As any other country and culture, The United States of America have both good and bad things.
As a young European federalist, and with no particular country to which I belong, I want to focus on some of the good things the US has with this post for all to read.
There are several things I really admire, respect and envy –in the best sense of the word– from my fellow American.
To begin with, what is something we literally see in our everyday lives no matter where you live in? In general terms, specially Europeans, tend to think of Americans as cultureless. But the truth is, the American culture is the one culture exporting faster and harder than any other thanks to globalization, the internet, and Hollywood. Which brings me to praising their Movies and TV series. The US is by far best in it, something of which the influence on the world should not be underestimated.
Because it exports its culture through entertainment, the rest of the world has become interested in their politics and eventually their businesses and its economy. This last one is something I admire a lot. Everything has a price. Everything is buyable and there are markets and stock exchanges for everything and anything.
Their success and richness, furthermore, are often the result of private enterprises and the people’s meritocracy. Understood as the antithesis of the Hispanic wealth system in South America, whose success and richness often come from proximity to political power.
Its pratriotism, power and unity, especially compared to Europe. When asked what to do after 9/11, Bush said: spend. And they did. This patriotism allows their politicians to give great speeches with vision, faith and hope. These last ones are also worthy of being mentioned on this post.
Not many countries have the air of restless ambition that can be found in the US. Such is lacking — that sheer hope that tomorrow will be better than today if only we have the courage to chase it. As /u/TheWanderingSuperman put it. That their impossible dream is valid and possible, that they alone shape the course of their country, their state, or their city if they so desire, that they acknowledge their position and ask “are we capable of more?“.
Permit me to talk a bit about the US Constitution.
We, non-Americans, often tend to wonder why is it that their Constitution is treated like a sacred text, while many other nations change their constitution, maybe not regularly, but have way many more times.
The truth is, the US Constitution has also been changed. As a matter of fact, it’s been changed 27 times via the Amendment Process. It’s quite good, though, for it to be so difficult to change, since it prevents reckless modifications, like many other countries do.
Another fact is that some of the founding fathers of the US had meant for the Constitution to be remade periodically. Thomas Jefferson himself wanted it to be remade every 19 years.
Why the 19, right? It’s a very specific number. Well, the 19 years thing comes from a letter he wrote to James Madison. In it, he explains his math and reasoning clearly. Essentially, he wanted laws to expire after 19 years, so that each generation could decide for themselves how they should be governed, without being constrained by the rules of dead people.
Afer all, it seems like Jefferson never saw a revolution he didn’t like.
Anyway, what’s the answer to the question we’re looking for? Is the Constitution treated or not like a sacred text? I guess there isn’t a simple yes-or-no answer to it.
According to /u/infrared_hologram, it has to do with what the purpose of a Constitution is and what questions it was created to answer. In many countries, especially in Europe, the question was “We have a country, how do we govern it?”. The constitution simply describes how the government should be organized.
The US is different. When the 13 colonies wrote the US Constitution, the question was “We need to create a country, what form should it take?”. The United States of America didn’t exist as a nation until the constitution was ratified and crated it. In a sense, you could say that the constitution is the United States of America.
As mentioned earlier, the US constitution can be changed via the amendment process, but if the USA ever decided to throw it out whole cloth, the federal government would immediately lose all power. The President, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all of the supporting institutions would lose all legal power they had and all government responsibilities would revert to the States until (and if) a new constitution could be ratified.
The reason that the US constitution is treated as sacred text is because in a sense it is. The government is not allowed to pass any laws that contradict it (and it’s the Supreme Court’s job to enforce this), and if they ever tried to throw it out they would all immediately be out of a job. It’s the legal backbone that holds up the entire federal government.
In addition to this, /u/snowwrestler poses another question and answers it. What makes someone American?
On the one hand, most countries in the world are both a nation of people and a political state. England, for example, is mostly populated by English people. The Netherlands is mostly populated by the Dutch. Germany is populated mostly by Germans. Japan is populated by Japanese. China by Chinese…
These peoples have very deep, basically tribal histories with each other and their land. Their identities are not based on their system of government. They know who they are, and they pragmatically try to govern themselves in whatever way seems best.
On the other hand, The US is not the same way. Americans can come from any nationality, race, or ethnic background. So the entirety of the shared experience of citizenship in the US is based on political and cultural conventions to which every American chooses to dedicate themselves.
Maybe Switzerland; since it’s a confederation of mostly German, French and Italian people whose nation states hate(d) each other. Switzerland as a nation with a common identity did not exist before. Nonetheless, they change their constitution almost every year at least once by direct vote. And also, Switzerland is a very old country, more than 700 years old. Enough time to build something that looks like a Swiss culture and history.
The US Constitution is a major basis for those conventions; so are other documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, the I Have a Dream speech…
These documents define who Americans are; what makes Americans similar to one another. Because unlike most nations of the world, there’s not much else they all have in common.