Happy Independence Day ! Although this is the 231st year of American independence from Great Britain, American nationhood, as distinct from political existence, was already a well and long established fact in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was 169 years after the founding of the Jamestown colony, which means, in this Year of Grace 2007 -- 400 years of America.
The separation from the mother country was less an abrupt break than a belated alignment of the politics with the facts. When the rebellion against Britain began: the leaders of the political movement wanted, or claimed to want, the "rights of Englishmen." This was of course, absurd, and a solecism in terms: why would Americans ever be content with the rights of Englishmen ? What could Americans: who spoke in different dialects, ate different foods, hunted different animals, fished different waters and read different newspapers, possibly have in common with another people in another continent ruled by a foreign Parliament and a foreign king ? American nationhood could not be stopped, but had Sir William Howe been a general as good as his splendid troops, American nationality would have taken some different form.
The Declaration of Independence, which did not look like such a good military bet in 1776, is, chronologically at least, long in the past. But the struggle to maintain, to develop and to define American nationhood continues, and if you seek the evidence, check the Red State/Blue State map and the recent debate over immigration. Today there is a rift between those loyal to the traditional concept of nationality: to a 400 year old culture; to political institutions of our own; to the concept of American citizenship conferring a real distinction; to our own language, our own flag, the idea of borders and all that it means to be a separate, distinct people.
On the other side, we have the newer multicultural world produced by globalization: divorced from parochial national loyalties; of people as at home in Berlin, London or Buenos Aires as in New York (let alone such gauche places as Branson or Dallas); who look on the whole idea of nationality as a dated concept. To the global citizen, no place is better than any other; no culture worth defending, all religions equally valid, no values better than others. All that matters is that the banks take wire transfers, and that the local labor is cheap. For the multicultis, the ancient totems of divisive nationalism can and best be forgotten, as long as the restaurants worldwide take American Express. Culturally, the anthem of the globalized is John Lennon's Imagine.
Happy Independence Day. Whatever you're doing, fellow Americans, may it bring you joy and God's blessings on you and your family. But we have some work to do. We still need to work out what the Fourth of July means: whether we're really commemorating 231 years of the independence of the United States of America, or just enjoying another day off of work.