Put another Weiner on the Barbie

Today was the Nathan's Famous July Fourth International Hot Dog Eating Contest. At lunch this week a coworker noticed an advert for such and commented, “That's why other countries hate the U.S.” His tone indicated that he agreed with such disdain.

That may be. The United States certainly has the most influential culture in the world right now and some appear to be quite upset. I suspect that when Rome or Britain ruled some were unhappy then, too. I would be surprised if everyone agreed with everything. (It is not my experience that we humans are a naturally agreeable lot.) I can understand that, though, since folks in other countries have their own culture with which they are accustomed.

What I can not understand are the Americans who are ashamed of the U.S. First, American culture is inherently no better and no worse than any other culture. There are aspects of American culture that I like and others that I dislike. I have friends from other cultures and that has shown me that all cultures have their own admirable features and their own silliness. There is nothing magic in non-American cultures and nothing evil in the American culture.

Second, there is no better place to go. Despite its eccentricities and failings, the U.S. is still the freest country on the planet. No one forces anyone to eat a hot dog, let alone fifty-four. No one forces anyone to pray to Coney Island five times a day. No one prevents anyone from eating hot dogs because of their heritage.

In the U.S. and American culture, people are free to do as they choose. While assimilation of new peoples is far from perfect, it is still the country and culture that have best assimilated immigrants. Its success comes from the very rare feature of actually trying to assimilate other cultures. Most people may not know the origin of Cinco de Mayo or Halloween, but they have been imported into the culture nonetheless.

I must say, though, that one of the nicest features of the U.S. is the freedom to leave at any time. This is not to say that Americans can not be critical of American culture. I think we should all strive to improve wherever we live as best we can. But if you are ashamed of America, you are free to leave at any time.

For everybody else, put a couple of hot dogs on the grill and enjoy the silly pyrotechnics that are Independence Day.

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