A year ago I asked, A Political or Apolitical Fourth of July? This year is different.
A year ago I observed that the freedoms enumerated in the Declaration of Independence were under attack:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This year is different because in the United States freedom is losing the battle.
President Wing It has managed to lie — 3,000 in 466 days — at a pace that makes the term “gaslighting” fail, even Republicans are asking, “Why is my party gaslighting America?”The policies churned out by this administration, with their gratuitous use of cruelty, are an affront on America’s core values day after day.
President Short-Attention-Span only made it through the first half of the Machiavelli quote: “it is better to be feared than to be loved …” he missed that it goes on, “if you cannot be both.” His cruelty and corruption sit in obstructed view for everyone to see. We quickly forget his statements, and his intentions — even the highest jurists of the country ignored Trump’s tweets and campaign promises for a “Muslim ban” when they decided to uphold his travel-ban-that-doesn’t-specifically-target-Muslims… Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote, the president’s statements do not endanger the travel ban. Even if Trump’s sentiments contradicted core American values, the White House was within its rights to issue the ban under the justification of national security.
So forgive the layperson for being overwhelmed, the abundance of unnecessary maleficence is more than anyone could take. Trump’s sentiments do contradict the values this country was founded upon, and the legislative and judicial branches have failed to protect those values, what should we do? Should we cancel the Fourth of July?
My take this year is the same as it was last year, “The Forth of July is not a day for ignoring tyranny, and this 4th efforts are everywhere and they are undeniable. More fundamentally we have to be political because we need life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.”
Yes, it’s true, Trump’s dog-whistling to hate groups has worked, his tax-scam has passed, millions of Americans have lost health insurance or are threatened to lose the benefits they need to survive, and so on… “all men are created equal,” travel bans don’t reflect this; “certain unalienable Rights,” children stripped from their families while seeking asylum doesn’t reflect this; “Life” trying to survive on minimum wage in most U.S. cities is impossible; “Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are threatened in more ways than can be counted.
The idea that people can do what makes them happy — to freely pursue joy — as long as you don’t do anything illegal or infringe on the rights of others isn’t uniquely American, but its elevation to a position of such distinction is. It is also the root — the foundation — of American hypocrisy.
“The right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” is a liberty guarded in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Trump’s says football players must kneel for the National Anthem and makes calls for “civility.” It is the same claim that was made during protests for civil rights in the ’60s, or to resist Jim Crow, or to maintain the legal enterprise of slavery… Are we worse off today than when Frederick Douglass’ gave his 1852 speech “What to the Slave Is the 4th of July?” We might be, or we might not… The current forays into fascism may speak of true intentions, bumbling incompetence, or something in-between. My guess is that it is just the machinations of a Presidency in crisis and turmoil caused by the painful reality that you’re not above the law, but I may be too hopeful.
The truth is that the U.S. is no less hypocritical than it was when the Constitution was written guaranteeing slavery and including “negroes” as 3/5ths of a body for the purposes of an Electoral College they couldn’t influence. There really should be no surprise that the Electoral College designed to keep slavery in place as long as possible is the reason that Trump won the office after losing the popular vote by 3 million votes.
But let us be clear, the pain for most of us isn’t the dishonesty and hypocrisy of it all — it is the regression. It is the loss of the rights so many have sacrificed for, and the worry about what’s next. Current speculation includes a reversal of the most important features of the Roe vs. Wade decision, among others.
On the Fourth of July, just like every other day, we need to make the personal political. To stay hopeful in the unrelenting ugliness of Trump’s lunacy. He wants to steal your voice, but this strategy isn’t new — rise above it.
You see him wreaking havoc on good families and those who still believe in the American Dream — be a hero, be the person who stands up to ICE and says they don’t have the authority.
Think about the sacrifices you’re willing to make. Harriet Tubman had escaped slavery but made 13 missions back to free other slaves. Wonder if we’d have helped with the Underground Railroad? What are you doing today?
The truth is that we can always stay hopeful, because there have always been helpers. We can remember the wisdom of those before us, Anne Frank was a captive teen but she still saw a world full of possibility: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” because his vision of equality and justice was a spiritual one.
These are the values blended into the moral fabric of America. No doubt the dream takes great patience and sacrifice, but all told Trump will barely make a stain upon these great values. His greed and selfishness providing the backdrop for selfless Samaritans to show that real value cannot be found in material things.
On the Fourth of July I won’t be celebrating a banner of self-serving-capitalism, I’ll look to a flag of stars and stripes and remember the democracy it represents and if we’re lucky we’ll find our moral compass before next year.
Wim Laven, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a doctoral candidate in International Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University, teaches courses in political science and conflict resolution, and is on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association.