Practice Makes Perfect

A happy 4th to those who celebrate it; a great Saturday to all.

Someday we’ll be as good as Ray sang we were, and we’ll let America be America again.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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10 Responses to Practice Makes Perfect

  1. feicht says:

    Whose country is it?

    It’s usually a fun day to be sure. But I tend to have trouble (if you hadn’t noticed) overlooking some of darker aspects that have made this country what it is today. This picture:

    is one of my favorites for this; African-American (draftee) troops marching during World War I. Most of us know that the Armed Forces were still segregated in WWII, but who even thinks about WWI these days? Or about the fact that these gents weren’t good enough to eat at the same restaurants as white Americans, but were perfect cannon fodder to help the imperialist ambitions of the country’s allies. I can only imagine what was going through the minds of these men as they marched off to reasonably assured death and annihilation for a cause supported by a country that hated them.

    I think the 4th of July should be a day not just to celebrate America’s perceived greatness, but also to appreciate all the unfortunates who have been ground into dust along the way.

    But on that light note, I hope you have a good 4th 😀

    • JE says:

      Re: Whose country is it?

      “I think the 4th of July should be a day not just to celebrate America’s perceived greatness, but also to appreciate all the unfortunates who have been ground into dust along the way.”

      That’s why I linked the Hughes poem: it states the aspirations and the transformative power of the American ideal without denying the more sinister elements of America’s present and past.

      • Re: Whose country is it?

        That being said. . .I wouldn’t quite list America as one of the great tyrannies in world history. Far from it.

        I don’t see any problem devoting one day to focusing on the positive. We have 364 others for guilt, criticism, and grousing.

        Anyway, God bless America!

        • feicht says:

          Re: Whose country is it?

          Neither would I; but I’m not really a member of any of the groups who have been tyrannized, either. 😉 I’m sure the plains Indians of the 1870s would’ve had a hard time regarding America as either the “land of the free” or the “home of the brave.”

          And of course, the 4th itself is an interesting duality; one part creation of new nation by men seeking human rights and dignity for all, and another part rich landowners seeking an increase in their own hegemony by breaking off from a powerful empire.

          But either way, these days it’s pretty much about the fireworks anyway, and fireworks are pretty damn sweet! 😀

          • JE says:

            Re: Whose country is it?

            Perfect nations don’t exist, since they have to be staffed by human beings. I don’t think it’s only hometown bias to say this one has some important things going for it.

            By the way:

            “the imperialist ambitions of the country’s allies”

            Germany invaded France in that war, right? Not vice versa.

          • feicht says:

            Re: Whose country is it?

            Definitely. But I think imposing any kind of “good guy vs. bad guy” mentality on that war is really anachronistic at best. WWI was nothing if not a meat grinder of empires in various stages of development squaring off against each other for bragging rights. There were no clear-cut “bad guys” the way there so obviously were in WWII; instead, it was like a pack of high school punks, any one of whom were more than willing to spark off a riot at any given time. Vilifying the German Empire while our soon-to-be ally, the British, controlled the biggest empire the world have ever seen seems a little disingenuous to me. An empire’s an empire’s an empire.

            Speaking of “the hated British”, I went down the street from me here today to the site of the “Battle of Groton Heights”, where a tiny little force of Continentals was massacred by Benedict Arnold and co. during the Revolution on September 6th, 1781, near the end of that war. I think one thing we often overlook as Americans is that our history really is all around us, just like everyone else. And of course, not that it would have been much consolation to the victims of Groton 1781, but the site of the bloodbath is now where they shoot off the 4th of July fireworks, haha.

          • JE says:

            Re: Whose country is it?

            “Vilifying the German Empire while our soon-to-be ally, the British, controlled the biggest empire the world have ever seen seems a little disingenuous to me. An empire’s an empire’s an empire.”

            What if all empires aren’t created equal? It’s unlikely, on the face of it.

            The British Empire has some hideous crimes on its conscience, as every empire must, but its legacy is a worldwide tradition of pluralistic democracy. The legacy of the German Empire is distinctly different, and it’s not vilification to say so.

          • feicht says:

            Re: Whose country is it?

            Indeed, but I think you can look at it the other way and make the argument that that “legacy of pluralistic democracy” was the work of the people previously subjugated by the British, not the British themselves. After all, their colonies had no representation to speak of, which is ostensibly one of the reasons the 13 Colonies rebelled against them in the first place.

            But they did give us Monty Python 190 years later, so I don’t hold a grudge 😀

          • JE says:

            Re: Whose country is it?

            “Indeed, but I think you can look at it the other way and make the argument that that ‘legacy of pluralistic democracy’ was the work of the people previously subjugated by the British, not the British themselves”

            Sure: I’m not trying to take any credit away from the people who actually do the political work of setting up or sustaining democratic states (who are us, among others–we’re part of that tradition). But one of the good things about empires is how they spread cultural information. Consider the medieval caliphate for instance (conveying, preserving and increasing mathematical and philosophical knowledge from India to Spain), or the Persian empire (who did the same sort of thing centuries earlier), or the Roman, for that matter (without which these words could not be written and without which I would certainly be out of a job).

            Contact with other cultures broadens what Eco calls the “cultural encyclopedia.” And parliamentary democracy was part of the cultural encyclopedia spread by Britain: there was a Congress assembled in Philadelphia in July 1776 because of British political traditions (among other things). So I think one actually can make distinctions between empires based on the cultural encyclopedias they promote.

            (And, of course, their comedians!)

          • feicht says:

            Re: Whose country is it?

            True, and of course the Germans had no sense of humor either, which is why they needed to call in Monty Python in the 70s to come make a few episodes in German for them 😀

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