America’s democratic experiment, though bruised and struggling, continues and deserves to be celebrated — especially amidst the grave political divisions and growing despair of the present.
This stark reality makes for a rather gloomy Independence Day celebration for the millions of true believers in democracy who — despite the GOP’s fervent efforts — remain hopeful for an expansive interpretation of the Founders’ dreams. The denial of women’s citizenship rights in particular fits within a larger assault on historically marginalized groups that has become so prevalent within our body politic.
In this difficult moment for our democracy, this Independence Day is a moment to remind ourselves of that interconnected reality, and embrace its power.
This Fourth of July demands that we remember who we were and who we are, but also ask difficult questions about what kind of country we aspire to be. Do we trust ourselves enough to openly teach, discuss and debate the hard parts of American history with our children and future generations, or do we move toward an insularity defined by uncritical thinking that cheapens that very history?
Should we expand the right to vote or restrict access, rendering our country less democratic and a perpetual political tinderbox? Can we extend citizenship to all women by not only restoring Roe but safeguarding against other ongoing assaults on women’s rights and dignity?
Is the story of January 6 an important chapter in the continuing saga of American democracy or will it be the nation’s epitaph — the beginning of an end that could have been avoided if we exhibited more faith in not only our founders but in each other?
At the heart of Independence Day commemorations have always been questions about who we are as Americans. The newly recognized Juneteenth holiday adds an important and unifying historical layer to this narrative; one that finally acknowledges slavery’s crucial role in the creation and transformation of the American republic.
Four short years from now America turn 250. We still have time to turn that day into a symbol of national renewal instead of anger and division. Getting there will depend on the efforts of those who believe in multiracial, gender-equitable democracy to organize, teach, listen and learn. After all, at its best, the grandeur of the American experiment is that we, collectively, get to decide for ourselves who we are going to be.