Peter Hapak for TIME
June 30, 2016 8:17 AM EDT

How well timed on the part of the British people, to stage a revolution of their own as America approaches the 240th anniversary of our Amexit from the empire. The vote by the United (for now) Kingdom to break away from the European Union marks a great plot twist in the history of modern Europe–and a fascinating challenge as other countries wrestle with basic questions of identity, sovereignty and national aspiration, as Berlin bureau chief Simon Shuster explores in his lead essay this week.

The Fourth of July is always a chance to make some noise and light some sparklers in celebration of the rebellious American way. But this year, with a presidential campaign playing out as an unpopularity contest and an economy bracing for the next blow, it has been hard to summon the spirit of joyful self-congratulation. So we thought we would help. Led by Nation editor Ben Goldberger, our reporters, columnists and critics, along with Friends of TIME like Ken Burns, Wynton Marsalis, Kristen Bell, Morgan Freeman and Alice Walker, contributed their favorite places, sights, sounds, tastes and causes to celebrate. (We also invited people to share their gripes: Garrison Keillor came back with nine, including our dedication to small change.) Designed by associate art director Chelsea Kardokus, with photographs from across the country by Andrew Moore, this issue may not be an antidote to all that ails us, but as attitudes go, appreciation leaves a sweeter taste than acrimony.

Nancy Gibbs, EDITOR

This appears in the July 11, 2016 issue of TIME.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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