Magazine | September 9, 2019, Issue

Things Are Big in America

Visitors at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Jason Reed/Reuters)
In the hurly-burly of politics, we usually don’t stop to note our simple, unadorned love of the things that make this country so marvelous. That’s what we’ve asked our contributors to our latest special issue, "What We Love about America," to do.

Calvin Coolidge didn’t quite say that “the business of America is business,” but he could have said the “bigness of America is bigness.”

First of all, we’re literally huge — third-largest by area alone, but No. 1 in geographic diversity and cool stuff.  The best junk they’ve got in Canada and Russia, we’ve got too. But those guys don’t have Hawaii or the American southland (and none of this takes into account that the American-flagged moon is ours, thanks to the International Law of Finders, Keepers and the giant cojones it took to colonize the thing in the first place).

America is also large of spirit. Foreigners know this and will often tell you this. Abroad, Americans stand out so much, they almost glow. What Texans and Californians are to other Americans, Americans are to much of the world. Our flintiest New Englanders are like cruise directors compared with many Eastern Europeans. We’re a deeply charitable people — far more charitable than any European country, no matter how you measure it.

We’ve got the biggest businesses, or at least the biggest number of them. We also have the biggest amount of the biggest stuff — whether it’s the world’s largest ball of string or the solar system’s biggest piñata.

And just like a giant piñata, we contain multitudes. Bigness doesn’t necessarily mean sameness. We’re generous but quick-tempered, moralistic yet forgiving. (We declared war against the British and then became BFFs. We duked it — and in one case nuked it — out with the Axis powers and now we’re all buds, too.) Just as you can hit a piñata from any angle and get some reward, America is big enough to be vulnerable to almost any criticism. But those criticisms require focusing on the negatives to the exclusion of the lion’s share of positives.

America may be more than just an idea, but man, what an idea. It was an idea so big that if it were a Twinkie it would be a Twinkie large enough to blot out the Manhattan skyline. And that idea — the fine print of which is available for your perusal in the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech — is that we don’t have to take guff from anybody, including the government, without good reason. And that, more than anything else, explains the manifest bigness of America.

This article appears as “The Bigness” in the September 9, 2019, print edition of National Review.

In This Issue

What We Love About America


American Men

American men — with few exceptions — treat you like a human being, in a free, natural way, because they’ve done it from the nation’s youth.

Books, Arts & Manners


Most Popular


How to Bend the News

This, from ABC, is a nice example of a news organization deliberately bending the truth in order to advance a narrative that it wishes were true but is not: Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass ... Read More

Trump’s Total Culture War

 Donald Trump is waging a nonstop, all-encompassing war against progressive culture, in magnitude analogous to what 19th-century Germans once called a Kulturkampf. As a result, not even former president George W. Bush has incurred the degree of hatred from the left that is now directed at Trump. For most of ... Read More

Iran’s Act of War

Last weekend’s drone raid on the Saudi oil fields, along with the Israeli elections, opens a new chapter in Middle Eastern relations. Whether the attack on Saudi oil production, which has temporarily stopped more than half of it, was launched by Iranian-sponsored Yemeni Houthis or by the Iranians themselves is ... Read More

George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality

Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin's Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine ... Read More