church who, it seems, weren't the best studies of scripture either... it's a demonstration of the staying-power of an idea handed down by a self-proclaimed authority, which is kind of the point I've been making in the last week or so.

But, lets be honest, this anti-semetism you claim "europe" is riven with, is it really there? Or is it a result of the unfettered muslim immigration we have to put up with these days? Eastern europe today is not the eastern europe of 60 years ago. People can change, you know; they aren't static. Most would give them a chance to prove this, but you apparently have already decided that we're a lost cause in all respects, and that's what's so grating about your posting. The absolute pessimism, the apparent belief that the entire continent is made up of ravening, slobbering jew haters just itching to re-open dachau and auschwwitz and the unrelenting criticism of those who believe otherwise... it starts to wear after a while, y'know?

X said...

I should have added that the theological debate over what the words actually mean is undoubtedly something that will be discussed a thousand years from now.

Zerosumgame said...


I'll take up the theology with you another time, on another thread.

Thanos said...

For a view from the US on how we take these polls, try here.


Thanos said...

Ok so this time I will make a link that actually works friends.

Of Kings and Queens and Freedom

Darius said...

"At the siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe. We are in a new phase of a very old war."

Yeah. That's what the world needs. Instead of acknowledging there are misguided people professing to be Muslims who are terribly ignorant of their own religion, let's portay all Islam as "evildoers."

Even George knows better than that.

It's like imagining that Christians who gun down people at abortion clinics are good representatives of their faith.

I have to assume you've actually known few if any Muslims. If you have, it's even more disturbing.

Frank said...


It is the constant and vociferous whining by a very few Jews that does more to increase anti-Semitism in the west than all the slathering hordes of Arabs combined. A former colleague of mine, Ezra Levant, wrote a few years ago to fellow Jews during a particularly nonsensical cauterwailing by B'nai Brith about some imagined slight to Jews, that if one is riding on the back of a tiger, one ought not keep shouting for the tiger to stop biting it, because sooner or later the tiger is going to get tired of it and bite.

Look, I personally don't give a shit if confirmed anti-Semites are dragged behind pickup trucks, and I am astouded at the fortitude of Israel in the face of the barbarians. It is a testament to Jewish nobility that it hasn't exercized its power to wipe Palestine clean of Palestinians, because it could and possibly should for its own safety. What would the Nazis have done if occupied Poland behaved, just once, like Palestine has behaved for decades? What would Stalin do if faced with one tenth the opposition Israel faces? What would we North Americans do? Oh, wait...we already know the answer to the last question.

But enough already about anti-Semitism in Europe by ethnic Europeans, or I'll start in on how badly treated we poor wee Scots werrre at the hands of the bludy English baastards. The threat is Islam, not St. George.


Frank said...

Darius, what an interesting name. Which number do you usually append?

This isn't about Muslims, its about Islam. I have to assume you know little about Islam, because if you do its particularly disturbing.

You may not have noticed that when people gun down other people outside abortion clinics, the pope doesn't give rousing speeches offering martyrdom to the gunner, nor are there celebrations in the streets across the globe because another blow has been struck for Christ. Your analogy is specious at best, and dishonest at worst, but in any event it is asinine.

Zerosumgame said...


It is the constant and vociferous whining by a very few Jews that does more to increase anti-Semitism in the west than all the slathering hordes of Arabs combined.

So the worldwide effort to demonize, and deligitimize Israel and to lay the groundwork for a second Holocaust is the fault of the Jews?

We Jews do not need "friends" like you.

Baron Bodissey said...


You have unfortunately committed the logical error known as the excluded middle.

"Our enemies are Muslims" does not imply that "All Muslims are our enemies".

But don't feel too bad; many novice logicians fall into the same error.

Dymphna said...


Quit being such a putz...you're creating anti-semites every time you open your bleedin' cakehole.


Fellow Peacekeeper said...

I too miss the point of anti-semitism being relevant on July 4th.

Scottsa says it well. For instance, Latvia and Lithuania has an excellent relationship with Israel and our own Jewish community, but is subject to constant overblown hostile bombardment by the likes of the American "Simon Wiesenthal Foundation"* and Russian "Russian Jewish Congress". Much overboard ranting about nazis and fascism.

"worldwide effort ... to lay the groundwork for a second Holocaust" - is that the global conspiracy, involving CNN, the Democratic Party, Chirac, Angela Merkel, Sudan, Iran, the last nonagerian nazis secreted in South American by the Odessa organization, the UN, skinheads in Essen, Syria, Le Pen, the BNP and a few US Army renegades hidden in area 51? I read about that one someplace.

" Eastern Europeans that have made our lives miserable for centuries " - I do protest. Of course, most American Jews are from Eastern Europe, where their ancestors somehow survived for centuries unlike most everywhere else. So, who is "us", which persons made life miserable for "you", when and where prior to 1940 (excepting Russia after 1859)? Theres a 500 year gap there somewhere and.... . No, that doesn't matter anyway, how is this relevant today?

Or maybe Zero, take your vile slanders and prejudicial assumptions and go **** ********. Or maybe stop being a tryhard and emigrate to Israel.

But maybe enough bull**** OT distraction.

Happy July 4th America. I at least will have a beer or three for the occasion.

X said...

Sometimes I like to celebrate Independence Day in the same way some parents undoutedly celebrate the day their kids moved out...

But I suppose that makes England the doddering old coot who needs putting in a home. Heh!

"Quit being such a putz...you're creating anti-semites every time you open your bleedin' cakehole."

I wouldn't have put it quite so bluntly but I agree with this. It's like black people... sorry, african americans Or afrocarribbean as they sometimes get called, but mostly black. Not counting the covert racism of the left, most of the racism againsts blacks today is caused by a very vocal minority (think: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the various rappers et al) acting out every single possible sterotype about blacks that ever existed and then some. Most blacks just want to get on with their lives, but they aren't seen. The ones that are seen cheat, steal, lie and act like jerks. Given this behaviour, is it any wonder there are still a lot of racists out there? Possibly more than there would be in other circumstances...

Every group has its idiots. Unfortunately idiots are very loud.

Always On Watch said...

As a child, I saw the Cagney film Yankee Doodle Dandy on television. I fell in love with Cohan's music and learned to sing each of his famous patriotic tunes. When I grew a bit older, I learned to play all the original arrangements on the piano. Many of Cohan's songs were included in the curricula of various schools, particularly "You're a Grand Old Flag." And until the day my great-uncle died, he sang "Over There!" Part of my uncle's World War I heritage as he served overseas during that conflict.

Do they still show that wonderful film on television any more? I hope so! The music is toe-tapping, and the words are unabashedly patriotic.

So Happy Independence Day, Dymphna and Baron! Today is a day to celebrate the ideals as handed to us by our Founders. On this day and every day, I am happy to be an American!

Zerosumgame said...


You and Baron won't silence the outrageous lies of ethnocentrist, but you want me to shut up.

I can see why just about no Jews and few Americans of any religious persuasion post here.

I shall not bother you any more.

I leave you to your European friends, where you can all live under the illusion you care about Jews.


Dymphna said...

zero, you're a nebbish in need of more than you can get from commenting here.

I have plenty of Jewish friends. In fact, one of them, Atlas -- ie, Pamela, considers me a righteous goy. And so I am.

Winston Churchill defined a fanatic as someone who cannot shut up and cannot change the subject.

He described you to a "T"...

In addition, you're judgmental and have frequently been offensive. If I were you, I'd be discreet about admitting my origins. We have enough anti-Semites in the world without your work adding to their numbers.

You made me impatient and annoyed. Ethnocentrist is merely stupidly parochial. You aren't, which is what makes your offenses greater.

Because you refuse to change, you have no choice but to leave. Just as well; I was about to put you on probation for derailing thread after thread on my posts..

Go in peace, you need it.

Zonka said...

I just came by here to say "Happy 4th of July" to the Baron & Dymphna as well as all other Americans and friends of America, who resides here or elsewhere! I'm sorry some guests don't respect the occassion for celebration and felt that they had to detract from the occasion! But for what it is worth: Happy 4th of July and God bless America (and the rest of us -- we'll need it in the days to come).

From a friend in Denmark!