Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th

Good things about summer are always nice weather, live music, and outdoor sports, and being 4th of July today, it's also fireworks, big and small, above the lake and from backyards.

What defines America, a nation of short historical roots and composed mostly of immigrants and their offsprings? It's fist and foremost the ideas that are found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Some argue this national identity is weakening. Certainly not, judging by the amount of fireworks I hear. Compared to other years, traffic is unusually light. Maybe the hovering gas price does have effect. But the celebratory mood is still there.

I find the following quote quite on point:

America is a way of life ..abundance of land; large families, and assertive children; the importance of religion; an astonishing array of voluntary associations; and a hard-working population that was meritocratic, materialistic, competitive, and on the move.

On a related note, this reminds me of hot abated topic of what defines Chinese. IMO Chinese, being a people of deep historical roots and long civilization, doesn't define themselves depend on the possession of the red passport. What constitutes the cornerstone of my Chinese identity is the understanding of Chinese history, culture, and above all language, which one can't really master without good understanding of Chinese history. Chinese language is so distinctively different from other language system that there's no substitute to appreciate it's beauty. By the time you learn to recite and appreciate the poems of Tang Dynasty, you are inevitably wired to be Chinese. It was said that 80% of what you learn is useless. For a Chinese, it's probably 95% - who else do I talk to about the intricacies of Three Kingdom and my vast knowledge about those two thousand years outside of the Chinese circle? It's far easier to talk about Socrates than Zhangzi outside China. No wonder the old Chinese dynastic empires called anyone who were versed in Chinese culture "Chinese", and anyone else "barbarian". Chinese language and culture, which holds key to Chinese way of thinking, and understanding of closeness (or you can say crowded) of people and family ties are what defines Chineseness for me.

Happy fourth.

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