This last weekend, Americans celebrated their Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence by unanimous vote to separate from the undemocratic, suffocating grip of English monarchy. It was during this revolution that the essence of Americanism, born in a desire for liberty and self-actualization, first truly overcame colonial identity. Those primordial humors born from Enlightenment helped forge the world’s first democratic superpower, marking a milestone in human history. No, not all ideals and traits from the Revolutionary period should be embraced today, but they do, with a discerning modern lens, provide guideposts to which we should aim.
However, those same traits have been misappropriated and bastardized to justify white, usually male, hegemony, bucking the Enlightenment ideals in favor of a thinly veiled ethnic feudalism. Generations of oppressive, coordinated reactionaries have consistently fought against progress, employing every dirty trick possible to meet their unenlightened ends. The 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency was the beginning to the logical conclusion of this distinctly American power struggle.
But here we are, now in 2021: relatively speaking, a breath of fresh air. President Joe Biden is a competent, compassionate, and inspiring president who we can rely upon for leadership. Yet, at the back of my mind—and indeed the minds of many—we know there remain around 40% of voting Americans who celebrate Independence Day in false terms. To them, it is a day when “we won” and a day to renew one’s allegiance to “American values,” often via the heady medium of a low-calorie beer. You know the type—the kinds of people who consider wearing their MAGA hats to be a cardinal personality trait, no pun intended.
Here’s my point: as a nation, we find ourselves at a trying juncture. Almost half the country is either okay with or actively supports values antithetical to the American thesis. They do not want democracy (at least not a true democracy), they support foreign adversaries over countrymen of opposing political ideology, and many of them do not support racial equality, religious equality, or equality of sexes or genders. The word “regressive” does not convey the extent to which these people are passionately backwards. Their existence makes one wonder what would have happened during the Revolutionary War and whether there would even be an Independence Day if Facebook and talk radio operated in 1776.
How to best move forward as a nation is unclear. What is clear is, however, is that we cannot make the progress we need with the antagonizing might of roughly 40% of the voting nation. As a nation, we cannot embody the noble philosophies of Independence Day by siding with the enemy, whether that enemy is a foreign adversary, our own past, or a false narrative. Thus, I ask you to reflect on what it means to be an American. Think of how to give back to support a progressive America, whether it be through community volunteering or a simple donation to a progressive organization or running for office. American needs progressive shepherds.
Democracy thrives in snarkiness