Four for the Fourth: Why American Writers Have It Good
On the Fourth of July, it seems appropriate to say Happy Birthday, USA, and to list four reasons I'm grateful, not only as a human being but as a writer, to live in this country.
1. Creativity is valued. From Hollywood to Nashville to New York, writers are valued for, if nothing else, their contribution to commerce. Whether the world loves or hates this country, its contribution to entertainment can't be denied.
2. By and large, the government leaves writers alone. There's no hit squad that shows up at your door after midnight and drags you off, never to be seen again, if you're critical of the regime du jour. No religious police will have you stoned or branded or run you out of the country should your work be deemed "sinful".
3. America gets the power of a dream. We're a nation that takes its dreamers more seriously than most, a country that understands that no matter a person's gender, race, religion, age, or disability, he or she still has the potential to come up with a brilliant idea.
4. Despite the emphasis on the commercial, the purely artistic flourishes. Popular books and movies rule the marketplace, but America's big enough and broad-minded enough to embrace worthwhile forms with smaller audiences, from small-stage plays to poetry readings to poetry slams. People of like interests come together to make art and share art. And with very few exceptions, no one has any say in what we read/watch/enjoy.
Most recently, I was reminded of our freedoms as I read Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nifisi. It made me appreciate what I have -- and appreciate the founding fathers (and mothers!) who struggled to establish a nation where "the pursuit of happiness" is far more than an empty phrase.