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EDITORIAL: With democracy at risk, wave the flag for an America worth fighting for

We’ll have to work a little harder on this Fourth of July.

It won’t be enough to eat hot dogs and barbeque. We can’t just wave the flag.

We’ll be thinking about more than where it’s best to see the fireworks.

More so than usual, we’ll do our best on this Fourth of July to remember and honor the principles our nation is celebrating. We’ll vow to hold fast to those cherished American values.

The easy gestures of patriotism — the parades and the flags — seem beside the point at time when our precious democracy, at 242 years old, is so at risk.

EDITORIAL

America is a deeply divided nation, led by a deeply divisive president. Poll after poll reveals that stark divide, and our social media feeds and cable TV news have been shouting the bad news all along.

Many of us couldn’t hold President Trump in lower regard, as an unfit and dishonest vulgarian with an un-American admiration for dictators and an alarming animosity toward our allies. Other Americans dismiss his autocratic instincts, shrug at his daily lies and bigotry and cling to a belief that his policies will “make America great again.”

Great, we have to ask, for whom?

Two-thirds of Americans believe our country is on the wrong track. No wonder, when Congress refuses to rein in Trump’s worst impulses, the Supreme Court is deeply divided, and Russia — led by Trump’s favorite dictator, Vladimir Putin — is no doubt plotting right this moment to again disrupt our elections.

We could go on, but so could you. We can only wish it were all “fake news.” 

All the better, then, to celebrate today the core principles that truly do make America great — freedom and fairness and equality, as well as a recognition of the intrinsic worth of every human being.

We’ll fly the flag for that, you bet.

Our nation has never fully lived up to those principles, no doubt; and we’re sure not doing so now. But there’s a reason immigrants from around the world still flock here, and it’s not for free handouts. 

Immigrants and refugees seek their future here because — even now — the United States is still seen as a beacon of liberty around the world, a place where bedrock values and rights ultimately triumph.

We should ponder these rights. We should understand the beating they’re taking. And we should do our part to save them. Consider:

  • Religious freedom. A crack opened in this First Amendment cornerstone when five conservative Supreme Court justices in June pretended not to see what everyone else, including four other justices, saw plain as day: President Trump’s travel ban, aimed at arrivals from Muslim countries, is driven by bigotry.
  • Voting rights. “One person, one vote” is how representative democracy functions. But Trump’s Republican Party is doing its darnedest to undermine that principle by suppressing the votes of African-Americans, Latinos and other Democratic-leaning groups. The Supreme Court has declined to prohibit the shameless gerrymandering of congressional districts, and it recently upheld an Ohio law that aggressively purges voters from the rolls.
  • A fair shake in the courts for all. The Fifth Amendment clearly states that “no person” should be “deprived of life, liberty or property” without due process, meaning a day in court. But Trump just doesn’t get this. He wants to hold immigrants indefinitely, and recently proclaimed on Twitter that we should just go ahead and deport them without bothering with courts or judges.
  • Equality under the law. The Trump administration has removed references to LGBTQ people from a number of government websites. It has attempted to ban transgender people from serving “in any capacity” in the military. Trump has loaded up his administration with aides who are openly hostile to gay rights, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And Trump has disbanded the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, which since 1995 had advised presidents on HIV/AIDS policy.

We are alarmed, as well we should be. But we also have great faith. A nation built on ideals of human rights and democracy, rather than on false notions of tribalism and nationalism, is not so easily taken down. Those ideals are enshrined in our Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and we should reread both before waving the flag. 

We hold this truth to be self-evident: The United States of America is bigger than these times.

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