Photo by Nulla
I recently ran across part of an essay by Henry Farlie, an English-born journalist in America. On previous Independence Days I've tried to articulate why I love America, but he says it so much better than I ever could:
I had been in the country about eight years, and was living in Houston,
when a Texas friend asked me one evening: "Why do you like living in
America? I don't mean why you find it interesting–why you want to
write about it–but why you like living here so much." After only a
moment's reflection, I replied, "It's the first time I've felt free."
One spring day, shortly after my arrival in America, I was walking down
the long, broad street of a suburb, with its sweeping front lawns (all
that space), its tall trees (all that sky), and its clumps of azaleas
(all that color). The only other person on the street was a small boy
on a tricycle. As I passed him, he said, "Hi!"–just like that. No
four-year-old boy had ever addressed me without an introduction before.
Yet here was this one, with his cheerful "Hi!" Recovering from the
culture shock, I tried to look down stonily at his flaxen head, but
instead, involuntarily, I found myself saying in return: "Well–hi!" He
pedaled off, apparently satisfied. He had begun my Americanization.
"Hi!" As I often say–for Americans do not realize it–the word is a
democracy. (I come from a country where one can tell someone's class by
how they say "Hallo!" or "Hello!" or "Hullo," or whether they say it at
all.) But anyone can say "Hi!" Anyone does. Shortly after my encounter
with the boy, I called on the then Suffragan Bishop of Washington. Did
he greet me as the Archbishop of Canterbury would have done? No. He
said, "Hi, Henry!" I put it down to an aberration, an excess of
Episcopalian latitudinarianism. But what about my first meeting with
Lyndon B. Johnson, the President of the United States, the Emperor of
the Free World, before whom, like a Burgher of Calais, a halter round
my neck, I would have sunk to my knees, pleading for a loan for my
country? He held out the largest hand in Christendom, and said, "Hi,
Happy 4th of July!