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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday, America!

In 1893, at the age of five, Israel Isidore Baline (pictured above) immigrated with his family from the city of Mogilev in what is now Belarus (then, imperial Russia) to the United States. He would change his name to Irving Berlin and go on to write some of the greatest popular songs in the American pantheon of music, including this one in 1938, as America stood on the brink of war with Germany (the lyric still rings true today, as we watch the rise of the neo-Soviet state far across the sea):

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:

God Bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above!
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam,
God bless America, my home sweet home.

Russians like to brag about their achievements in the arts but has Russia, in all her hundreds of years of history, ever attracted person from a truly foreign land to come to Russia and write a song like that about his new homeland, a song that was adopted and beloved by all the people of Russia thereafter? Perhaps the answer sheds considerable light on why, today, Russia's population is violently shrinking whilst America's is booming.

Happy (belated) 219th* birthday, America!
You don't look a day over 150!

*America, of course, was "born" as a country on the day the U.S. Constitution became effective, which according to its terms was when the 9th state ratified it. That state was New Hampshire, and the date it ratified the document was June 21, 1788 -- America's actual birthday. So by celebrating its birthday on July 4th America is actually two weeks late, and this year it turns 219 years old -- not 231 years, as they July 4th date implies (July 4, 1776, was the date the Declaration of Independance was signed, but America didn't become a country then nor when it later won the Revolutionary War in 1781 -- at that time nationhood was rejected by the people of the country, fearing that a new central government would mean a new dictatorship, and only accepted years later as the threat of new invasion by Britain loomed; the British did in fact invade in 1812).

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