Imagine If Stringer Bell Had Won

The missus and I are three episodes into High Profits, a reality tv show about the legal business of producing and selling marijuana in Breckenridge, Colorado. It’s not great. But setting the drug trade — which is illegal and aggressive where illegal — on the right side of the law gives this show way more interest than most reality shows. You get to see city council members who have Chamber-of-Commerce outlooks and want to preserve a family-friendly ski resort town figure out what to do with a venture with which they have some experience in their youth. It’s like Walter and Schuyler White finding out there meth business is legit and trying to gain a business license to sell meth in one of the storefronts on Lomas Blvd. in Albuquerque. Or, it’s like Stringer Bell outwitting Avon Barksdale and eliminating the gangster element from slinging cocaine and heroin. The big question is whether drug business can be respectable. Of course, we all know it can. Can you say alcohol? But how do you take a drug that has all the not so attractive aspects of illegality and stoner culture and make it normal, even Chamber-of-Commerce promotable?

As I say we’re only three episodes in and the city council is debating the fate of the only in-town marijuana store. But in light of what I just read about David Bowie, I think I know which way the vote is going to go:

The media is portraying Bowie as a mainstream saint—one whose life and death are worthy of emulation. The Huffington Post ran articles entitled, “What Would David Bowie Do?” and “David Bowie—Our Hero.” In a piece that I first thought was a joke, Morgan Shanahan of BuzzFeed.com advises parents on “16 Ways to Teach Your Kids About David Bowie (And the World).” BuzzFeed may not be a serious journalistic enterprise, but it has its finger on the pulse of society and is the primary news source of many young adults. Shanahan treats them to profundities such as, “Teach them how he was never anything less than his authentic self;” “Show them there are endless ways to reinvent yourself while staying true to who you are;” “Help them see there’s beauty in being different, the way he helped so many of us;” and “Show them the way he saw the world. Teach them to be superhuman.”

How is it that a man who was a drug addict, was extremely promiscuous, and flagrantly flouted all sexual boundaries is being held up as an example for our children to emulate?

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Is Anyone Reliable?

First the light show at the Vatican.

Then the statement that evangelism of Jews is out.

Now some of the Roman Catholic intelligentsia say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (even though they gather on different days of the week and one prays in Jesus’ name, along with Mary). Francis Beckwith, former head of the Evangelical Theological Society, squishes:

So the fact that Christians may call God “Yahweh” and Muslims call God “Allah” makes no difference if both “Gods” have identical properties. In fact, what is known as classical theism was embraced by the greatest thinkers of the Abrahamic religions: St. Thomas Aquinas (Christian), Moses Maimonides (Jewish), and Avicenna (Muslim). Because, according to the classical theist, there can only in principle be one God, Christians, Jews, and Muslims who embrace classical theism must be worshipping the same God. It simply cannot be otherwise.

But doesn’t Christianity affirm that God is a Trinity while Muslims deny it? Wouldn’t this mean that they indeed worship different “Gods”? Not necessarily. Consider this example. Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.” On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of “being a father to several of SHs children.”

Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not.

Paul Moses at Commonweal writes that Wheaton College, in putting on administrative leave, Dr. Larycia Hawkins, has succumbed to anti-Muslim bigotry because Miroslav Volf has written (noting looking to a Protestant for support):

Muslims and Christians who embrace the normative traditions of their faith refer to the same object, to the same Being, when they pray, when they worship, when they talk about God. The referent is the same.

But it wasn’t so long ago that some Roman Catholics were saying that Islam was not a religion of peace (which would seem to make it a different religion from Christianity even though I demurred). Wasn’t it Joseph Pearce who wrote:

The fate of the liberals in the future Eurabia does not look good. May the God in whom they do not believe help them. And may he forgive my own irresistible sense of schadenfreude at the whole pathetic scenario. As for me, I’m with Mrs. Burrows against the world and all the fallacious “peace” it has to offer. With Shakespeare’s Mercutio, I end with a note of defiance to Islam and its liberal enemy: A plague a’ both houses!

And didn’t Fr. James Schall also highlight the distance between Islam and Christianity?

What has to be faced by everyone is not the ‘violence’ of Islam, but its truth. We may not ‘like’ a jihadist view of the Quran. But we denigrate the dignity of ISIS and other violent strains in both Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam that clearly see that their interpretation of Islam has legitimate roots in the Quran, in Islamic history and in the judgment of many authoritative commentators.

So I’m left wondering. Do Roman Catholics celebrate the victory of Christendom at the Battle of Lepanto or not?

P.S. And Jerry Falwell Jr. is beyond the pale?

Italian-American Trapped in a Native American's Body

I did not know this (my weekly perusal of my old neighborhood weekly took me there). The Native American with the tear rolling down his cheek in the “Keep America Beautiful” ads of my yute, Iron Eyes Cody, was actually an Italian-American (must be a Roman Catholic connection somewhere):

Long before his fame in the 1970s, Iron Eyes Cody had carved out a niche for himself in Hollywood’s Western film community as “the noble Indian.” With his striking, “indigenous” looks, he perfectly fit the bill for what producers were looking for — and his story correlated. Until the late 1990s, Iron Eyes’ personal history (provided solely by himself) was that he’d descended from a Cherokee father and a Cree mother, and had been born under the name “Little Eagle.” An old archived article filed in the Glendale Special Collections library elaborates on his account:

“Iron Eyes learned much of his Indian lore in the days when, as a youth, he toured the country with his father, Thomas Long Plume, in a wild west show. During his travels, he taught himself the sign language of other tribes of Indians.”

From 1930 to the late 1980s, Iron Eyes starred in a variety of Western films alongside the likes of John Wayne, Steve McQueen, and Ronald Reagan. Clad in headdresses and traditional garb, he portrayed Crazy Horse in Sitting Bull (1954), galloped through the plains in The Great Sioux Massacre (1965), and appeared in over 100 television programs. When major motion picture houses needed to verify the authenticity of tribal dances and attire, Iron Eyes was brought in as a consultant. He even provided the “ancestral chanting” on Joni Mitchell’s 1988 album, Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm.

By all accounts, he was Hollywood’s — and America’s — favorite Native American.

But several (real) Native American actors soon came to doubt Iron Eyes’ authenticity. Jay Silverheels, the Indian actor who played “Tonto” in The Lone Ranger, pointed out inaccuracies in Iron Eyes’ story; Running Deer, a Native American stuntman, agreed that there was something strangely off-putting about the man’s heritage. It wasn’t until years later that these doubts were affirmed.

The Italian Cherokee

In 1996, a journalist with The New Orleans Times-Picayune ventured to Gueydan, Louisiana, the small town Iron Eyes had allegedly grown up in, and sought out his heritage. Here, it was revealed that “America’s favorite Indian” was actually a second-generation Italian.

“He just left,” recalled his sister, Mae Abshire Duhon, “and the next thing we heard was that he had turned Indian.”

At first, residents of Gueydan were reticent to reveal Iron Eyes’ true story — simply because they were proud he’d hailed from there, and didn’t want his image tarnished. Hollywood, along with the ad agencies that had profited from his image, was wary to accept the man’s tale as fabricated. The story didn’t hit the newswires and was slow to gain steam, but The Crying Indian’s cover was eventually blown.

Iron Eyes Cody, or “Espera Oscar de Corti,” was born in a rural southwestern Louisiana town on April 3, 1904, the second of four children. His parents, Antonio de Corti and Francesca Salpietra had both emigrated from Sicily, Italy just a few years prior.

Five years later, Antonio abandoned the family and left for Texas, taking with him Oscar and his two brothers. It was here, in the windswept deserts, that Oscar was exposed to Western films, and developed an affinity for Native American culture. In 1919, film producers visited the area to shoot a silent film, “Back to God’s Country;” Oscar was cast as a Native American child. The experience impacted him greatly, and, following his father’s death in 1924, he migrated to California to forge a career as an actor.

Imagine if Vanity Fair had dedicated a cover and related interview to Oscar de Corti in 1996. Imagine if transethnicity were a progressive cause.

Wait. Rachel Dolezal blocked that path to human freedom. Darn.

He Has a Point

Anthony Bradley, our favorite provocateur, mixes it up with the urban hipster transformationalists in the pages of World magazine, no less:

While urban, justice-loving evangelicals easily shame white, suburban, conservative evangelicals for their racially homogenized lives, both communities seem to share a disdain for lower-class white people. “Rednecks,” “crackers,” “hoosiers,” and “white trash” are all derogatory terms used to describe a population of lower-class whites who have suffered centuries of injustice and social marginalization in America, especially from educated Christians. . . .

Perhaps the root of the problem is that middle-class evangelicals are content maintaining the narrative that they have come to save the world’s people of color from themselves. “American society is completely dependent upon a worldview that places white Christian-Americans at the top of the hierarchy, with African-Americans falling into the lowest place” observes Kirsten Hemmy, associate professor of languages and literature at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. This view of whites at the social peak, she says, is a part of “our collective imagination—informed by art, culture, media, and history” that is “just as important as reality.” Hemmy also believes that evangelicalism’s paternalistic history and condescension with people of color fuels disinterest in helping poor whites. “Poor white people should be able to fend for themselves, so mission work and ministry is focused on the black community, as though poor black people, because they are black, cannot fend for themselves.”

“You can feel good about helping a black family in the projects, because you can easily identify a few basic problems and leave,” says Robert Fossett, pastor of First Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America) in Greenville, Ala. “No one expects you to live there unless you are intending to gentrify the neighborhood and turn it into your own image. But when it comes to poor whites, i.e., ‘white trash,’ while there is also a deep cultural disconnect with white evangelicals—poor whites tend to be on the boundaries of towns and cities in rural populations. … The assumption is that poor whites are where they are because they are inbred, lazy, and uneducated, and they choose to live like this. And as everyone knows, you can’t fix lazy, degenerate, immoral white trash. Besides, it’s far easier to mock a trailer park than it is to plant a church there.”

But how does Anthony think he will continue to receive invitations from Bethany for Redeemer’s next soiree lecture for its Center on Faith and Work.

The Temporality of the Church

Looks like the Vatican is going green:

When a Vatican official suggested that Pope Francis was contemplating an encyclical on the environment a year ago, he signaled that climate change and environmental degradation were such pressing concerns that the pope wanted to address them in a teaching document.
No word has emerged on what the encyclical might say or when it would appear in 2015, but references by officials at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace have pointed to a document that Catholics can apply in everyday life.

Catholics working on environmental issues and climate change in the U.S. are eagerly awaiting the encyclical and have spent much of the last year preparing for it.

“There’s never been an encyclical just on the environment. It’s clear something like this is needed to move, especially policymakers, but even the church,” said Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant.

“I’ve always said we need to recover ancient traditions that we’ve always had but we just forgot. About how we’re supposed to care for creation. About how St. Francis said it’s all kin, we’re all connected together somehow. ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon,'” he said.

Along with the U.S. bishops:

Joining other faith groups, the U.S. Catholic bishops are reiterating their support of federal rules limiting carbon produced by existing power plants.
In an open letter dated Wednesday to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the heads of the domestic and international committees of the U.S. bishops’ conference said they welcomed the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

[Update: A clarification from the bishops’ conference stated the bishops have not endorsed the specific Clean Power Plan but rather support national carbon-cutting standards that EPA could create.]

“We support a national standard to reduce carbon pollution and recognize the important flexibility given to states in determining how best to meet these goals,” said Bishops Thomas Wenski and Richard Pates.

Wenski, archbishop of Miami, serves as chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Pates, bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, heads up the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Their statement was entered as oral testimony Wednesday by Cecilia Calvo, coordinator of the bishops’ environmental justice program, during an EPA hearing in Washington. EPA scheduled public hearings throughout the week in four locations across the country, with other hearings taking place in Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh. Commenting on the proposed rules remains open through Oct. 16; the Catholic Climate Covenant, which works with the bishops’ conference, has urged Catholics to weigh in on the proposals.

At least we don’t need to worry about spiritual figures dabbling in temporal affairs:

Author Peter McDonough argues that since the Catholic community as a whole is mildly conservative and fairly complacent, the chances of an end to a moderately authoritarian and insistently hierarchical church are slim. Moreover, the fact that most contemporary Catholics vote with their feet on most if not all of the ethical teaching of the church, both sexual and political, reduces still further any righteous indignation for change.

As a teaching body, moral guardian or strong voice in the public arena, the church is largely irrelevant, but as a network of communities where people gather for worship and fellowship, it continues to be prized. The church will insist on teaching broadly conservative and patently inadequate sexual ethics while holding to the all-male makeup of the clerical leadership. Few will pay attention to the former, and not enough people really care about the latter.

One of the more original aspects of the author’s argument is that he marginalized the effectiveness of both conservative and reformist pressure groups in today’s church. While many think of the church as an intensely polarized community, McDonough’s message is that these strong feelings only influence a minority, while the majority of Catholics just go to church and then get on with their lives without paying much attention to either left or right or, for that matter, the voice of ecclesial authority itself.

Of course, none of this applies to Jason and the Callers.

Making the World Safe for Mormonism

(a line I borrow from Ken Myers)

“What we offer as Catholics is to strengthen the family as the basis of society. When there is a solid family life, there is less likelihood of crime, there is less likelihood of drug use. The children grow up with a solid foundation. And that is a foundation they can take all through their lives,” Rozanski said. “And, as a Church, what we are saying is that God made us male and female, and that the institution of marriage is so crucial. It is a sacrament of the Church, if the sacrament is well lived, then the children and future generations will benefit.”

Why Ecclesiastical Diversity Is A Good Thing (or not)

First, an appreciation of traditionalist Roman Catholics (from a Protestant-turned Roman Catholic priest):

I’m not a traditionalist. To quote Fr.Z, I just want to “say the black and do the red”. In other words, I want to live my life as a Catholic priest where I am today in this situation in the twenty first century–realizing that things are not perfect–but knowing that they never have been. Within that I try to be faithful to my vocation as a Benedictine oblate and a Diocesan priest.
But while I am not a traditionalist, I appreciate them and here’s why:

One of the riches of the Catholic Church is her unity and diversity. Within the Catholic big tent we have different religious orders, ecclesial movements and associations of the faithful. Some of these are formally organized and recognized–others are more amorphous but still identifiable. We have different tastes, different trends, different tendencies. The Lord has given us many ways to follow Christ. Each of these different traditions, spiritualities, emphases and disciplines offer particular strengths and weaknesses. Each of them have a particular charism and something to offer the whole church.

The reason I love traditionalists is the same reason I love Franciscans or Charismatic Catholics or Jesuits or Missionaries of Charity or Friars of the Renewal or Priests for Life or Benedictines or Legionnaires….and on and on and on. Each of these groups or sub-categories in the church offer the whole church a particular vision and aspect of the whole truth, and members of each group serve the church best by being faithful to Christ within their path. The traditionalists offer us a reminder of the hermeneutic of continuity. They work hard to bring forward the best in our Catholic traditions of spirituality, liturgy, music, art and architecture. They remind us of the call to radical discipleship and the need to love the Lord with our whole heart.

Does Father Longenecker also appreciate the nuns or the editors of America? I don’t think so. But he doesn’t think he has embraced relativism because the pope is the pope and when popes change things, change is good (what happens when the liturgy changes and the new order of the Mass loses efficacy is a question he doesn’t address):

This is not to endorse a kind of Catholic relativism in which everybody should just do as they please. Within the diversity we have unity in our obedient allegiance to the magisterium. There is an enormous amount of latitude in the Catholic Church, but there boundaries. History shows that any sub group can become corrupt, twisted, heretical or schismatic. It happens. This is why all of the sub groups in the Catholic Church are to be committed not only first and foremost to following Jesus Christ, but also being submissive to the authority of his Vicar on earth. Mother Church properly corrects, adjusts and directs both the individuals and the groups within the church. In this way our diversity is celebrated while our unity is affirmed.

I realize that traditionalists may not appreciate my take on the matter. [Me: they don’t.] They may say, “But we are not a sub group of the church. The Latin Mass is the mass of the ages. This is what all Catholics used to do. We’re keeping the true faith! The others are all wrong.” I understand that opinion, but that’s not actually the teaching of the Catholic Church. Like it or not, the second Vatican Council has taken place. Like it or not, by decree or by popular practice, changes have happened.

But it turns out that even mainline Protestants know diversity is not workable:

I am not staying in the PC(USA) because I believe the theological diversity in the denomination is good for me. I’ve heard this sort of thing from my friends, both evangelicals and progressives. An evangelical will say, “I need to be in a church with [supply name of your favorite liberal] because she challenges me and helps me to think more clearly and truly and not to get into an evangelical rut.” A liberal will say, “I need to be in a church with [supply name of your favorite evangelical] because he challenges me and helps me to think more clearly and truly and not to get into a liberal rut.”

I’m not persuaded by this argument. I have plenty of friends who are more conservative than I am theologically, and plenty of friends who are more liberal than I am theologically. These friends challenge me and help to keep me honest in my theology and discipleship. I appreciate these friends and I am glad they’re in my life. But they are not members of the PC(USA). In fact, given their views on various issues, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to be in the same denomination. Yet we can be friends. We can join together in certain kinds of short-term ministry. We can talk theology and challenge each other. We can love each other with the love of Christ. We can be in the church of Jesus Christ together. But our differences are such that we’d have a very hard time being in the same particular church or denomination. If we tried to be a denomination together, we’d exhaust ourselves trying to manage our differences, leaving very little time for mission.

When folks say, “I need so-and-so in my denomination to challenge me and keep me honest,” it almost sounds as if they’re limiting their Christian relationships to people of the same denomination. Yet if this is not true, won’t they be challenged and kept honest by Christian brothers and sisters from other denominations?

. . . In my opinion, one of the main reasons the PC(USA) is failing in its mission and losing members at such a rapid rate is the ineffectiveness that comes from untenable theological diversity. We have been trying so hard to stay together in spite of our differences that we don’t have the energy and focus needed for effective mission. . . . Now I’m all in favor of contexts in which those who are committed to evangelism are challenged to consider the biblical call to social justice. And I’m equally open to conversations that challenge the justice folk to consider how their efforts should be a reflection of the Christian gospel. But I believe that efforts of people actually to do evangelism and efforts of people actually to do justice can be hampered if they can’t agree on what evangelism is or what justice is. A certain measure of theological diversity will strengthen a denomination or a church or a committee. But too much diversity will weaken them and make it almost impossible for them to fulfill their mission. . . .

So, in sum, I’m not staying in the PC(USA) because I need to be in fellowship with people who have different theologies than I have. I have plenty of non-PC(USA) friends who fill this bill, and could always find more if needed. I do believe that a certain amount of theological diversity is healthy in a church or denomination. But, in my opinion, what we have in the PC(USA) is too diverse to support effective mission. We PC(USA) folk are like a team of backpackers who are carrying such a giant tent on our backs that we can’t make it up the mountain we’re supposed to climb. As a result, we’re unable to fulfill our mission. At some point we’ll have to choose, I expect, whether we want to keep hanging on to our big tent and remain missionally stuck, or whether it’s time to carry smaller tents that will enable us to start moving up the mountain.

Would a pope fix this, or does the papacy simply hide fundamental incompatibilities? I’m still waiting for Bryan to think about this.

Papacy as Rorschach Test

Jason and the Callers tell us that Protestantism doesn’t have a magisterium that can settle disputes and end disunity. They fail to mention that Protestantism also lacks ecclesiastical partisans who by interpreting the pope according to their own image function as their own magisterium. Sean Michael Winters thinks “right-of-center writers appeal to those parts of Benedict’s speeches that people like me always loved and which they ignored.” He also says “there really is a deep continuity between Benedict and Francis, but there is virtually no continuity between Benedict as interpreted by U.S.-based Catholic neo-cons and Pope Francis.” How are the faithful to make sense of this? Ask a reporter who covers the Vatican:

In the often heated (and sometimes self-referential) debate surrounding the continuities and discontinuities between Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, people are often so hasty to draw contrasts and point to the differences in style and focus of the two Popes, that they risk creating caricatures out of both figures. A series of artificial clichés end up being attached to Ratzinger’s person, as if his teachings were entirely about the strenuous and tireless defence of non-negotiable values in the public arena.

On his first visit abroad for World Youth Day in Cologne, in the summer of 2005, Benedict XVI chose not to speak about chastity, premarital sex etc. Instead, he concentrated on the beauty of Christianity. He followed a similar approach a year later when he visited Spain, the cradle of “Zapaterian relativism” and the home of same-sex marriage. Benedict XVI met families who had come to the city of Valencia from all corners of the world to testify the beauty of their experiences. On this occasion he chose not to launch any criticisms against the Spanish government, focusing on positive aspects instead.

The courageous and evangelical response Ratzinger gave in 2010, when the Church was right in the thick of the paedophilia scandal is another case in point. Instead of pointing the finger at the Church’s external enemies, he said that the biggest threat comes from inside the Church, from the sin that exists within it. Newspapers that are now pro-Ratzinger did not like this move. Ratzinger’s “penitential Church”, became a slogan used to express a nostalgia and yearning for Ratzinger to adopt stronger public stances.

Then there were the words Ratzinger pronounced on his last trip to Germany (Freiburg) as reigning Pope in 2011.Words which disappeared into a vortex self-interested silence. He talked about a Church “that is satisfied with itself, makes itself at home in this world, that is self-sufficient, adapting to worldly principles.” A Church that tends to lend “greater importance to organization and institutionalization than it does to its calling to be open to God, and to open this world up to its neighbours.” “Free of burdens, and material and political privileges, the Church is able to better devote itself, and in a way that is truly Christian, to the entire world; it can truly be open to the world,” Ratzinger said.

Independence with a Twist

(Thanks to John Fea.)

A. A. Gill has a new book coming out on America, an excerpt of which appeared at Vanity Fair. A few excerpts might help the coals burn faster for an Independence Day barbecue:

When I was a child, there was a lot of talk of a “brain drain”—commentators, professors, directors, politicians would worry at the seeping of gray matter across the Atlantic. Brains were being lured to California by mere money. Mere money and space, and sun, and steak, and Hollywood, and more money and opportunity and optimism and openness. People who took the dollar in exchange for their brains were unpatriotic in much the same way that tax exiles were. The unfair luring of indigenous British thought would, it was darkly said, lead to Britain falling behind, ceasing to be the pre-eminently brilliant and inventive nation that had produced the Morris Minor and the hovercraft. You may have little idea how lauded and revered Sir Christopher Cockerell, the inventor of the hovercraft, was, and you may well not be aware of what a noisy, unstable waste of effort the hovercraft turned out to be, but we were very proud of it for a moment.

The underlying motif of the brain drain was that for real cleverness you needed years of careful breeding. Cold bedrooms, tinned tomatoes on toast, a temperament and a heritage that led to invention and discovery. And that was really available only in Europe and, to the greatest extent, in Britain. The brain drain was symbolic of a postwar self-pity. The handing back of Empire, the slow, Kiplingesque watch as the things you gave your life to are broken, and you have to stoop to build them up with worn-out tools. There was resentment and envy—whereas in the first half of the 20th century Britain had spent the last of Grandfather’s inherited capital, leaving it exhausted and depressed, for America the war had been the engine that geared up industry and pulled it out of the Depression, capitalizing it for a half-century of plenty. It seemed so unfair.

The real brain drain was already 300 years old. The idea of America attracted the brightest and most idealistic, and the best from all over Europe. European civilization had reached a stasis. By its own accounting, it had grown from classical Greece to become an identifiable, homogeneous place, thanks to the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity. Following the Dark Ages, there was the Renaissance and the Reformation, and then the Age of Reason, from which grew a series of ideas and discoveries, philosophies and visions, that became pre-eminent. But at the moment of their creation here comes the United States—just as Europe was reaching a point where the ideas that moved it were outgrowing the conventions and the hierarchies that governed it. Democracy, free economy, free trade, free speech, and social mobility were stifled by the vested interests and competing stresses of a crowded and class-bound continent. Migration to America may have been primarily economic, but it also created the space where the ideas that in Europe had grown too root-bound to flourish might be transplanted. Over 200 years the flame that had been lit in Athens and fanned in Rome, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Stockholm, Prague, and Vienna was passed, a spark at a time, to the New World.

The U.S. gained independence but it was not by any means a creation ex nihilo. And the dependencies apparently go both ways.

There is in Europe another popular snobbery, about the parochialism of America, the unsophistication of its taste, the limit of its inquiry. This, we’re told, is proved by “how few Americans travel abroad.” Apparently, so we’re told, only 35 percent of Americans have passports. Whenever I hear this, I always think, My good golly gosh, really? That many? Why would you go anywhere else? There is so much of America to wonder at. So much that is the miracle of a newly minted civilization. And anyway, European kids only get passports because they all want to go to New York.

So if you’re feeling provincial today, put another burger on the grill, let out the belt a notch, and slather on more Off.

Postscript: If you live near a good video store, Whit Stillman’s Barcelona is a perfect July 4th selection which not only features European condescension regarding the U.S. but also celebrates the virtues of the nation that gave us the hamburger and its friend, the bun.