Independence Day used to be my favorite holiday. More than even Christmas. I loved the parades and the fireworks, the tradition of cooking out with family and friends without the pressure of gifts. And I loved everything it stood for. I would get chilly and even a little teary-eyed thinking about the sacrifices of our forefathers to give us this “land of the free.” You could do anything in America! We had RIGHTS! We could VOTE!
My pride in this country amplified even greater when my husband joined the United States Air Force. I loved seeing him in his uniform and I proudly wore my “Air Force Wife” shirt to Independence Day celebrations.
But this year, I can’t bring myself to celebrate my favorite holiday, because I am ashamed of the country I belong to.
A culture of anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance is brewing. People who try to bring facts and figures into an argument are ridiculed and accused of trying to push a “liberal agenda.” Scientists are being censored and prevented from sharing findings with the public and journalists who try to report uncomfortable truths are dismissed as spreading “fake news.”
Blatant racism is becoming more commonplace, as politicians campaign on slogans such as Congress hopeful Rick Tyler’s “Make America White Again,” and discrimination against the LGBT community is being upheld in court.
Sexual assault and the marginalization of women is being normalized. The leader of our country is on record condoning grabbing a woman’s vagina without her consent and has been accused of paying “hush money” to a porn star he had an extramarital affair with. In Alabama, an admitted pedophile came dangerously close to winning an election. All of this is happening while lawmakers restrict women’s access to contraception and abortion services.
Education and culture are being devalued, needed social programs are getting cut left and right, and the environmental regulations that have kept our planet safe are being discontinued in favor of profits for big oil companies. But by far the worst is the current situation at our Southern border.
I understand the need for secure borders. I do think that the process to becoming a legal citizen should be significantly simplified, and anyone who will follow our laws and contribute positively to society should be allowed to live here. But I can appreciate the necessity of keeping track of those who enter and checking into their background.
Children should never EVER be separated from their parents unless there is abuse involved. Right now children of all ages, even infants still breastfeeding, are being taken from their parents and kept in detention centers that are not remotely equipped to properly care for them. There are even allegations that children have been abused in these facilities, and we have yet to hear or see any news of the female children in question.
The popular response from the Right is that their parents shouldn’t have brought them here illegally and this wouldn’t have happened. Many of these families are fleeing violence in their home countries and have presented themselves at the border asking for asylum, though in my mind and heart that makes no difference as to the unjustness of separating families. Legal or illegal, it is morally reprehensible to do what we are doing. The entire developed world is condemning it. Doctors are voicing concerns as to the emotional trauma this is causing these children and the subsequent developmental implications. Yet still the practice continues and is defended with the same insistence that “if they’d just come here legally” (as though that were a simple process) then their human rights wouldn’t be violated.
What have we become?
The parallels between Trump’s America and Hitler’s Germany are terrifying. I am truly, truly afraid for the future of immigrants in this country that, as it happens, was stolen from the First Nations by European immigrants. I look at the flag and wonder if it will begin to represent fear and oppression instead of freedom and justice. And as such, I can’t celebrate the 4thof July. I will still take my family to the festivities and let the children have their fun on the rides and at the petting zoo. I’ll still watch the fireworks and marvel at their beauty. But I have nothing to celebrate this year, and will instead be mourning my country’s loss of its humanity.
I’m looking forward to November. Maybe Election Day will become my new favorite holiday.