By: Lisa M. Hayes – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
On June 19, otherwise known as Juneteenth, there is a celebration of the end of slavery. The roots of this “holiday” are tied to the long struggle for emancipation in the state of Texas. However, over the years this day has grown into a more powerful representation of the fight for civil rights in the U.S.
This year on June 19 while articles about Juneteenth were lighting up my Facebook feed, another story shot to the top of the news feed without warning. CNN alerts started pinging my phone. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to celebrate the victories of the civil rights movement when we have a President who is very cozy with openly racist and vocal Alt-Right asshats.
However, when my news feed shifted from civil rights to human rights I was surprisingly caught even more off guard. While it might have been predictable, it was jarring to see the headlines announcing the U.S. was pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights Council. It was a moment that kind of took my breath away.
We have left the United Nations Human Rights Council.
How does that even happen?
An attorney friend of mine has reminded me more than once that our democracy is still very young by historical standards and by its age alone is still experimental. Not long after the 2016 election when everyone was talking about “saving our democracy” I had a sinking feeling that ship had sailed and I wondered what we’d be willing to do to get something back we’d already lost.
While I recognize that a substantive percentage of Americans are still celebrating a Trump Presidency, I stand resolute in my determination that he is not my President. As Donald Trump erases my values from the map of our history, I believe his presidency will go into the history books as illegitimate. Our forefathers couldn’t have predicted this level of tyranny, divisiveness, and hatred.
Yes, they tried to build in checks and balances. However, those checks and balances are failing. I always believed the courts would stop our descent into a dictatorship. However, with the recent announcement that Justice Kennedy is retiring and the High court’s rulings on immigration, I’m less optimistic about that.
Under this administration, the U.S. has left the Paris Accord, the Iran Anti-nuclear deal, the U.N. Human rights council, and has taken an oppositional attitude with the G7. We are courting dictators who abuse human rights around the globe. We are remaking the list of allies we support and by default alienating nations who’ve stood by us for decades.
We are placating Russia and Putin at every turn and there is little vail of mystery as to why. This presidency was bought and paid for by a hostile foreign power. Although the fruit of the Mueller investigation is not yet fully revealed the number of indictments, plea deals, and prosecutions leaves little to the imagination when trying to piece together what that plot looks like.
The special council investigation is not the witch hunt the Republicans want to sell it as. It is the reverse engineering of the largest organized crime conspiracy in human history. Our electorate was undermined on multiple fronts. “Free and fair” elections, the hallmark of U.S. foreign policy, now looks like a marginalized sham for us, and frankly for other countries where Russia has meddled.
The comparisons between the United States in 2018 to the run-up to Nazi Germany are being made so often that they’ve lost the edge of horror they once had. I firmly believe once you normalize seeing children in cages that look like dog kennels, anything goes. And we all saw those photos. What’s even more shocking about that is how many American’s defended the President’s policy that put those kids there.
My father is the greatest of the greatest generation. He fought bravely in WWII. That may very well have been the last truly righteous war we took on as a nation. I was raised to be patriotic, so proud to be an American because we were the “greatest nation on earth”. Growing up, I often teared up hearing a national anthem I will no longer even stand up for because I stand resolutely behind those who have chosen to take a knee.
The sweet and familiar sentiment of patriotism for all of its pomp and circumstance doesn’t feel the same to me anymore. The lines between patriotism and blind nationalism seem very blurry. As I sit here today, I am sad to admit, but not afraid to say, I am not proud to be an American.
I will not stand proudly pretending any of this is ok.
We wondered, right? We wondered how good people sat silently while Adolph Hitler marched Jews into furnaces and tried to reshape the human race with a master race. We wondered how an entire nation could fall in line behind evil. And now we know that evil grows strong roots in silence when power goes wrong.
Our great nation has gone to war to stop the kind of atrocities the U.S. is now blindly supporting or even committing. As the greatest generation is dying off, our ideals as a nation are being rewritten. I routinely find myself in a state of shock at how quickly it all disappeared. I don’t think it’s melodramatic to say the man in the White House wants to be a dictator. By his own words, he’s more or less admitted that and he may be living his wish right under our noses.
I am afraid for people of color.
I am afraid for immigrants and children of immigrants who were born here.
I am afraid for journalists and organizers who speak out against the Trump regime.
I am afraid for my children and I mourne for the loss of what I thought their futures would be.
And maybe it’s a mood. Maybe I’m feeling unusually dark and disturbed and that feeling will pass, but I don’t think so. I am not in the mood to fane patriotism and celebrate the Fourth of July. I just will not do it. I’m not going to stand under the shimmering fanfare of fireworks listening to some rendition of “Proud To Be An American Because At Least I know I’m Free” when I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly true.
When I explained to my child that we would not be pretending to celebrate this year, he didn’t even argue. I am both relieved and sad that he didn’t even try to make a case for fireworks.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to celebrate a holiday based on a history that has separated children from parents from the inception of our nation and has thousands in custody now that will not be returned to their parents.
I don’t think it’s wise to dedicate a red, white, and blue barbeque to a commercialized notion of God and country when by doing so we’re continuing to sell the illusion that holds this hostile takeover together.
So, as we’re facing down Independence Day wondering how we’re going to get our independence back, maybe the first step is to stop pretending everything is just fine when things are not. Pretending is exactly what they want us to do because if things look like they always have maybe we’re fine enough not to want to demand our democracy back.
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Lisa M. Hayes, Senior Editor of Confluence Daily.
Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.