Empire of Liberty

A new radio series, America, Empire of Liberty has started on Radio 4, past episodes you can listen to on the web – with an introductory debate on what events shaped America today, chaired by by Justin Webb. This is a regular Monday to Friday starting from 15th September lasting six weeks. Plenty of stuff going into detail, with the first week covering lost civilisations to English Planters.

The title is inspired by Jefferson:

“We shall divert through our own Country a branch of commerce which the European States have thought worthy of the most important struggles and sacrifices, and in the event of peace on terms which have been contemplated by some powers we shall form to the American union a barrier against the dangerous extension of the British Province of Canada and add to the Empire of liberty an extensive and fertile Country thereby converting dangerous Enemies into valuable friends.”

The Radio 4 programme is hosted by David Reynolds, Professor of International History at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Christ’s College.  In three series it will charts the development of the United States, exploring three key themes: Empire, Liberty and Faith.

Which has come at the right time as I am halfway through reading Matt Frie’s (Webb’s fellow man from the BBC in the States) Only In America. Walking through the Washington Mall in DC made me  fall in love with the Capitol so reading about Frei’s experience living there and reporting has been enjoyable. His injection of humor and turn of phrase makes the book a page turner while covering such events as Katrina, the White House, and trying to get a driving license and living on Tilden Street.

The more well known John Sergeant (who survived the first cull in Strictly Come Dancing on TV, with the 64 former BBC political editor being described as a warm Uncle on the dance floor)  said of Frei’s work:

If you are searching for a book to describe the current mood in America, look no further… He moves from high politics to daily life with an engaging confidence

Is America a world guarantee of liberty or an evil empire? The debate programme covers in part religion giving a false moral rationale to justify actions (rather than a cause of) – such as Palin describing US troops being deployed in Iraq as “a task that is from God” being routed in the Puritan past. I agree with Biden’s (remember him?) comment that Bush did not ask god if he should go into Iraq – rather he prayed that it was the right thing to do having made the decision. Religion in American politics is a cover, rather like sheep’s clothing, that allows you to do things that would be considered questionable if not outright wrong.

However, if people really think they are instruments of god and that inexperience is therefore not a problem, may want to give us pause. That a well formed world view is seeing Russia from your bedroom window, rather than having a battered passport, give us a concern that they should get out more. Like a fire bell in the night the question of how Palin is considered Presidential material alarms, as the bell weather states warm to McCain over his running mate.

All I know is that I audaciously hope John McCain has a long life well into his 80s. I wonder if we can get a mantra going on that?


Christopher Hitchens: “Thomas Jefferson: Author of America”


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