We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...
Two hundred and twenty-nine years ago today, America's founding fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honour in defence of the above ideal in America's Declaration of Independence. It is a great ideal, and one which provides the bedrock of modern liberal democracy around the world. It's therefore appropriate to celebrate the birth of the United States as a landmark in the Enlightenment project of freedom. However, I do not celebrate its present state. Since September 11th, the United States has turned from being a generally progressive nation to being an outright regressive one, and is now as far from its founding values as it has ever been.
When George III deprived the people of the American colonies of trial by jury, transported them beyond the seas to be tried for pretended offences, and affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil government, the signers of the Declaration of Independence rightly called him a despot. Yet now, the United States holds hundreds of "enemy combatants" without charge or trial in its Caribbean gulag at Guantanamo. It has established a system of extraordinary rendition, transferring suspected terrorists to despotic regimes so that they can be tortured. And it has held one of its own citizens in military detention without charge or trial for over three years, and shows no sign of releasing him anytime soon. But what is truly frightening is that most Americans do not seem to give a damn. They have simply given up on the project of freedom.
So, rather than sending America a birthday card this year, a "get well soon" card seems more appropriate. Like Margaret Drabble, I hope America recovers from its present insanity - and the sooner, the better.