On Independence Day

I love Independence Day. I have for a long time. That doesn’t mean I love who we are as a nation right now, or that we should stop trying to make it a better place, safer for all, more equitable, more loving.

I don’t have a ton of patriotism right now. Our democracy feels broken, wracked by backlash against progress, tearing at the seams of our institutions by appointees of a corrupt tyrant who couldn’t fathom his own illegitimacy.

Where I do have love for our nation is with all those who want to be here, who risk everything wanting to work here, wanting to live here, wanting to escape violence and tyranny. We spent the day y’day with a family of 3 who were bussed here from Arizona after arriving.

The two kids spoke little English, but soon fell in playing with our gaggle of neighborhood kids. Our Spanish-fluent neighbors helped their mom call home to tell their family they’d arrived, and helped them navigate some local resources. Another family is giving them shelter.

The values of our neighbors, caring for the newly-arrived, are our American values on display: charitable, loving, caring, welcoming. That’s what I love about our nation when we can display it. Selflessness and service, sharing and communitarian, that is America at its finest.

Those are the values I celebrate today, not the fascist worship of the modern GOP. Their part-time affinity for life — that is, when it cannot hold them accountable for their failings — is a failed vision of paternalistic authoritarianism, of homogeneity, of forced unity.

The only messages they have now are ones that they bring to bear at the point of a weapon, or of the deployment of force. They claim to be the true America, but instead, they’re the Britain that we revolted from in 1776. Their insistence of right by might is undemocratic.

There are things I love about the old GOP. There’s no question I’m a capitalist, and that I think having the freedom to start your own business is a critical freedom in America. I spent 15 years running one, and struggling sometimes to deal with the regulatory frameworks.

Lord knows there are tons of regs that have served their purposes that ought be retired, as well as others with unintended consequences. Of course, the old GOP also believed in taxes at much higher rates than we’re currently paying.

Eisenhower spoke about the dangers of the Military Industrial complex and how it might distort our servicemen and -women, and boy howdy has it. Sure, we’re the arsenal of democracy — Ukraine has appreciated that, to our credit — but at what cost for our Homefront?

My love for America is complicated. All relationships with love are complicated. We love in spite of failings, and because of foibles. We love for the idealism of loving something great. We love sometimes when we want to change it. I love America. Just not this one, right now.

So, for all my fellow Americans not feeling it today, I stand with you. Our nation’s once brilliant light is dim and tarnished, and the people responsible for its care are failing us on every level.

But I love it, still, for I know what it can be, and will be again, with work.