A few days ago my friend and fellow blogger Martin C. Fredricks IV, wrote a piece titled Declaring “Loss of Independence Day,” (click the link), in which he explains why he won’t be flying the American flag this July 4th – Independence Day.
Martin writes, “We can no longer, honestly or in good conscience, celebrate an “Independence Day” when all meaning of those words has been stripped from the lives of millions of our fellow citizens. It’s false. Empty. A sham. A lie that must taste like oil-soaked dirt in the mouths of women.”
I’ve been having the same internal argument with myself. Do I put out the flag on the Fourth?
Recent events, including outrageous decisions coming down from The Supreme Court, stunning revelations from the January 6th Committee hearings, a general nod and wink to white supremacists, and new laws in various states that come straight from an authoritarian playbook, are evidence of a democracy adrift and heading dangerously close to autocratic shoals.
I’ve had to ask myself, what exactly are we celebrating this year? What have we had to celebrate during the past five Independence Days? Abrogating rights? Perverting democracy? General baseness? Is this what we fly the flag to commemorate on Independence Day?
What should we be commemorating?
Maybe we should start from the beginning of the story. Not the actual beginning. The late 18th century will do – 1776 to be exact.
This whole July 4th thing?
It wasn’t the day that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence. They made that decision on July 2nd. It wasn’t the day when the first shots of the American Revolution were fired (April 1775). July 4th wasn’t the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed (August 2nd), even though the heading reads In CONGRESS, July 4,1776. Seems like it was back dated. Maybe some of the founders were slick accountants.
July 4th was the day that the Continental Congress approved the final draft. I’ll lay odds that most Americans don’t know any of that.
Over the years, and thanks to the dubious miracle of social media, I’ve learned that many, if not most Americans don’t know the difference between The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, often incorrectly placing The Declaration’s clause about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” somewhere in their own mind’s version of The Constitution. It wouldn’t stun me to know that there are some of my fellow citizens who think that The Federalist Papers are a brand of rolling papers put out by Zig-Zag. None of this is a good thing.
That so many Americans are ignorant of our national documents and rely on TV talking heads or internet hacks for their often fractured understanding of civics is one of the reasons that we find our democracy on life support.
Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s damned dangerous.
Maybe a part of every Fourth of July celebration should include readings of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. Yeah, I know it sounds like a drag but it seems to me that the current divisiveness, the shouting and the unraveling of our democracy is a helluva a lot more of a drag.
If Americans had a better understanding of our written national treasures, they’d be calling bullshit on Tucker Carlson and the other TV and internet wind bags and those bitches would be digging ditches. Isn’t that reward enough for investing a half hour of one’s day off to take a dive into those documents?
Screw the hotdog eating contest, pick up a copy of The Declaration of Independence instead. And read it!
For Martin, it was a difficult decision to keep his flag in storage this Independence Day, 2022, “After going back and forth for a couple of days, and with input from my family, I decided to not display a USA flag at all rather than flying it upside down, even though that would have been completely justified.”
I’m with him on it being a painful decision. Hell, the angst is enough to make me, on this 4th, uncork a fifth – of Maker’s Mark.
Sifting through the events of the past five years I have to wonder whether the flag still symbolizes the promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or if it now represents the sins and ignominies of the gang of knaves, cowards, liars and small minded people who’ve seemingly made it their mission to rot the fruits of the ideals that were seedlings in 1776.
And for what?
The answer to that is so plain that I’ll leave the reader to figure it out, and dammit, where did I put that bottle of whiskey?
You might be asking Martin and I, “So what’s the big deal? Either put out the flag or don’t.”
It’s just not that simple. Not for me. Not for Martin.
Independence Day has, for me, always been the most important of the national holidays. It’s the one that commemorates the event that jump-started the American ideal; the notion, as Reagan put it, of the shining city, the land of opportunity, the place that welcomes the tired, and the poor, and the huddled masses.
Independence Day commemorates that seminal event when the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” were ratified by the Second Continental Congress and became deed.
When, back in 1776, The Declaration of Independence went from drafted words to deeds it was an Earth shattering event. It was the beginning of what’s been called, The Great Experiment. It was a brand new undertaking and the world looked on in amusement, certain that the experiment would fail.
I’m damned sentimental about that shit and while the founders were far from perfect they had a glimmering of a good idea.
Two hundred and forty-six years later I find myself wondering if those words, unalienable Rights, and, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, have been relegated back to being just words.
And what makes it all the more galling are the names of the people putting the jackhammer to our national foundation; Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Mark Meadows, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and, of course, Donald Trump. Names that will always carry a stigma, the stench of villainy. Small people really, tearing down something great.
Today, the world’s people must be wondering if The Great Experiment is heading towards failure, particularly as they’ve witnessed the events of the last five years, beginning when a self serving grifter announced his candidacy for president in a speech that was the absolute antithesis of the words and ideals found in The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The New Colossus, that poem inscribed on The Statue of Liberty.
Instead of the inspiring words of Emma Lazarus, inviting to America, the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” “The wretched refuse,” and “the, homeless, tempest tossed,” the con man accused a neighboring country of sending our nation its “rapists,” drug dealers and criminals. “Not the right people,” he called them.
It was an oft repeated theme, such as the time, just a year into his presidency, when he decried immigration from what he termed “shithole countries,” referring to Haiti, El Salvador and various African nations. But it’s not as if he was disinviting everyone, because with his next breath, he expressed his wish to welcome his own version of “the right people,” immigrants from Norway. So much for those “huddled masses,” especially if they have dark complexions.
Flying the flag this year is a tough call because we’ve been living in stark contradiction to the events of July 4th,1776.
In The Declaration of Independence, the founders wrote, “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown…”
Those words heralded THE oft repeated cornerstone of an American ideal that in plain terms means, “Yeah, we’re not down with kings here in America.”
The founders would’ve been thunderstruck if they could have foreseen the Trump who would be king, garnering the idolatry of a major political party. Indeed at a Conservative Political Action Conference a golden statue of Trump was put on display for members of the party to touch, fawn over and take selfies with. It was a spit in the eye of George Washington who had the humility and good sense to begin the tradition of peaceful transition. .
Over the course of five years, we’ve borne witness to a series of brazen events that have represented a shameless renunciation of the principles of 1776.
We’ve been witness to an attempted coup. We’ve witnessed our elections, the engine that drives our democracy, thrown into doubt by a pathetic, corrupt little man who, before a single vote had been cast, deemed the elections to be rigged. And the result? A wave of laws passed by the loser’s party that seek to suppress the vote.
We’ve seen the infamous double dealing by Mitch McConnell, that included the hijacking of two Supreme Court seats for the purpose of creating his own personal, ideological vision of a court that is less supreme and certainly more extreme.
It’s a court, completely gone off the rails, a court that in the space of less than a month, further blurred the line between church and state, and yanked the teeth of the Environmental Protection Agency in a decision that could affect other regulatory agencies. The conservative justices reversed Roe v. Wade, and, during a time when gun violence has become one of America’s greatest concerns, overturned a century old law in New York that required individuals to provide a plausible reason for wanting to carry a concealed weapon in public.
Five years ago, with the emergence of Trump as candidate, America began riding a xenophobic curve that’s in recent times become a hard right.
Schools in conservative red states are banning books and teaching bastardized versions of history that promote Christianity. No, not religion – only Christianity.
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists Jews, agnostics and atheists need not apply, thank you.
I’m all for teaching religion as it relates to lessons about societies and cultures but if you want to pray and proselytize there should be a religious school in a neighborhood near you.
The new history paints a nationalistic, white, patriarchal picture of America. A painting that is, in the end, a twisted abstract.
Proponents of these curricula like to call it “Patriotic Education.” Red state schools are moving towards telling stories rather than teaching history. Stories that downplay slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, the gains of the civil rights movement and the contributions of immigrants and people of color.
In a move to sanitize the stain of slavery, many states have banned The 1619 Project taking their cue from the disgraced former president who called the book, “toxic propaganda, ideological poison, that, if not removed, will dissolve the civic bonds that tie us together, will destroy our country.” As if that man were ever a serious student of history.
T. Jameson Brewer, an educator and assistant professor at the University of North Georgia posed the questions, “Do we want historical facts and details that are researched and published by experts taught? Or do we want nationalism taught?”
Well if you ask that question of South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, her answer would be found in her call for a curriculum that teaches students “why the U.S. is the most special nation in the history of the world.”
To an extent there’s nothing wrong with that, but clearly Noem is looking for history rooted in yarns, fabrication and yes, absolutely, nationalism.
Back to the stories of George Washington confessing to his old man about chopping down a cherry tree, and the bunk that’s popular in the southern states, that secession and the Civil War were all about something other than slavery.
At times America has indeed been the most special, but at this time, that just ain’t the case. Not when a section of the Texas Republican Party platform reads, “Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin, and we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”
I asked my wife the rhetorical question, “Why in the hell would anyone want to do something like that?” I answered my own question. “Just out of damned shithouse meanness, that’s why.”
It ain’t the case when we’ve seen a congressional committee lay out the shocking details of a coup attempt and a president who threw a tantrum when he wasn’t allowed to go to the capitol to lead that coup.
We are not now the most special nation when we learn that associates of the former president have engaged in witness tampering by sending veiled threats to prospective witnesses at the January 6th hearings. That’s Michael Corleone stuff.
None of this means that America can’t get back on the road towards being “the most special nation.”
To be clear, nowhere in The Constitution will you find the words, “most special nation in the history of the world.”
That’s because the founders were much deeper thinkers than Kristi Noem could ever hope to be. It’s also because the founders realized that the nation they were creating was at the time, and always would be, a work in progress.
Martin and I will likely be taken to task for taking America to task. We’ll be raked over the Fourth of July barbeque coals for expressing our opinions that America is, at this moment in time, far from perfect.
We’ll be berated by people who believe that America is and always has been perfect.
Real patriots don’t believe that.
Not even the founders believed that.
The Preamble to The Constitution reads, “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.”
“A more perfect Union.” Not, THE perfect Union, or the impeccable Union, or the foolproof Union, or the absolutely flawless and without blemish or reproach Union.
The founders made it clear that their more perfect Union would at times require some fine tuning, adjustments to make it a little more perfect. Because they knew that things change over time, they made allowances for The Constitution to change with the times. And so, they included Article V.
Article V might be the most honest section of The Constitution. It allows for the reality that there would be some fuckups along the way that would have to be unfucked and Article V lays out the plan for the unfucking through the use of amendments.
I completely understand Martin’s decision but you know what? I do need to fly that flag.
Fly the flag in honor of the good people, and in honor of the ideals. Fly it as a statement that those of us who believe in equal justice should never stop fighting like hell. Fly the flag for people like Cassidy Hutchinson who, at all of 26 years old is standing up for what’s right, for Liz Cheney who, despite my disagreements with her on various matters, is essentially burning her political career to try and save our democracy. Fly it for poll workers and election officials who’ve been living in the hell unleashed by the former president and his sycophants. Fly it for the Capitol Police who held off an insurrectionist mob. Fly it for the people who are daily being marginalized by those driven by power, greed, selfishness and just downright meanness.
Maybe I should fly the flag in defiance. Fly it in defiance of the traitors like Mike Flynn, Rudy Giuliani and Jeffrey Clark; the cowards like Mark Meadows and Kevin McCarthy; the enablers and the craven like the members of Congress who residing in the inferno of Trump world, pushed the big lie and then said, ‘Oops, my bad, can I have a pardon, please?’
Maybe I’ll fly it in contempt of an extreme court.
Oh hell yes I’m going to fly it. I’m going to fly it because I refuse to give it over to Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, the mean spirited, the xenophobes, the Trumpers, the greedy and the power hungry and all of those who would pervert the ideals that my country was founded on.
I’m putting that flag out because the reprobates, the poltroons, and the frauds hold no claim to it. They don’t get to debase it
I’m going to fly it because you know what?
It’s my damn flag.