Sunday, July 5, 2020

Notes from the Fourth

We had a quiet Fourth of July, as perhaps best suits a pandemic year when millions are in the streets seeking justice despite the risks.

There was no big family barbecue, as in years past.  We thought about heading up to see Kim’s family, but the logistics of that were prohibitive given the limited amount of things we could do together.  We did fire up the grill for the four of us, though.  Burgers, dogs, brats, and a few of the usual sides – a small bit of normality in a time of upheaval.  It’s good to share food with the people you love.

The city officially canceled its fireworks in order to avoid having large crowds gather to spread the pandemic (and three cheers for a government that actually behaves as rational adults these days), but the neighbors more than made up for it.  The annual War for Darwin’s Basement, where guys nicknamed Lefty and Claw compete to see who can burn down their garage first, gets started around Flag Day here in Our Little Town and usually continues for another week or two past Independence Day as supplies get used up.  We go through this every year, as noted, but this year it was more intense than usual – apparently all over the country, too, from what I gathered.  Our neighbors across the street put on a 90-minute display Saturday night that was truly impressive, for example (they were polite about it so we didn’t mind, and to be honest it was a nice show), and by about 10pm on the Fourth the entire city smelled like gunpowder and sounded like the inside of a popcorn machine.  It’s been a long year.  People needed to blow shit up.  Not sure how many garages went up this year – the local paper stopped printing weekend editions last month, so I won’t find out until tomorrow.  I put the over/under at 6.

We sprung for Disney+ just to see Hamilton again – this time with the original cast – and that’s how we spent the evening.

It’s good to be reminded of what this country started out to be and how high we aimed.  We’ve never hit those goals, which is part of being human I guess, but they're worthwhile goals nonetheless and we’ve made progress in some ways – more than the Founders perhaps expected or even wanted, some of them.  The fact that problems remain doesn’t deny the fact that there has been progress.

But if this year has taught us anything, it is how far the United States still has to go to live up to its own values.  Liberty.  Equality.  Happiness.  The American catechism, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence.  It’s appalling how many Americans are left out of that.

These are hard times to be an American.  We are governed by a petit-Fascist grifter whose only goal is to stay one step ahead of the law and loot the place and enabled by a compliant party happy to burn the place down as long as they get to keep power over the ashes.  He is supported by far too many authoritarian wannabes eager to limit the promise of the country to people who look and act just like them.  As a nation we have failed the test of the coronavirus, and the just anger of the excluded demonstrates precisely how far we have to go before we can claim to embody our own values.

But we are Americans.  All of us.

I like to believe we will progress.  That we will work toward our own values, to bring into the promise of America those who have been forcibly kept out of it.

We will do these things or we will fade from history, having thrown away our shot.

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