It’s Independence Day weekend, which means that it is time for barbecues, illegal fireworks, and gratuitous displays of nationalism. This year, I’m planning to get matching bald eagle tattoos on my biceps. But for me, at least, Independence Day is also an opportunity for reflection on who we are as a nation and where we’re headed. I’ll admit that I’m worried.
Earlier this week, Belgium eliminated the United States from the World Cup. But consider that there is a decent chance that Belgium might not exist by the time the next World Cup rolls around, because of the bitter divide between its Flemish speakers and its French speakers. I say this with a heavy heart. Yes, Belgium. Congratulations on scoring your goals. Now enjoy the dustbin of history as your nation is torn apart by deep-seated ethnopolitical resentment. Meanwhile, the United States, a sprawling and spectacularly diverse continental republic with a heavily armed and famously irascible population more than 28 times that of Belgium, will almost certainly be around come 2018, at which point we will easily trounce the soccer teams of Flanders, Wallonia, and the Grand Duchy of Brussels, or whatever random assortment of states emerges from Belgium’s wreckage.
But Belgium-bashing aside, we Americans should not rest on our laurels. America is big, awesome, and beautiful. We’re also divided in ways we can’t afford to ignore.