Tomorrow is Independence Day. When I was a kid, I would mark the day by reading the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights to remind myself of what this country stands for (even if it doesn’t always live up to its own benchmark). This has been an extremely difficult week for those of us who know this nation can and must do better. That we do not stand for people who come here seeking asylum to be separated from their children and locked away, presumed not worthy without even hearing their stories–even after they pass their first “credible fear” interview.
But we cannot despair, we cannot mourn. We must lick our wounds and rise, not to revolution, but to be Americans to insist that people protest not with just their feet but at the ballot box. Because, in the end, that’s the ONLY way to change things. The damage will have been done to create a topsy-turvy country where Canada, the U.K., Germany and France–and the free press–are enemies, and North Korea and Russia are our new best friends.
The present administration is eating away at our republic from the inside, corroding it, twisting it, forever-changing its shape. But it can be undone. It can be stopped. But we must keep our eye on the ball, get up off the floor and make damn sure to do whatever we have to do to convince the body politic that this election in November is for the very soul of America. It will not do to sit it out because it’s a “mid-term.” It will not do suggest Trump-ism and the Democrats are moral equivalents–not this year. “A pox on both their houses,” cannot stand this year.
Tomorrow, July 4, 2018, is a day to express our patriotism. Be grateful for the Bill of Rights, and for a Constitution that insists on the separation of powers and checks and balances, even if it seems that right now checks and balances do not exist, and many rights are endangered.
Back in the day, when I was a high school kid in the very early ’70s, I wore a black armband in protest of the Vietnam War; I wore an American Flag pin upside down–the formal sign of distress. I joined an organization call
ed (I think) Americans Against the Crime of Silence. We cannot be silent. But shouting and joining in and going to protests is ineffective if not backed up with action, and by that, I mean at the voting booth.
But what’s the message? I think the best message is to pose a question to the American people. Who are we? Which kind of America do we want? What vision upholds the “ideals and free institutions” of America? The words on the base of the Statue of Liberty, the looming figure of Lincoln (a Republican in his day) at the far end of the Mall. This year, there is a stark choice in answer to those fundamental questions.
We cannot afford to fight amongst ourselves this time out. “Democrat” means something different in different parts of the U.S. In some districts, in some states, it means right smack dab in the center, and not the far right, alt right or nationalist right. (I’m talking to you West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, etc). Sometimes it means being a “liberal” or progressive, like here in Chicago.
What’s the goal? You might be surprised to hear that, for me, it’s not impeachment. Pence would be just as bad (if not just as insane). No. It means putting a real check on the actions of the autocrat-wannabe in the White House. We’ll deal with him (and Pence) in 2020. But for now, we’ve got to stop the bleeding. Put an end to the Pruitts and the White House excesses by actual oversight, a duty the ruling party had abrogated to the madman in the White House.
But there is only one way. As Joe Hill put it so long ago: “Don’t Mourn, Organize!”
Arundhati Roy's 'Azadi' is a collection of essays and speeches describing India's recent descent into totalitarianism that speaks to the heart and the mind.