The only thing ‘self-evident’ is we must get better at America-ing


Black Lives Matter protest, Atlanta, Georgia, June 6, 2020. (by author)

This is a particularly joyless Fourth of July. It is not just that like all our other commemorations during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us will be rescheduling our celebrations for 2021. It is the realization that this year there is a call to question – what exactly are we celebrating?

There is little evidence, these days, that the recent obscene displays of my country’s essentially racist nature are something to be happy about, so today, I am called to confront some new “self-evident” truths.

I do not understand the joy when the president of the United States clings to and exalts the shrinking, desperate remnants of our nation’s history of white supremacy while absolving himself of leadership responsibility. I do not understand how we can celebrate the continuing inaction that allows a virus to decimate our communities or how we are supposed to fill with pride when Trump’s disdain for international treaties and our common defense does more to serve the goals of our enemies than the prosperity of our own people.

 In a nation whose blessing is its ability – through often tortured processes – to evolve and recommit to the words, “all men are created equal,” it feels like, this year at least, the only thing we are celebrating is our own ineptitude and the gross stupidity of many of our elected leaders including, but not limited to our myopic, self-absorbed president, Donald J. Trump.

I constantly hear, “This time feels different,” meaning this time of protest and civil unrest may actually lead to permanent policy changes and maybe even revised cultural perspectives. But on what basis are we so confident these changes will happen? We like to believe a dark pall will lift in January when, hopefully, Trump leaves Washington, D.C., but then what?

It is time to ignore Trump and his distractions and take responsibility for our own country.

We need leaders and armies of activists who are tirelessly committed to working in their communities to raise up those upon whom America’s past sins have weighed low, and we must make actionable demands of those in our communities who have been blessed by privilege.

As a nation, we must be people who commit to holding those we elect accountable. We need our elected representatives to look fearlessly past big money interests and be willing to commit to a clean environment, a shrinking wealth gap, an end to poverty and hunger, and dependable healthcare for all who need it.

These are not new issues, but if this time is truly different, then as we now have come to our feet to take a stand, we must remain on our feet and boldly march to the ballot box and beyond, reasserting our commitment to change every step of the way. Who will stand up for that? Whoever so commits, they are for whom I will celebrate, joyfully, for they are the fulfillment of America’s promise made one hot July day 244 years ago.

With that kind of commitment, someday soon, we will be able to stand together, arm-in-arm, rededicated to our republic, and declare, “We are all founding mothers and fathers, now!”

  • PBG

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