Jack Tame: Only in America, especially on Fourth of July

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The Battery Park bum bags are back.

At the toe of Manhattan Island, a queue of sensible walking shoes and daypacks, German accents, money belts and tack.

It was a very Fourth of July thing, to reopen the Statue. From a mighty storm and its mighty mess, you can almost imagine Lady Liberty herself mucked in with brush and pan, spit-polishing the gateway to freedom and prosperity just in time to catch the fireworks.

In Gettysburg they queued, too. Re-enacting the famous battle, crowds apparently gathered from dawn as they costumed up and took their places. They argued over who'd get to live and who'd take their turn to die. It isn't much fun to travel across country for a Civil War, only to be bayonetted in the guts two minutes in and condemned to a sunburny afternoon, lying in a Pennsylvanian paddock.

But that was the Fourth of July.

The flags. The red, white and blue-ing and Star Spangled Bannering, saluting and allegiance pledging and God Bless America-ing, can all be a bit much for those of us used to humbler patriotic outpourings.

After all, this place still has its fair share of faults and hypocrisies.

Wide-reaching abortion restrictions are being pushed through to "Protect unborn life" in the very state that executes the most prisoners. "All men are created equal", while homosexuals are still actively denied equality in more than 30 states. And even the US President pushes the grandest notions of freedom, liberty and peace, while dropping bombs from flying robots and snooping on a billion phone calls.

But for all the world's easy attacks, for the fatness and the guns, the Kardashians, the fervour, the consuming and waste, this is not a country without diversity or satire or smarts. Two hundred and thirty-seven years since independence, America isn't as free as its founding fathers might once have believed.

But the Fourth of July is a reminder, a unified display the US is always proudly free of cynicism.

- Herald on Sunday

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