If Americans can’t even unite to celebrate July 4, then the United States as we know it is dead – so stop p*ssin’ on the red, white and blue before it’s too late
RIP, the United States of America.
The country’s name must go, right?
I mean, there comes a point where America is so patently DIS-united that it’s no longer appropriate to call itself United.
And honestly, I think we’re now reaching that point.
I say this with nothing but deep dismay and sadness as someone who loves America and everything it is supposed to represent.
But when even July 4 has become a day of ferocious contention, ugly rancor and partisan abuse-hurling, as we’ve just witnessed, then it’s very clear America is standing on the edge of a precipice from which it may never recover unless cooler heads prevail.
Independence Day has always been the most unifying moment in the American calendar, celebrating the end of British rule.
(Obviously, it’s not quite such a joyous day for we Brits who tend to keep our heads down and quietly curse King George III for being so feckless in letting such a great country and people slip out of our hands.)
It’s a day when American families and friends of all color and creed get together for fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, fairs, concerts, sporting events.
In other words, it’s national party time and usually, everyone gets stuck in to collectively celebrate the greatest day in the nation’s history.
But this year, the party was marred by a series of flashpoints that represented everything the party is supposed to be about.
It began with Team USA Olympian Gwen Berry behaving like a petulant brat a few days ago because she had to stand on a podium during the trials and listen to the National Anthem being played.
She insisted that her embarrassingly disrespectful antics didn’t mean she hated America, but the unedifying optics suggested otherwise.
Then Vanessa Williams, the first black winner of Miss America, hosted PBS’ ‘A Capitol Fourth’ on Sunday, and sang ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, which has become known as the ‘Black National Anthem.’
She told USA Today it was ‘in celebration of the wonderful opportunity that we now have to celebrate Juneteenth. So, we are reflective of the times.’
Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves and is now a federal holiday in the US.
It’s held on June 19 because that was the day in 1865 when Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Texas with his troops and declared an end to slavery in the state.
But by choosing to sing the ‘Black National Anthem’ during a major TV event to celebrate July 4, Vanessa Williams lit an incendiary social media fire fueled by those who claimed it was ‘divisive,’ ‘segregation’ and ‘racist’ to have any anthem other than ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, which was scheduled to be performed by Grammy-award winner Renée Fleming, played on Independence Day.
Now, I happen to think Juneteenth is an excellent idea, and ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ is a wonderful song.
But I could have also predicted the furor that would erupt if it was played on July 4 not June 19, because the Star Spangled Banner is, whatever Gwen Berry would have you believe, supposed to be for all Americans and not just those of a particular skin color.
Just as I could have predicted the reaction to a New York Times article about the American flag entitled ‘A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite.’
The paper tweeted a link to the piece saying: ‘Today, flying the American flag from the back of a pickup truck or over a lawn is increasingly seen as a clue, albeit an imperfect one, to a person’s political affiliation in a deeply divided nation.’
Then, in the most ridiculously inflammatory moment of all, National Geographic decided to tweet that July 4th fireworks are racist.
Scientists found that vulnerable people and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution from firework celebrations,’ it announced.
Why do that on July 4?
What possible purpose does such a dumb tweet do other to enrage a lot of Americans who are sick and tired of what they perceive to be everything now framed through the prism of race?
Sometimes the cry of ‘why does everything have to be about race?’ is used by racists to shut down legitimate debate and should be ignored.
But sometimes, as with racist fireworks, the desire to make something about race is so ridiculous that it will self-evidently only ferment anger and increase disunity.
All this comes at a time when the red-blue divide in the US has never seemed more toxic.
As CNN political analyst Brian Brownstein noted today: ‘While July Fourth is the holiday that most directly celebrates Americans’ common heritage, this year it comes as their extreme divides underscore how difficult it has become for any president to set a unified direction for the country. From vaccination rates to voting rights, from immigration policy to racial equity, blue and red states are hurtling in antithetical directions at staggering speed, even amid President Joe Biden’s persistent calls for greater national unity and his attempts to foster more bi-partisan agreement in Washington.’
Brownstein revealed that polling has shown the gap between voters from the two parties in their approval ratings for a newly elected president has steadily widened over recent decades and is now at an all-time high – with an ABC/Washington Post poll on Saturday showing that President Biden is now presiding over the largest ever gap with his approval rating among Democrats (at 94%) a staggering 86 points above his rating among Republicans (8%).
You don’t have to be a political expert to know that things have never been so partisan.
The Trump presidency and COVID pandemic has exacerbated decades of division to a degree that has now split up marriages, families and friendship groups.
Tribalism is driven by increasingly febrile and self-righteous social media mobs.
‘Americans are becoming so divisive,’ I saw someone tweet today, ‘that soon people will be arguing over whether it is better to crack an egg open in the middle or at the end.’
He’s right, they will.
Because it won’t be about the egg, it will be about who has expressed an opinion about the egg and what party they support.
Even face masks have become a symbol of red vs blue, Republican vs Democrat.
In Brownstein’s piece, he quoted political scientist Alan Abramowitz from Emory University who said: ‘One of the most important reasons why Democrats and Republicans intensely dislike each other is that they intensely disagree on a wide range of issues including the size and scope of the welfare state, abortion, gay and transgender rights, race relations, climate change, gun control and immigration.’
Of course, such disagreement is nothing new, but the way the disagreement is being expressed is new and more and more destructive to the principle of a United States of America.
Brownstein concludes: ‘The Declaration of Independence Americans that celebrated over the weekend begins with the confident assertion that it is “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.” Today, it is unclear what set of principles, if any, America’s fractious 50 states might agree on across the widening red-blue divide.
One person who would certainly agree with this is country music star Toby Keith who released a new song to coincide with July 4, entitled ‘Happy Birthday America (whatever’s left of it).’
It was a mournful lament to a United States that he says was ‘the greatest of them all’ but whose ‘days are numbered’.
And Keith, who has called himself a ‘conservative Democrat’ in the past, became an Independent in 2008, and has publicly backed both Republican and Democrat politicians including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is in no doubt what’s causing this malaise: ‘Seems like everybody’s pissin’ on the red, white and blue.’
He’s got a point about that.
It really does, doesn’t it?