I like your country because you know how to celebrate holidays properly. As a good Spaniard, there is nothing that appeals to me more than a big party where most people seem to have gone crazy right from the start, forgetting what they were even celebrating. Noise, cholesterol-packed hot dogs, classic rock, drinks, and pretty girls with a Star-Spangled Banner painted on their faces. I could stay and live in a place like that. Any English historian might very well tell me I am mistaken, but I am convinced that we Spaniards sent over a load of money and 10,000 soldiers to help our American friends in the War of Independence for the sole reason that we were guaranteed a huge party to celebrate the victory. So I don’t want you to think that my drinking today is just one of those vices that we bohemian writers carry around — nothing like that. My drinking is an intellectual matter, a commitment to history, a cultural issue: I have a moral duty to continue the party that my ancestors started more than 200 years ago in the United States. Sometimes a good party is the best way to show your respects to the Founding Fathers.
If there is one thing I find really unparalleled and quite amusing in the Declaration of Independence, it is its mention of happiness.
The Fourth of July is not just any celebration. The American flag represents everything that my own Old Continent has been neglecting: freedom, life, faith, the pursuit of happiness, and Baywatch girls running along the shore with David Hasselhoff (admittedly this image is a product of being a European teenager during the ’90s). If there is one thing I find really unparalleled and quite amusing in the Declaration of Independence, it is its mention of happiness. Its presence is unprecedented in constitutional texts, although I do admit that I have not managed to read any of them in full because most of them seem to have been written by some hybrid being, part Alejandro Jodorowsky under the effects of whatever Paulo Coelho smokes, and part the author of the Yellow Pages.
But I don’t think any other country recognizes in its laws an inalienable right to be happy. The French could not include something like that because, knowing the customs of their lodges, they would end up with a Magna Carta cheesier than a bouquet of water lilies. Neither could the Yemenis, because they made a constitution in 1991 to pass the time, but their only official legal text is the sharia, and happiness is incompatible with receiving 80 lashes every time you drink a beer. And as for Spaniards and happiness … we could not include something like that in our Constitution because the last thing Spain’s GDP needs is for someone to insist that we should be even happier.
I celebrate Independence Day as if it were a Greek wedding, and I do so not only in the spirit of companionship with my friends, colleagues, readers, and haters in the United States. My celebration is also a matter of faith. I belong to a religion whose third commandment seriously binds me to sanctify the feast, and whose leader made his first miracle turning water into wine, even though the guests at that wedding in Cana were beginning to show signs that they would not be able to drive home without crashing their cars into stray camels on the way back. All of this forces me to maintain these high standards. I don’t want to go to hell for abandoning myself to teetotalism and melancholy on a day like today. Let us drink like Chesterton today, not because we are sad, but because we are indeed happy to celebrate the day of this great nation. Because Christianity is joy. If you want to be sad, become a nihilist and go live in Norway, whose constitution will soon recognize the right of the salmon to seek happiness at the expense of the Norwegians.
Beyond the party and the beer, from here I observe with envy American patriotism. In my country, which has a glorious history often reviled by the English, the French, and other children of Satan (except for Joel, my translator, who is a saint and also has the good taste to look like John Belushi), if you unfurl a Spanish flag on the balcony they call you a fascist; and if you do it in the Basque Country or Catalonia, they may even set fire to your house and paint your name and a target on the front of your shop, or the teachers at the school may humiliate your children in front of all the other students in order to teach you a lesson. No matter, we still stick it in their faces. The flag I mean. It’s fun. Remember what Wodehouse said: “The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.”
It would take me too long to explain how we came to this absurd nonsense in Spain. But I wanted you to understand why I feel envious when I see that someone can wave their country’s flag in the street without any issues. Actually, there aren’t so many bad guys here, but they do make a lot of noise. I think something similar is starting to happen in the United States, and the best medicine is to celebrate the Fourth of July harder than ever. Because there are already voices timidly despising the flag, the Constitution, the nation, history, as if they were someone’s exclusive property, as if it were morally permissible to use them to create division. But they will not succeed. I know that America will not make the same self-destructive mistakes as Europe. I know that my American friends will raise the statues of Saint Junípero Serra and Christopher Columbus again long before the virus of stupidity becomes a pandemic and we have to put masks on our consciences to avoid being infected with barbarism.
Another main feature of the Independence Day party is the fireworks. They represent beauty. Since the times of ancient Greece we know that no nation has managed to be really great without caring about beauty. Thanks to the Acropolis in Athens and the Parthenon, Greece could boast a certain predominance in the field until 1921, when the United States invented Miss America and definitively dethroned the Hellenic architects. Everyone preferred to visit the winner rather than a pile of broken rocks. At least until 2018, when the New York Times tried to ruin the contest, and the resulting ruins were not as successful as those of the Acropolis.
There’s always someone trying to ruin beautiful things in life. For example, today I saw that CNN, in view of the possible Fourth of July celebrations, has warned against the very serious dangers of combining fireworks with the act of disinfecting one’s hands with hydroalcoholic gel, I suppose to discourage national holiday celebrations. Or perhaps it was just a psycho-technical test for their viewers.
Whatever it is, thank God fireworks are now shining once again in the American sky, encouraging us to join Anne Frank in saying, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
Really, Spaniards and Americans are old allies, even in spite of our current Social Communist government, which might very well be my penance for having given myself to too much Venezuelan rum in the last decade. But there was a time when no one understood the spirit of an American better than a Spaniard. In 1781, when Spanish Captain Bernardo de Gálvez decided that he would try to land on the island of Santa Rosa, the squadron supporting him refused to cross the bay because they were afraid that the English would sink their ship, which just happens to be the worst thing that can happen in a naval battle besides running out of cigarettes. Then, from his ship Galveztown, de Gálvez sent a famous letter containing a bullet, to one of those frightened Spanish captains who refused to attack the island. He said, “The thirty-two caliber bullet that I send and present to you is one of those that the English fort at the entrance delivers. Whoever has honor and courage, follow me. I’ll lead the way with the Galveztown so they won’t be afraid.”
For the millennials, if this story had happened today, de Gálvez would have accompanied his letter with two emoticons winking and sticking their tongues out. Afterwards the guy set out towards Santa Rosa, and 27 artillery shots rained down on him, making me think that the English weren’t too thrilled to see him. But the fact is that he landed and soon after conquered Panzacola giving an important boost to the War of Independence. Today whilst reading this hero’s story, I thought, Is there anything more American than saying, “Whoever has honor and courage, follow me”?
With this beautiful image, I raise my glass to the memory of Bernardo de Gálvez, of all my American friends, of those seeking happiness, with the joy of knowing that a nation, so distant and yet so close, remains a beacon of the West and of our culture, a refuge for freedom-loving people, an outrage for European tax collectors, and an example of the healthiest and most solemn patriotism for the whole world.
God bless America. Happy Independence Day. And now, Mr. Waiter, if you’d be so kind, pour me another drink and leave the bottle here. I’m seeking happiness today.
Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist, and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music, and smart appliances. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, the Daily Caller, National Review, the American Conservative, The American Spectator, and Diario Las Américas in the United States, and columnist for several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an advisor to the Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports in Spain. Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website www.itxudiaz.com.
Translated by Joel Dalmau
Illustration by Iñigo Navarro Dávila
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