Why We Can’t Have a Nice Independence Day

John Adams, his husband, wrote to Abigail on July 3, 1776 just after the Second Continental Congress had approved the Declaration of Independence. “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States,” Adams wrote. “Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. The End is worth more than all of the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

This trust proved to be justified at the time, and it has been justified ever since. America has provided an unparalleled, unmatched boon for humanity. It’s the largest country in history. It is the most powerful country in world history, having liberated millions of people all over the globe and raised billions of dollars from poverty.

It seems like it is falling apart.

On July 4, National Public Radio abandoned its traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence in favor of a discussion of “equality.” Paul Waldman of The Washington Post wrote that it was time to “declare our independence from the Founding Fathers,” explaining that the “America of 1789 becomes a prison the conservative justices (of the Supreme Court) can lock us all in whenever it suits them.” The Associated Press observed, in the aftermath of another mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, “A shooting that left at least six people dead at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb rattled Monday’s celebrations across the U.S. and further rocked a country already awash in turmoil over high court rulings on abortion and guns as well as hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection.”

Gallup also reported that the July 4 poll was the most recent to show Americans being extremely proud of their country. The breakdown of this number shows how partisan it is: 58% of Republicans claim they are proud to call themselves Americans, and only 26% of Democrats say the same. This gap has remained constant over time. However, this gap has decreased for all parties — Independents and Democrats.

This is due to the fact that we do not share an American vision. It seems from the Right that the founding principles for the country, such as those in the Declaration or Constitution are being attacked; pride in America has dropped, in particular since 2019. The founding principles are what is at fault. Left-leaning politicians have been urging the abandonment of these principles, which has led to a decline in American pride. This has occurred especially since 2019.

This results in the constant polarization on nearly all issues. Individual maladies are not indicative of deeper philosophical cancers in communities that share a set of values. However, for heterogeneous communities, each malady is a result cancerous divisions growing and manifesting. Therefore, each mass shooting is a referendum about American politics, and not a conversation about how best to address them. Every Supreme Court decision becomes an opportunity to debate whether America should abolish all institutions, or reinforce them.

These circumstances make America look more like an Articles of Confederation nation, which is a loose coalition of states that have little in common other than the preservation of open conflict. America doesn’t seem like a country governed under a shared philosophy. The Fourth of July is going to be less relevant in the public sphere. What exactly do we celebrate if there is little to no shared?

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