I know it’s been a while, and I apologize– politics waits for no one, but unfortunately, neither does the rest of my life wait for me.
Moving on, I wanted to take a minute and address what feels like an elephant in the room for many leftists in the United States today: Independence Day, and whether (and how) to celebrate it.
Personally, I will not be. In years past, I reflected on the history of this young nation with some measure of skepticism. Our nation stood for many great things, not least of which is freedom– of speech, of the press, of (and from) religion, of assembly, and the freedom to elect our own representatives. However, those freedoms are not absolute– many are only enjoyed by our most privileged citizens– and came at unspeakable cost: the decimation of indigenous people; slavery; institutionalized racism; colonialism and neocolonialism; unparalleled military aggression; the oppression of women, immigrants, members of certain faiths, people who do not subscribe to religion, and anyone believing a different way could be better; and the willingness to infringe upon the civil liberties of any group of people those in positions of power felt could pose a threat to “our” way of life– neglecting the fact that they too, often, should have been protected as part of “us.” (A short list: those supporting communism or socialism, Japanese-Americans following WWII, Muslims, immigrants, people of color, etc.)
So, freedom isn’t free. The “freedom” that the privileged among us in this country enjoyed even prior to this year’s election was won not only on the backs of soldiers who gave their last measure of devotion defending it, but also of nearly everyone who does not fit the American “ideal” of white, upper-middle class, able-bodied, christian men.
That is a hard enough pill to swallow in the name of “patriotism.” (To say nothing of the consumer-capitalist absurdity of dressing ourselves head to toe in the primary icon of the myth of American exceptionalism, putting meat on a fire, setting off explosives that traumatize the same people who defend our nation, and calling it a celebration of our “American Values.”) Now, in the aftermath of a corrupted election, when a man leads this country who–ironically– symbolizes all the parts of its history that those with privilege so often ignore, it is truly difficult to find anything to celebrate. The freedoms that we once claimed justified the means of their attainment are being infringed upon slightly more each day. The President is demanding voter information to investigate mythical cases of voter fraud– one can only imagine what he would do with the list of Clinton voters. TSA is going to begin requiring passengers to submit their books for additional screening– purportedly to check for illicit materials, but any thinking person can immediately see where that road leads: anyone carrying materials considered to be concerning (one would imagine that the Qur’an will be at the top of the list, given the nation’s rampant Islamophobia) will quickly be pulled aside for additional questioning. And, perhaps most disturbingly, the President of the United States is waging war on the free press. It is no real surprise that for many, this Independence Day feels more like a funeral than a celebration.
So what is left for those out there who see the reality of this nation and yet still feel compelled to celebrate– whether to honor those who have served it, or the ideals we have yet to live up to, or for some other reason entirely? To you I say this: if you want to celebrate the United States today, celebrate its possibility. There is always a grain of truth in every deception, and in the case of American exceptionalism, it can be found in the notion that the United States has always aspired to improve itself– to be better tomorrow than we were today. That is, and must be, as true now as it was 241 years ago.
So, if you feel the need, celebrate the potential of this nation today. Then, tomorrow, go out and fight for it.
— This is the ALF, signing off.