Those voices are discussing the Fourth of July, the date on which Americans commemorate political revolution by competitively eating hundreds of hot dogs dipped in water.
Independence Day marks 244 years of a nation where every heart beats true beneath the red, white, and blue, after importing cardiac medication from Canada to avoid medical bankruptcy.
Centuries before Brexit and Megxit, thirteen British colonies performed their own “Amerigexit” to form the United States.
Taxation without representation in parliament, unfair business monopolies, and orders rendering British forces immune to prosecution were among the many reasons the founding fathers sought to build a more just nation that’s since given birth to Washington D.C., Google, and police departments.
While independence is officially celebrated on July 4, the actual date that independence from Britain was declared is July 2 — so if you’re trying to figure out why so many people are lighting off fireworks in the streets ahead of the 4th, it’s probably because our nation’s teenagers are hyper-literate history buffs.
Like a drunk driver who plowed his or her car into an empty T-Mobile store instead of oncoming traffic, the USA has good reason to celebrate.
As the world’s longest-standing modern democracy, the country’s durable constitution has served as a model document for other nations that seek to live by precise guidelines established before the advent of penicillin, Instagram live, and AR-15s.
The multicultural melting pot of the United States has welcomed in generations of immigrants, providing poor and huddled masses with equal opportunities to assimilate and achieve the American dream just as soon as its citizens have grown tired of discriminating against them and moved onto the next group.
The country’s best and brightest have also landed on the moon, brought an end to the Second World War, and enshrined universal principles of free speech that allow citizens to question whether or not those events actually took place.
But while the US’s resume looks pretty good on paper, things become a bit more questionable when you start to check its references and realize that most of its LinkedIn contacts are arms dealers in Saudi Arabia.
According to the “Best Countries” index published by US News and World Report, which assess things like cultural influence and quality of life, the U.S. ranks #7 — so while it’s no gold, silver, or bronze, it’s still nonetheless a pretty respectable zinc.
But despite the United States’ unquestionable global reach, stagnation and indifference has led many to believe that the country is regressing into something that resembles a developing nation — a knockoff Canada Goose jacket that looks expensive on the outside but is stuffed on the inside with chicken feathers, Big Mac wrappers, and pages taken out of James Patterson novels that were left behind in airplane seats.
When you consider that the USA, the wealthiest nation on earth, spends more money than any other rich country on healthcare but has the lowest life expectancy, and responded to the COVID-19 pandemic like a third-world country with little-to-no public social safety net, the phrase “American exceptionalism” might as well mean that you’re better off being anything except American.
No country on earth is without its problems, but when you compare the USA’s widespread poverty and inequality, broken criminal justice system, and extreme gun violence to that of other rich nations, it’s almost a relief to find out the country also has the world’s highest suicide rate.
I’m not trying to trash the USA on its birthday — like any good friend, I should be trashing it behind its back in a separate group thread.
One of the core beliefs of the United States is this idea of the American dream, a set of ideals by which equality of opportunity is available to any citizen.
But when the CEO of Amazon makes more money in one second than the median U.S. worker makes in one week, when the rate at which black Americans are killed by police officers is more than twice as high as white Americans, and when two of the country’s last three leaders were elected president despite losing the popular vote, it’s easy to forget that you even had a dream in the first place the moment you wake up.
To me, the United States is a lot like The Simpsons: there are seven or eight really solid seasons, and 23 others that are disappointing, shameful, and downright embarrassing.
But I love those eight seasons so much, it’s worth remembering the good episodes and holding out hope that they’ll make more like those one day, even though we all know they won’t and now Flanders is Bart’s teacher or something.
And even though the show is obviously showing its age, the fact that they’re no longer going to have white actors voice nonwhite characters shows that they’re not immune to change — even though it took decades to do the right thing.
Change, perseverance and reinvention are embedded in this country’s DNA, and if we can slowly but surely start to make better choices about how we treat our neighbors and who gets to represent us in government, maybe season 245 of America will be a serious improvement over season 244.
I don’t know, but I hope so. Otherwise, we’ll be stuck cycling through the reruns until the grownups cancel Disney+.