America is not and has never been perfect. Nothing is. But, despite all of its many deeply rooted flaws that need to be firmly yanked out, it is one of the best and most free Nations in the world. We cut a path with a sharp sword to individual freedom, liberty and enfranchisement that so many others around the globe have followed. I write this knowing that America horrifyingly owns the highest incarceration rate on the planet and that we are rushing away from foundational principles like free speech while wasting trillions on warmongering and world policing instead of providing more for American citizens and doing more to break the economic legacies of slavery, racism and intergenerational poverty by providing more opportunities for those who want to succeed an educational vehicle to grab the American Dream. And for those reasons I cannot, even on this day, champion the hyperbole that we solely occupy the gold medal platform. We should. We do not.
The worst times in America are when it stagnates and leaders seek to stop working to make it a more perfect union or when politicians and conservative activist appellate jurists falsely use the term “originalism” to facilitate reactionary and theocratic objectives. The best of times in this Grand Experiment are often preceded by painful times like these when injustice compels people to come together to demand change. This is such a time. We have laid bare systems of oppression that need to be changed and there are important conversations to be had that should occur on the day this Nation was born but we also must be cognizant of the great many who are merely using this moment to divide and conquer through disruption with the singular goal of destroying America from without and within.
A clear example of this is those that seek to silence discourse and destroy freedom with jingoism and dishonesty at one ideological pole while others seek to destroy Americanism with different lies and demonizations at the other end of the spectrum. What is most alarming is the pulpit that both the traditional media and social media give these voices. Last night President Trump declared “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children...Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America." This, of course, is absolutely a false characterization of the masses of Americans who just want more individual liberty and law enforcement accountability but recognize the need for robust policing of victimizers in America (please refer to NAACP leadership in Minneapolis testifying this week against the end of policing being proposed by its pandering and absurdist City Council).
Many in the media responded to Trump with tweets for clicks seeking attention that read akin to ABC’s “It’s an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people’s land, then carve the white faces of the colonizers who committed genocide” fueling the frenzied fire instead of just saying “you know that is not true, stop lying.” Leftist media pundits also falsely claim “If someone is trying to tear down statues of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, I haven't heard a damn thing about it” days after Boston removed Lincoln’s statue (he lives in nearby New Hampshire, he is absolutely lying) and protestors made national news demanding a statue paid for by freed slaves be taken down in Washington D.C. All these voices are contributing to this plague of lies driven by the loudest who only seek to benefit themselves and not lead this country forward. In none of it do you find a pragmatic voice that says “hey, c’mon, let’s find some common ground and start building a better tomorrow.”
Despite all the assaults on American History by those seeking to usurp the important moment of comeuppance the Jim Crow era in the Deep South is receiving for the vituperative erection of Confederate statutes as a vehicle for oppression and all the historical whitewashing by their equally dishonest ideological opponents, our flawed Founding Fathers created the firmament and framework of freedom for all despite beginning with freedom for a few. Instead of the two equally ridiculous extremes of completely glossing over the misdeeds of our Nation’s founders or yanking down and burning their memorials, we should have frank and honest discussions about their legacies, both good and bad.
I have never been able to reconcile that the person who wrote the Declaration of Independence was also a man who raped and impregnated slaves and the raised his own progeny as slaves. Even if you look at his behaviors through the prism of the 1700’s, Thomas Jefferson’s actions were monstrous (he eventually freed the children he fathered with Sally Hemings who was both a slave and his wife’s half sister but that in no way absolved him of his raising his children as slaves and he did not free any other slaves in his household). But it does not invalidate the historic and world changing importance of the principles he defined in his Declaration. Thomas Jefferson raped a 14 year old slave who was also his sister in law after his wife died and fathered 6 children with her and we should not seek to obscure this reality but, equally we cannot forget he is responsible for: “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.”
In 1776, the words Jefferson wrote after being plied with booze by John Adams who recognized his compatriot’s unparalleled abilities with the quill only referred to white men. But they were written in a manner that transcended the bigotries and cruelties of that time and continue to resonate today. And it is those aspirational principles that make America great. Not stupid red hats and angry mobs storming state houses. Not other angry mobs destroying property and blocking roads. Not screaming infants who think they are owed the world on a platter without having to work for it. Not other screaming infants who realize they let their lives pass them by and now project their sense of failure onto others by throwing tantrums about absurdities while shrieking “liberty.” Not those that seeks to monetize and exploit either or both groups through pandering and falsity. It is, instead, the great masses of people who still understand that the government must be made to serve the people not vice versa and are willing to participate and fight to insure it is so.
Thank you to all those who are willing to fight that fight, to civilly engage with those with whom you have ideological disagreements, to participate in difficult conversations, to learn, to teach and to put in the work necessary to insure we as a Nation collectively and individually achieve the goals of freedom defined by an imperfect men. You are what actually makes America great. Moving forward, I think it’s time to place term limits on all elected officials and prohibit them from serving as lobbyists for a few years after they leave office. Let’s make the political plutocracy go home and earn a living without feeding at the taxpayer trough. Let’s demand legislative changes that allow police only to police crimes that create victims or endanger the lives of others. Let’s demand the implementation of technology that helps law enforcement inculpate criminals while also protecting the innocent from oppressive tactics and unconstitutional abuses. Let’s strive for more fairness and more inclusion across all demographics and assail exclusion based on anyone’s immutable characteristics. Let’s love holistically and hate individually. God (of your choice, or Gods, or no God at all) Bless America. Have your happiest 4th of July. All of you.