WASHINGTON -- My friend, the actor and writer Ben Stein, is forever putting me to shame, writing eloquent laudations to the wonder of America, while I am given to heaving up diatribes against the world's pests and scoundrels. Ben rhapsodizes about this great country, its underappreciated citizenry, the brave and effective soldiers of its volunteer military, Cadillacs. And what is my response? I heave spitballs -- all are, I believe, on target; but surely it is not right to leave the patriotic ratiocinating to Ben.
Whenever he begins waving the flag and whistling "The Star-Spangled Banner," he is the soul of wisdom. America is almost everything our enemies deny it to be. As Ben has sung, America is generous, free, democratic, hard-working, tolerant and cheerful. It is the greatest multiracial nation on earth. For years it has been multi-ethnic -- the Melting Pot, as they say. But today it is multiracial, having overcome slavery that endured far too long in a country whose Founding Fathers propounded freedom for all mankind while strangely maintaining servitude for almost all blacks who were shipped over here. Well, even the noblest of the species Homo sapiens have blind spots and related weaknesses. I think today the majority of Americans has made up for the bigotry of earlier Americans, and the achievements of blacks in America today -- in entertainment, commerce, medicine, education, the sciences -- make it clear that racism was the evil of ignorance, the ignorance of the bigot.
There is a tremendous energy about this country that I never fail to notice upon returning to our shores from far away. Europe is a lovely place to visit, but it is a drowsy place by comparison to America. Why this is I am uncertain, though I think it has something to do with Old Europe's centuries of religious and class warfare, the two world wars of the 20th century that mowed down so many of Europe's best men, and the American celebration of freedom. Europeans consider our celebration of freedom vulgar and even alarming. Actually freedom, when combined with our market economy, has led to enormous progress in terms of product innovation, product quality and spreading wealth. Our social freedom perhaps explains our cheerfulness.