Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in a speech at the Hoover Institution in 1991, exalted the uniqueness of American society. She said, “No other nation has so successfully combined people of different races and nations within a single culture.” In comparison, she admitted that, “The European nations are not and can never be like this. They are the product of history and not of philosophy. You can construct a nation on an idea; but you cannot reconstruct a nation on the basis of one.” This “idea” i.e. the “American Experiment”, is based on the notion that all men are created equal and, as stated in their Declaration of Independence, are entitled to, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
For the rest of the world, this principle is part of what makes America a shining example of contemporary western civilisation.
In case you didn’t discern it from my spelling of ‘civilisation’ – as opposed to ‘civiliZation’ – I received a British education. This is because I was born and raised in a former British colony; we achieved independence in 1962 but we still keep some of the “old” ways. I am, however, also an unabashed Anglophile – I love all things British. My manners, my sensibilities, my speech… all very British. But I do like some things that are American as well. I like the conveniences, I like the friendliness (English people can be cold), and, let’s face it, most Americans are quite dim, which provides the rest of the world with a bit of entertainment.
Now, I am fortunate in that I lived and was educated both in the United States and the United Kingdom. I don’t claim to be an expert on which society is better, but I can share some personal insights.
I never cared much for the statement that the U.K. doesn’t have a “written constitution”, especially when it is juxtaposed with the United States. What it has, in essence, is an unwritten one…based on common law, parliamentary laws and conventions, and documents of liberal traditions like the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights (post Glorious Revolution), and the various Acts of Union (1707 & 1800) that establish parliamentary supremacy.
In contrast, the United States was founded on the principle that rights are not granted and guaranteed by a monarch. As such its Constitution reflects that – attempting to ensure that power is not concentrated in any single person or body; what they refer to simply and yet floridly as “checks and balances” (that shouldn’t underscore the intricacies and virtues of the Westminister system). Is it perfect? No. But then, neither is the Congressional system.
It’s easy for an “outsider” like myself to criticise (there’s that ‘s’ again) America and it’s people. It’s also grossly unfair… after all, no country is perfect. That being said, what’s unfortunate is that Americans seem to have forgotten that its democracy is an ongoing experiment. It started with the Declaration of Independence but it didn’t stop there. Each new generation, both native and immigrant, is responsible for adding and expanding on the notion of equal rights; that all are entitled to, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The end of slavery, women’s suffrage, the civil rights amendment, the recognition of LGBT persons, these are all part of the ongoing experiment in achieving the “more perfect union”. That’s what makes America truly great. That’s the spirit that needs to be reclaimed.
So happy treason day you ungrateful colonials. And God bless this nation of yours.