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Patriotism On This Fourth of July

I’m patriotic. We even have a flagpole at my house. Right now, however–in recognition of the fact that an embarrassing buffoon occupies and degrades the Oval Office–it is flying the flag of the City of Indianapolis.

Where is my America on this 4th of July, 2017?

At the federal level, my America isn’t functioning–although it is “performing.”

The New Yorker looked for “American Dignity on the 4th of July,” and (surprise!) found the White House lacking. The article began with an excerpt from the famous speech in which Frederick Douglass pointed to unrealized American ideals, considered Obama’s efforts to move the nation closer to its aspirations, then segued to the current occupant of the White House, who neither knows nor cares about such abstractions:

Donald Trump, who, in fairness, has noted that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job,” represents an entirely different tradition. He has no interest in the wholeness of reality. He descends from the lineage of the Know-Nothings, the doomsayers and the fabulists, the nativists and the hucksters. The thematic shift from Obama to Trump has been from “lifting as we climb” to “raising the drawbridge and bolting the door.” Trump may operate a twenty-first-century Twitter machine, but he is still a frontier-era drummer peddling snake oil, juniper tar, and Dr. Tabler’s Buckeye Pile Cure for profit from the back of a dusty wagon.

The article described the President’s vulgar and sexist tweets about the hosts of “Morning Joe,” and other examples of his constant debasement of the Oval Office, before concluding–a bit more optimistically  than many of us feel right now–

Frederick Douglass ended his Independence Day jeremiad in Rochester with steadfast optimism (“I do not despair of this country”). Read his closing lines, and what despair you might feel when listening to a President who abets ignorance, isolation, and cynicism is eased, at least somewhat. The “mental darkness” of earlier times is done, Douglass reminded his audience. “Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe.” There is yet hope for the “great principles” of the Declaration of Independence and “the genius of American Institutions.” There was reason for optimism then, as there is now. Donald Trump is not forever. Sometimes it just seems that way.

To paraphrase a favorite line from my grandmother: From the New Yorker’s mouth to God’s ears.

Meanwhile, polls tell us that international opinion of the U.S. is at an all-time low, that allies and enemies alike are appalled and repulsed by–and very worried about– the unstable man to whom we have entrusted the nuclear codes. Even Canada is pulling away.

They weren’t quite fighting words, but the recent speech by Canada’s foreign minister in Parliament revealed the growing chasm between the country and its powerful neighbor.

The minister, Chrystia Freeland, told the House of Commons last week that as the United States, under its new administration, “has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership,” Canada, like other countries, must “set our own clear and sovereign course.”

The question worrying genuine patriots on this 4th of July is whether, given our weakened democratic norms and compromised electoral and governing institutions, we can mount a successful Resistance, and reclaim our America.

Will We the People rally to the symbolism of Independence Day and reaffirm the importance of the ideals on which our nation was founded? Will we demand fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law? Or will we simply normalize the dishonorable behavior of this administration and the corruption of a Congress that has elevated party above country, and cease to be the America so many of us have believed in?

I’d like to fly my flag again.

Happy Fourth of July.