Distraught because of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and disgusted with millions of her fellow citizens who remain loyal to Donald Trump despite his loathsome attack on democracy, a good friend of mine has resolved not to raise an American flag on the Fourth of July.
The Fourth is a big deal in her community on Whidbey Island, where all her neighbors gather for games, picnics, fireworks and flag waving. My friend has always joined in the fun. But not this year.
She is probably not alone. The attacks on rights that once seemed guaranteed, the prospect of women being forced into childbearing in half of the states, the inability to do anything serious about this nation’s singular gun epidemic, the pervasive belief in bizarre-right wing conspiracy theories, the failure to effectively address the imminent climate change disaster — all these and more have caused many people on the liberal side of our politics to wonder if the very nature of their country is changing irrevocably for the worse.
Our current civic agonies make it difficult to know exactly what is being celebrated on Independence Day this year. Are we celebrating our constitutional system that is under attack? Our history that we cannot agree on? Our future that seems in peril? Our national identity that is becoming fragmented? Our flag that has been co-opted by white nationalists?
In unsettling times, perhaps there are two ways to approach the annual celebration of being American that are not mutually exclusive. One, keep it simple. Gather with friends. Share some food and some laughs. Just make it a holiday. And, two, resolve not to give up on this grand experiment that began in 1776. Vote. Get active in a good cause. Reach across the divide when you can and, when you cannot, keep struggling against the anti-democratic, reactionary tide.
Most of all, never give up.
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