I love America. I have close family living in Colorado and California, many old work friends in the Pittsburgh area and whenever I have visited the US I have never been treated with anything other than complete kindness and respect. As you may know, tomorrow 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. It is a time where people think of family, freedom and the american way.
It is also a day of some awkwardness for us Brits. You see, we don’t know what to do. We try to remain unfailingly polite but in the back of our minds we know that what is being celebrated is the humiliation of our forebears. It doesn’t help that whenever I have a conversation with American friends about Independence day, it usually goes one of two ways:
Conversation no.1: We kicked your ass!
Conversation no.2: Do the British celebrate Independence Day too?
Of course, the answers to these points should be 1: You did, and 2: Have a little think about that (see conversation no.1). The thing is, I believe the British should celebrate Independence Day. Not because of the potential for an extra day off work but because there are strong reasons why losing the american war of independence was good for us too.
1: It was our idea
This will 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. In 1776, Thomas Paine had only been in the US two years when he wrote the book, “Common Sense”. It was one of the first books advocating colonial America’s independence from the UK and became a best-seller. 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.” So technically we lost but we also won. Sort of.
2: We got to keep Canada
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). But you get the point. Canada remained part of the British Empire and then the Commonwealth.
It is unlikely the British would have been able to retain control of the American colonies and fight off the French in Canada at the same time. If it hadn’t have been for the war of Independence, William Shatner, Neil Young, Jim Carrey and Terence and Phillip from South Park among many others would all have spoken French as their mother tongue. Could you imagine “Beam me up, Scotty” in Quebecois?
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 the old imperialists 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 Americans pronounce correctly
It was recently pointed out to me by a friend that it is only on Independence Day that Americans pronounce 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 only we could only persuade our cousins to honour our standardised way of spelling.
5: We retain some shred of dignity with our most important sport
In the early american colonies, cricket was by far the most popular sport. Following the War of Independence, Baseball increased in popularity. Participation in cricket diminished and eventually slowly died out, much to the relief of millions of British cricket fans. Why? Well 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? It’s not like they take football (soccer) seriously yet they still did better than England this World Cup.
So, rather than ignoring the 4th July in the UK, we should embrace it. We should ignore the rain, 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.
* 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
This original of this piece was posted 4th July 2013. It has since been re-edited to add more jokes and bring it up to date.