I’m not sure anyone is feeling patriotic this July 4. In past years, I’ve taken part in readings of Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again,” and took pride in reading the stanza:
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!”
This year I can’t even do that. With the constant horror stories of inhumane treatment in the concentration camps on our southern border, the build up of the alt-right’s “Straight Pride” parades/facades planned for August, and the perpetual attacks on female autonomy under the banner of pro-life heading towards a horrendous crescendo at the now conservative Supreme Court, who feels like celebrating America? Who feels like celebrating even the concept of America while it is being smothered with a pillow in front of our eyes? While this administration complains it doesn’t need to provide basic prison necessities to asylum seeking refugees held in captivity, they tweak numbers to find $9 million for a military parade to soothe the huge ego of “President” tiny-hands. Day by day, elected government officials erode the basic tenants of our democracy in exchange for power and wealth all the while claiming to be true patriots. It’s impossible and insulting to celebrate freedom from tyranny when a tyrant rules our daily lives.
So I’m joining the boycott of July 4 this year. If we are to remember that the first Gay Pride march was a riot, we must remember that the first celebration of American freedom was a declaration of war. Like then we have people who are loyal to the crown, and rebels demanding their rights. The problem those loyal to the crown think they are the rebels. The more this country starts heading in the right direction towards diversity and equity, the more a small but loud group of people that feel extending the rights they already have to everyone else feel marginalized; they aren’t marginalized, they just don’t like to share. This is why they feel their spray tanned leader is a God-sent messiah; he isn’t, he just hates to share even more than his base, which is why they love him. You can’t have a rational discourse with a person who feels his entire identity is wrapped up in status, prestige, and privilege; unless they are looking down on someone, they feel less than. All this does is give migraines to those of us that care about each other and how everyone is treated. Empathy is seen as weakness, compassion seen as deficient, dissent seen as unpatriotic. To celebrate our country in this environment is backwards, if only for the reason that it will affirm all that the tyrants believe. This year the truly patriotic thing would be to remember Bastille Day—guillotine and all. But I can be moderate and simply say don’t show those in power that we tolerate their actions, edicts, or behaviors. Join a protest, stage a sit in, write your representatives, refuse to buy anything, donate to the ACLU or to migrant legal fees or incidentals, turn off your TVs, and listen to N.W.A., Public Enemy or Rage Against the Machine all day. I’ll leave you with the end of Hughes’ poem, which better fits the message of the day:
“Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!”