As we gather with friends and family today to BBQ and watch spectacular displays of fireworks go off all around the United States, celebrating our great and free country, I’m left with only one question: what are we even celebrating anymore?
Throughout history, the inspiring idea of the “American Dream” has echoed throughout the world, telling each individual that America stands for freedom, for opportunity, for celebrating the idea that people have a choice and can have a life filled with success and equality. Even in the face of all the atrocities marbled throughout the history of our country—from the Native American genocides that paved the way for the founding of this nation to the slave economy that enabled it to flourish—there has nevertheless been, at all times, the briefest and brightest of lights glimmering in the darkness: even in the face of often-unspeakable odds, a uniquely American promise of hope and possibility.
Yet, as I take a good look at the America in front of me, I’m unable to see the dream—only the nightmare.
The United States of America has become divided: Republicans against Democrats. Women against men. Citizens against immigrants. Rich against poor. Even (it’s become impossible to deny it) whites against people of color.
So—other than our love of fireworks—what are we actually celebrating?
Is it the fact that we have an ignorant, white-supremacist sexual predator in the White House, running our country solely based off of the daunting promise of making America “great” again? Because let’s face it: our current administration only seems interested in selling that American dream back to Ku Klux Klan—in “reuniting” our people through hate and separation.
Less than a year ago I was looking at an America that was expanding. We had a good man in office, surrounded by diverse, patriotic public servants who truly stood for the idea of making America better than it was the day before. Today, we have lost. As a nation we have forgotten what liberty looks like, what standing for equality feels like, and what being a proud American really is all about.
Today we stand by while our immigrants are being banned and taken away from their families. We are staring down a constant state of warfare, watching millions of people fight tooth and nail to keep their health care, and blithely observing men in suits debate—still!—whether a woman deserves the right to choose to do what she wants with her body.
Our Founding Fathers dreamed of peace, of unity, of justice. On July 4th, 1776, they came together to declare and celebrate our independence from England. They spoke of securing liberty and building a country of democracy, giving the people a voice. In so many words:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We the people, they said. Not Republicans, not men, not whites, not heterosexuals, not Fox News, not Twitter, not Putin, not Trump, but we, the people of the United States. They believed in a dream that was even bigger than themselves.
So as a sit on my rooftop, watching the fireworks go off, I will not be celebrating the America that is—not Trump’s America, not the America filled with Twitter wars and constant demeaning actions towards women and minorities. I will be celebrating the America that can still be, the America I was promised.
I will be celebrating the fact that after Trump’s inauguration millions of individuals came together all over America and marched. That after our President overstepped his Constitutional reach and forcefully put in place the first travel ban, American lawyers ran to the airports and demanded the release of incoming immigrants. I will be celebrating the fact that when Trump offered Planned Parenthood a deal if they would agree to stop performing abortions, they said no.
I will celebrate the fact that we still have a voice—and as long as we continue to take a stand for what we know is right, the American dream lives on.