USA: Birthday greetings from one July Fourth-er to another: May you find peace and happiness – By Mohamed Hamaludin


Probably 60 years ago, after graduating from high school in my native Guyana and became a teacher, I considered emigrating. I do not recall why I set my sights on the United States of America. It was probably because of what I had seen in movies. I started the process by trying to go to a college, probably Rutgers in New Jersey because, if I remember right, the name looked impressive. If that sounds naïve, the reason I gave for applying may seem even more laughable. I was born on the Fourth of July, as was the United States, and I mentioned that coincidence in my application.

I never followed up, though, probably because I may not have been serious and, anyhow, there was no pressing need for me to emigrate. Perhaps it was because, in those days, the focus was more on Britain, Guyana’s colonial power until 1966. The country of Stratford-upon-Avon seemed to be a better place, no doubt because of Guyana’s British-oriented education system, than the American West populated by cowboys and “Indians.” Indeed, it was more appealing to me than Guyana’s hinterland with its majestic Kaieteur Fall, which, at 741 feet, has the sheerest drop of all such natural wonders – and which I still have not visited.       

But I did make it to America, by accident, as substitute for a colleague who, at the last minute, could not join the State Department’s long since defunct Foreign Journalist Project based at Indiana University. I spent from September 1970 to January 1971 in the work-study-travel program, visiting several cities of my choosing and spent two weeks each on newspapers in Passaic, New Jersey; Palo Alto, California; and Charleston, West Virginia. I did not see cowboys but I witnessed a tribal performance in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visiting the United States was an amazing experience for a country boy on his first overseas outing but it never crossed my mind to emigrate after returning home.

I did return, however, as editor of a Caribbean news magazine based in Miami, followed by a year in the Cayman Islands and 18 months in the Turks and Caicos Islands. And, in 1984, at age 42, I was back in the U.S., this time as a permanent resident, for no other reason than my extended family was gradually emigrating. But I did believe that America would allow me to expand my journalism horizons. By then, I had traveled on reporting assignments to Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the West Indies.

Despite my then 16 years of experience, I could not find a job in New York, where most of my family lived, but The Miami Times hired me and I stayed there 14 years, followed by nine years at The Miami Herald and four years at the South Florida Times, before finally retiring. I am happy and at peace as my 80th birthday nears.

I relate all this personal information, in a departure from my usual column, because, as I get ready for my birthday on Monday, I like to think, as I have been doing for many years, that the whole of America will be celebrating my birthday also and how fortunate it was that I chose this country to relocate. I have now lived here roughly half of my life and my admiration deepens with each passing year. The United States has provided me with the best possible opportunities as a not especially ambitious immigrant, including personal and professional freedom. I am deeply grateful.

I do have many of the aches and pains often associated with longevity, though perhaps fewer and less intense than for many others of my age. And so, too, does my adopted country. The main difference is that I can take a variety of pills to keep the inevitable at bay for just a while longer but there is no medication to soothe the troubled soul of the nation with whom I share a birthday.

The union was never perfect and there is, anyhow, no such thing as “more perfect” but it can become less imperfect if there is the will to make it so. Alas, though, that the will is overwhelmed by those lusting for power and those who unconscionably exploit the understandable angst among many fellow Americans. The threat of our multiracial democracy’s being replaced by an autocracy and incipient dictatorship has become real. The insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, failed only because patriotic officials had the courage to resist intense pressure to support a coup attempt even from a president. That resistance is not guaranteed.

This 4th of July is a good time to look closely at the hurdles in the path towards a “more perfect union” that includes an honest evaluation of our nation’s history and how that history, including its many distorted versions, conditions everything we do. It bears repeating that ours is a nation with the brain power to put a telescope into space so powerful that it can “see”100 million into the past but it is obvious that our politics lag far behind our scientific and technological achievements.

So, as we celebrate another birthday, what do we really want as a nation?

We could, as Chilean writer Patricio (Pato) Fernandez said in “Sobre la Marcha” (“On the Fly”) as that country begins drafting a new constitution to replace the one which the bloody dictator Augusto Pinochet left behind. Fernandez, a close ally of new, youthful, President Gabriel Boric, said, in journalist Jon Lee Anderson’s words in Nation, that “the process would help calm civil strife and address social inequities” Fernandez himself wrote that “after leaving behind the time for throwing stones, as Ecclesiastes once said, we can enter the time of gathering them together.” That was a reference to Ecclesiastes 3:5, the source for Pete Seeger’s “Turn? Turn? Turn” lyrics, part of which reads:

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

“A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.”

The former king of Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan nation, proclaimed, in 1972, that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product,” which became the guiding principle for his 772,000 people. The level of “happiness” is based, Oxford University explains, on a GNH Index that includes “psychological well-being, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.”

Bhutan is a monarchy with an official religion, Buddhism. But some of that GHX Index and of “Turn! Turn! Turn” make for a fine birthday card and I would like to add“ expanding freedom,” “genuine majority governance,” “peace” and “empathy,” at this time of turmoil from one July 4 baby to another.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who worked for several years at The Guyana Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating in 1984 to the United States, where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a column for The South Florida Times ( in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at

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