I was a serious American history nerd growing up. I was fascinated by the early “revolutionaries” — I dressed up as “a young Benjamin Franklin” for Halloween. And of course, Abraham Lincoln – I remember throwing myself into my mother’s arms, after having finished an “easy reader” biography of Lincoln, sobbing, “Why did Mrs. Lincoln have such a hard life??” My favorite holiday above all others – never mind the candy of Halloween or the anticipation of presents for Chanukmas – was the Fourth of July. I counted down to that holiday every year. Not for the fireworks — no, I waited breathlessly for the parade and the flags and the costumes and, most of all, the reenactments.
I was moved, I think, by what I understood to be the great work of these (deeply flawed) men: envisioning and striving to create a better society, one that valued individual autonomy and collective governance for the good of the whole. So yeah, I was an American History nerd. And I still am: I still cherish the ideal that we can be a vast community of different and diverse individuals who work together toward equality and access to justice and a common understanding of what it means to be a civilized society. The early patriots did not succeed in creating such a society, nor has it been achieved since. But that ideal — that such a society can exist, and that we as individuals have to make it so — is the animating force in my own identity as an American.
When I started this blog back in February, I wrote about my feelings of grief and pain as a result of the election and its aftermath: the personal hurt I feel as the rule of law is attacked and belittled; when the bedrock principal of Separation of Powers is ignored and trammeled; when our history is distorted and used as a weapon to undermine our democracy and American idealism. I still feel that deep grief and personal pain as that democracy slides more every day into autocracy, if not downright anarchy.
Because that, my friends, is what is happening. Ever since the election, we have been paying attention, and looking out for the signs that our democracy might be faltering. Excellent journalists and activists have compiled lists and documented lies. Check out these, just to get you started:
From the NYTimes, an exhaustive list of Trump’s lies: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html?mcubz=1&_r=0
From Resister Amy Siskind, a list of subtle changes since the election: https://medium.com/@Amy_Siskind/week-33-experts-in-authoritarianism-advise-to-keep-a-list-of-things-subtly-changing-around-you-so-a9315863b6cd
From the WaPo, a list of ways Trump is undoing Obama’s legacy https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-rolling-back-obama-rules/?utm_term=.cb921d61cc7f
From Bill Moyers, a list of what is happening while the President attacks “Morning Joe,” for example. http://billmoyers.com/story/while-he-was-tweeting/
So this Fourth of July, I will go to a small town parade and cheer for the high school bands and the local businesses, and maybe I will even tear up a bit. But I will be wearing my Indivisible shirt and chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at Congressman Erik Paulsen as he marches by. https://paulsen.house.gov/reforming-health-care/; https://www.facebook.com/events/449544425416955/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%22106%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D;
Because it’s not just Trump and his lies that are ushering our government into authoritarianism; it is also the craven and cynical Republicans in the House (of whom Erik Paulson is one) who passed the first iteration of Trump Care. And the even more craven and cynical – if such things are possible to rank – Senate Republicans who seem poised to pass their version of the bill without one single public hearing or debate. As the Washington Post reminds us, as part of its new brand, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/
We have become a society ruled by the few for the benefit of those few; a society where one religion is protected from government intrusion – and indeed granted government favors — http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865683879/What-the-Supreme-Courts-latest-actions-tell-us-about-the-future-of-religious-freedom.html — while others are vilified, if not downright criminalized; ours has become a government of rich white men (yes, the very few exceptions prove the rule) who hold vast resources all over the world and contribute very little back to the people of their own country.
So on this July 4th, I do not celebrate our current American government. But I do celebrate us, its people, united for some reason by some ideal about what it means to be a civilized society. We believe in independence – but that doesn’t mean lack of connection. Together we are pushing against the rising tide of authoritarianism and crony capitalism and insisting that there remain light in the growing darkness.
It is up to us to keep making lists and documenting lies; to seek accountability from those who have attacked and undermined our democracy, and continue to do so. But we also need to work to shore up systems – and create new ones – that protect and empower our Democratic ideals; not only to protect against further erosion, but also to work, always, toward a more perfect union. That is our work, my fellow patriots; and that is what I am celebrating this Fourth of July.