Today is Independence Day in the USA, a day in which our cousins across the pond celebrate the founding of their nation by drinking beer, letting off fireworks, having barbecues and watching sports. Now I love the USA; I’ve been to the USA many times and half my family live there. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the USA at this time of year and whenever I’ve talked to my American friends about Independence Day the conversation goes one of two ways:
Conversation no.1: We kicked your ass!
Conversation no.2: Do the British celebrate Independence Day too?
Now, the logical response to these points should be 1: You did, and 2: Have a little think about that (see conversation no.1), but I strongly believe that the British should also celebrate Independence Day and here are five reasons why.
1: It was our idea
This may come as some surprise to many people (especially in the UK), but one of the strongest advocates for an independent USA was Thomas Paine, born in Thetford, England, who in 1776 had only been in the US two years when he wrote “Common Sense”, the best-selling book that advocated colonial America’s independence from the UK. The book was so influential that John Adams said “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”
2: We got to keep Canada
For those of you who laugh, I think we got the best deal*. Remember, this is the land that has given us William Shatner, Neil Young and Terence and Phillip from South Park among many others. Well, when I say we got to keep Canada, I mean the Queen is their head of state, and when I say Canada is ours, it is ours in the same way that Jaguar is ours (owned by Tata of India), Land Rover (Tata), Rolls Royce & Bentley (VW of Germany), Harrods (Qatar Investment Company). And I know I’m ignoring Quebec. But you get the point.
By allowing the USA to declare Independence**, we were able to concentrate on our other colonies, including the jewel in the crown, India. It can be argued that without the wealth generated from our colonies in India, there would be no Great in Great Britain, but for me the most important point is that if we hadn’t been able to focus on India, there would be no Chicken Tikka Masala, the UK’s favourite dish***, so thank you, you American militias!
4: It’s the only date in the calendar year the Americans say correctly
I worked for an American company for many years and one thing that bugged me was having to change my spellings for any presentation**** that would be sent to the US. However, it was recently pointed out to me by a friend that on one day per year the Americans say the date correctly. For 364 days in the year, our American cousins say April Sixth, or February Eleventh. It is only on this special day that the date is pronounced correctly: the fourth of July. Now if we could only persuade our cousins to honour our standardised way of spelling, it would make this one English pedant very happy.
5: We remain competitive at the important sports
In the early colonies, cricket was the most popular sport. After the War of Independence, Baseball became more popular and participation in cricket slowly died out, to the relief of British cricket fans. I mean, it’s bad enough being beaten by Australia, India, The West Indies and South Africa at cricket on a regular basis. Can you imagine how dominant the US would be if all 400 plus million people loved the game?
So, rather than ignoring the 4th July in the UK, we should embrace it by ignoring the rain and start up our BBQ’s, pour a nice warm pint of bitter and light the fireworks to give thanks to our forefathers for screwing things up so badly that they turned a happy, contented colony into a hotbed of revolutionary zeal. Despite everything, it was one of the best things they ever did.
* If you are still laughing at this, remember Canada is the only country to have burnt down Washington DC.
** OK, this is a lie (see conversation no.1)
*** Chicken Tikka Masala was created in Glasgow and is as Indian as Spaghetti Bolognese is Italian
**** I didn’t have to, I did it out of politeness in the typically British way of preferring to cause pain to one’s self rather than impose on others