Happy Birthday to US(A)

The Fourth of July. The so-called birthday of the United States of America. That is, the day the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. As such, it’s a federal holiday, and generally seen as a day of celebration.

This year, I’ve been seeing remarks that people do not feel like celebrating. Or that America does not deserve a party this year, but rather a time out in the corner or some such.

 

Hold up there, sport. WE ARE AMERICA.

Yes, I agree these are dark days for democracy in the United States. I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that there was AN ATTEMPTED COUP in this country, a supposedly stable, established liberal democracy. By a person who was, in my opinion, unqualified to be president in the first place, both professionally and in terms of personal character, and who lost the popular vote for the term he did hold. While on the one hand it is commendable that people are testifying under oath to the January 6th Select Committee, despite, in some cases, being threatened, why did no one speak out previously?

The Supreme Court has also seriously gone off the rails, overturning Roe v. Wade, and intimating they would also like to revisit other privacy rights based decisions, such as contraception and gay marriage. On the heels of that, they are dismantling the federal government’s ability to address climate change, and even the federal government as we know it, with their decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Republicans in the Senate are pretty much “we’re taking our toys and going home” – threatening anything they don’t like with the filibuster. And I’m not sure where the Democrats are either. It seems like most politicians are more interested in power and personal gain than doing what is best for the country. Best government money can buy…

At the same time, there has been an African American President in my lifetime. The Vice-President is currently a woman, who is also the first Asian American and African American to hold that position. There are now four women on the Supreme Court, one of whom is the first African American to be appointed.

Long time coming and still not exactly equal, but progress.

THIS IS ALSO AMERICA.

So far we can still vote, and, in most places, it means something. We can still protest. We can have dogs. Most of us have a roof over our head, clothes on our backs and food on our tables. We have electricity, hot and cold running water (that in most places you can drink out of the tap, even if you chose not to), wastewater collection and treatment, garbage collection service (if you live in town), transportation infrastructure. Sure there are issues with many of those things, but these things are not nothing.

THIS IS ALSO AMERICA.

But maybe that’s part of the problem – that things are good enough for many of us. Indeed, personally I’m in a bit of a bubble – doing OK financially, white enough, in a blue region in a blue state, for the most part surrounded by folks I agree with. In retrospect it was easy to become complacent.

Not that I was completely tuned out, but maybe more that, for example in the case of Roe v. Wade, it seemed like a settled thing, since it made sense, and I believed that’s how it should be. But not everyone shared those beliefs, and those who didn’t cared enough to spend the time and energy to chip chip chip away for their end game and so here we are.

THIS IS ALSO AMERICA.

That things are never really settled. It is always in progress. It will never be perfect. So it is up to us, each of us, to work for that more perfect.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

So it’s not just today, to wave the flag and celebrate some static Hallmark USA (TM). It’s every day. Pay attention. To what’s happening in your neighborhood, your town or city, your county, your state. Talk to your neighbors. Talk to people who don’t look like you. Volunteer. Find out who your council person is, who your representative is. What district you are in, how the lines are drawn for your district and the neighboring ones. VOTE! If the entire ballot seems too overwhelming, chose the things that seem most important to you and inform yourself and vote on those. Read history.

THIS IS ALSO AMERICA.

And sure it’s a mess right now, but if your best friend had gotten mugged and severely beaten, would you say they didn’t deserve a birthday party?

Don’t give up hope. We the People is US. All of us.

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