[happy birthday, america]

Yesterday, as I stepped out of my office, I ran into Lt. Col. Kim, our military attaché. “Happy birthday!” he said, flashing a grin.

“What do you mean?” I asked — my birthday, after all, isn’t until September 8. Then I caught on: “Oh, for my country. Yes, thank you!”

Another Fourth of July story: Allen and I often go to lunch together at the UN cafeteria. Yesterday we ran into First Secretary Lim Jung-taek, who joined us and at some point asked for verification that Macy’s was really sponsoring the fireworks today. “In my country, the government would pay for such thing,” he said. I think that’s probably true in most countries, and as far as I can tell, it’s true for our fireworks on the National Mall in Washington, DC. But here in New York, it’s always Macy’s, and other municipalities, it’s other sponsors (Liberty Mutual in Boston, Sunoco in Philadelphia, ClearChannel in San Francisco; but I couldn’t find a sponsor for Chicago, interestingly). Do any other countries do this sort of thing on their national days? Is this something great about America, or something ominous, or maybe a touch of both?