EDITOR’S NOTE: I made the decision a long time ago to move most of my political content to my other site, The Shinbone Star. Although the following post first appeared there, today I’m making an exception and also printing it here.
Today is Independence Day in the United States, and across this great land we mark the occasion with the iconic images of parades, fireworks, waving flags and blackened weenies on the grill. But one thing you rarely see is the actual image of what this holiday is all about. There it is up above, the Declaration of Independence.
Penned in 1776, the Declaration of Independence set forth principles that should make every American proud. Words like these:
“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.”
At 61, I’m old enough to have seen a lot of bad moments in my nation’s history. Like many Americans, I’ve endured politicians I disliked, along with policies with which I did not agree. But until the ascendancy of Donald J. Trump, I would never have said this:
I am no longer proud to be an American.
On this Independence Day — the first of Trump’s reign — I am reminded that this president and those who elected and enable him have forgotten our American ideals, those things that once set us apart as the world’s preeminent democracy.
Trump, who most assuredly never read the Declaration of Independence because it goes on somewhat longer than 140 characters, has nevertheless made a mockery of it. Beginning with his openly racist and misogynistic campaign, Trump and his Republican acolytes have trampled any notion that all men are created equal.
In 1776, our forefathers put their lives on the line when they proclaimed separation from a tyrannical king.
With their ballots last November, descendants of those selfsame men cast our nation’s fate beneath the heel of a classless thug whose words and deeds align more closely with Mein Kampf than with any document held in reverence at the National Archives.
People ask me why I fight. Why keep hammering at the same themes, over and over for days, weeks and months? Why cut off friends and even family over what amounts to a political disagreement?
My answer: This is no mere disagreement. I fight for the very existence of my country, and for the ideals that made it great. I fight because I believe in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I fight because I believe in the role of a free press as a watchdog for democracy, and because I want to leave some semblance of a once-great nation for my grandchildren so that one day they, at least, can be proud of their country, even if today I am not.
Looking outside on this holiday, my American flag flutters wanly from the front porch rail. Purchased back when Jimmy Carter was president, it looks a bit tattered and washed out. My wife wants to buy a new flag with colors that are bold and bright, like the America of our youth.
But a flag’s true purpose is to be a symbol and reminder, and my old flag still serves that function well. With its faded stripes and field of blue, it reminds me of all that Donald Trump has taken from us — things like pride, dignity and honor. Not unlike, perhaps, that other symbol of America’s greatness, the Declaration of Independence, no longer a hallowed document, but a hollowed one.