Happy Independence Day, Despite Everything

Independence Day has always been one of our favorite days of the year. It brings hot weather, fireworks, charcoals grilling beef, ice chests cooling beer, and a collective sense of the great feeling that comes from being a citizen of the United States of America. This Independence Day, though, will feel different.
This Independence Day comes as the country suffers daily record increases in coronavirus infections, even as the rest of the industrialized first world is seeing daily declines, which puts a damper on the usual Fourth of July festivities. Even in such stubbornly Republican and individualistic states as Kansas and Texas the citizenry will be compelled to wear face masks and stay six feet of social distance from one another in small gatherings. The unemployment rate has fallen to a still-appalling 11 percent, but filings for unemployment insurance have continued to grow and the recent spike in infections will surely slow any further economic recovery.
America’s undeniably imperfect history of providing equal justice and opportunity for all has also been much in the news lately, driven by both peaceful protests and violent riots, and that has doesn’t anything to lighten the national mood. A recent polls shows that pride in America has hit its lowest point in a century, global polls show the country’s standing with the rest of the world also plummeting, and based on what we can observe while staying mostly at home here in Wichita we’re inclined to believe it.
President Donald Trump will kick off the holiday today with fireworks and a fiery speech to the faithful at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which might have seemed an anodyne act of patriotism is simpler times but these days creates several controversies. National Park Service experts and local fire marshals have warned Trump that the fireworks could cause a forest fire, which would be a metaphor for the Trump presidency that most of the media will not be able to resist, but Trump is willing to take his chances. Trump plans on having some 7,000 or so people in the audience, most of the presumably not wearing masks or standing six feet apart, but Trump is also willing to risk a viral wildfire.
Mount Rushmore is a stunning monument to four of America’s greatest presidents, so Trump also risks looking puny by comparison, but the sort of fiery speeches Trump likes to give are bound to create more controversy. The Native Americans who live in South Dakota still resent what they consider sacred land being taken by the United States of America, and having what they considered an especially sacred mountain carved up in the image of four white men, two of whom were slave-holders and none of which were very good friends to the Indians. It doesn’t help that admittedly ingenious sculptor who created it was a Ku Klux Klan member who also carved the Stone Mountain monument to the confederacy in Georgia.
An eloquent president with a nuanced understanding of how history fitfully proceeds might give a compelling speech about how despite its imperfections America has attained greatness, groping its way towards equal justice and opportunity and defeating the global threats of totalitarianism and helping the world prosper, and how the four imperfect men in the background helped lead this country in that noble direction, and then call for unity and shared sacrifice in this time of national crisis. We’re not holding out any hope that Trump will deliver that speech, however, and instead expect he’ll ad-lib himself into another divisive brouhaha.
Even though this will be a different Independence Day from any we remember, it’s still the Fourth of July, damn it, and we plan on charcoaled beef and ice cold deer and whatever contact we can responsibly have with our fellow citizens, and we’ll be watching the fireworks neighborhood kids are shooting off, and despite everything we’ll hold out hope for America.
We wish you all as happy an Independence Day as possible.

— Bud Norman

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