Independence Day (Observed)

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s much to celebrate.

Of course, arguably, there isn’t much to celebrate any year. A country full of people we tried to erase, built on blood and bones of slaves we kidnapped and broke and buried. It’s hard to love a country that pretends to be more noble than the graves it filled and trampled to get here. Especially now, with the oceans on fire, and insurrectionists storming the Capitol, fueled by members of our own government who convinced them that only their vote should count. The “real Americans” discourse made manifest — only white conservatives are real Americans, and only by their will shall elections be won.

Republican state legislatures across the country are enshrining that belief into law, and the highest court in the land is upholding that belief. The planet is burning. And Congress is arguing about whether or not Jeff Bazos should have to pay his taxes.

After scrambling and raging and protesting for four years, after over half a million dead in a global pandemic we failed at every turn, we scraped out a win in the most important election in our lifetime, and now it seems the next one might dwarf it in its consequence, and without the legislation we desperately need to protect the right to vote, how can we possibly win?

The intricacies of the American political system seem absurd at times in the face of these challenges. How are we supposed to save a system that half the country no longer believes in? How are we supposed to celebrate a 200 year old revolution that gave us more of the same — a government near consumed by those who see democracy as a mere vehicle for power, and a rather irritating one at that? I careen back and forth between rage and despair, holding onto the drive for action through sheer force of will. It’s just too fucking hot for this.

But I am contradictory by nature and despair dies a lonely death when separated from its peers. The thing about democracy is that at its heart it is about self determination. It is not loyalty to the ideas of our forebears. Nor is it loyalty to a government, neither it’s laws, nor its mechanisms, nor it’s heroes. It is not even loyalty to the flawed yet evolving concept of the United States. Democracy is loyalty to ourselves, to an ever expanding vision of humanity and a firm belief in the power of our own voices and the knowledge that we are stronger together.

This is not a time to celebrate a nation, a government, or a flawed revolution. Perhaps it is not even a time to celebrate democracy, not when it seems on the verge of crumbling around us. Now, instead, we celebrate our indefatigable rage, and the legacy we have inherited from all those who fought to make this democracy live up to those it buries. These are vicious battles. Our enemies are fierce, and the nation they carve in their image has no room for us. Let our rage fuel the nation of our dreams. If we are to be a beacon, let us burn so bright that all that bigotry and hatred becomes ash.

There isn’t much to celebrate this year, but there is much to fight.

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