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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

What Makes America Different?

“Elizabeth,” I asked this morning as my wife climbed out of the pool. “How would you describe that sea turtle we saw on the beach?”

Pausing for a moment, she replied, “Rotating its slow and majestic flippers, it ground its way slowly and inexorably toward China…”

The sea turtle was headed east. Whether China was its destination or not, I don’t know. I only know that it was about to leave the Latin America isthmus, from the west coast of Nicaragua, and put out to sea when a muscular, brown young man picked it up and carried it back up on the beach. He and his friends had dug a big hole in the sand where the turtle was placed.

At night, we often see the dim light of flashlights along the beach. “It’s the locals looking for turtle eggs,” Manuel explained. “It’s illegal to take them, but…” Manuel shrugged his shoulders.

Sea turtles are protected by international convention. But here in the wilds of Nicaragua, they still end up in the soup from time to time.
Not the Same America

This is America, too… but it is not the same America. It is the New World… but not as new as the world north of the Rio Grande. Here, the Old World has not yet been snuffed out. It survives in a semitropical paradise.

But the object of our attention today is neither the Old World nor the new one – but the ever-changing, never fully explored idea of America.

“Proud to be an American,” says one bumper sticker. “One nation – indivisible,” says another. America was, of course, founded on the opposite principle… the idea that people were free to separate themselves from a parent government whenever they felt they had come of age. But no fraud, no matter how stupendous, is so obvious as to be detected by the average American. That is America’s great strength… or its most serious weakness.

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