You, dear reader, should know going into this that it likely won’t end on an optimistic note. As I gathered my thoughts and prepared to write, it occurred to me that the solution for all of the criticisms to follow is radical change. You’ll see. Without further disclaimer, let me begin by saying as I write this, it is Fourth of July weekend in America: a time for I don’t know what. I’m sure there are people who feel some semblance of patriotism around this time, I can’t say I do or ever really did. It’s a burgers, beer, and fireworks holiday if you even care enough to do that. For me, the Fourth of July begs more of a question than invites a celebration. That question is: why are we celebrating this?
Patriotism has always been foreign to me. At the least it’s a reason to drink, at the most it’s a reason to kill. It always seemed a distraction from what really matters. Have you noticed that civil discourse grinds to a halt when anyone brings their love of country into the fold? Arguments about changing longstanding laws or practices are inevitably met with a, “not in my country,” attitude espoused almost exclusively by the emotionally stunted and the morally bankrupt. It’s a crutch, it’s a ruse, it’s a farce – it’s blind devotion to an already flawed country: America. I speak only from my own perspective as an ever-unimpressed American.
So, I ask again: why are we celebrating this? It’s as though you’re celebrating that time you burned someone’s house down, but somehow worse. America is broken. Take a look, take a listen. Can you honestly say that this country, the way it has functioned and the way it continues to function, is really the shining image of freedom and democracy that it purports to be? We’ve a two-party system so divisive that the free exchange of ideas is all but useless. Proposals, policy, and plain information are immediately separated into their applicable party designation, guaranteeing loyalty from one party and vehement opposition from the other. Issues that seem to be basic human rights such as healthcare, safety, shelter, and equality are stalled in never-ending discussions where each side is waiting for their turn to talk, convincing no one other than themselves that they’re right. How long did it take to consider Black Americans as human beings? How long did it take to allow women to vote? How long did it take to give same-sex couples the right to marry? What was even the obstacle? I think you know the answer.
Why are we celebrating this? We’re a country whose history is replete with despicable treatment of anyone not a white male landowner, and it continues. Who holds power? In large part, it’s older white men. There is no logical explanation for why an old white man’s expertise is needed for issues like women’s rights. Should women have access to Planned Parenthood? Let’s ask grandpa! Not only that, but because capitalism is the foundation of our country’s economy, it takes precedence over everything; so much so that there is little incentive for the richest people to ever do anything that would drive down their profits in the name of bettering the country. I don’t know if there’s any amount of money that would satisfy a person for whom the only thing that matters is the bottom line. I find business talk so disturbing, so misguided, so dehumanizing. It’s the language of human expendability and complete disregard for people as people, not credit cards with arms and legs.
Why are we celebrating this? We’re a nation who claims to have a separation of church and state, and yet Christianity has an irrevocable amount of power over governance. The separation is purely symbolic. No presidential candidate has ever won who did not kowtow to the church. The argument from pro-life advocates comes from religion, plain and simple, as did/does the argument against LGBTQ+ matters.
When it comes down to it, America is a nation proclaiming freedom while only offering it conditionally – and the conditions frequently change. Matters of basic human rights, the kind that shouldn’t even be a discussion because they’re so foundational, die in the house and the senate. Their discussion amounts to little more than shouting in the wind.
I ask one last time: why are we celebrating this? I’m often embarrassed to be an American. I’m an optimist, but also a keen observer. I know what I’m seeing, and it’s nothing to celebrate. There are undoubtedly bright spots in America’s history, even recently, but the majority of it has been a struggle amongst the ruling class to maintain power over a changing landscape. Partisanship is so corrosive that it inhibits any substantial progress as a human race, let alone a nation. Capitalism takes precedence over everything and the stock market is virtually indistinguishable from the lawmakers who claim to regulate it; it’s all one incestuous mess. The church has its hand in everything, regardless of the separation that exists only on paper. Intolerance is given a free pass when it claims to be rooted in religion, patriotism, or the all too dangerous combination of the two.
America is broken. I’ve known it for a while, and I think you have too. There’s so much that needs fixing, and these aren’t small fixes. However, I’ll tell you what doesn’t fix them: blind devotion, unflinching loyalty, and unbreakable adherence to tradition. Enjoy your Fourth of July, but consider what you’re celebrating and if it’s even appropriate to do so.