Spirit of '76 | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

Spirit of '76 

Taking a Gander: How Many More 4th of July celebrations are there?

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Nearly 250 years ago, our country took the bravest of steps—declaring its independence from the British Empire.

Every year, Americans celebrate by watching fireworks on the 4th of July. The "rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air" are exciting, visual reminders of that fight for independence, and they provide pause for considering the suffering and human toll that secured our country's freedom.

High above the festivities, there she is: "I thrill to see Old Glory paint the breeze." What real American doesn't get goosebumps when there's a flag flying in the wind. It is something as essential and emotionally powerful as motherhood and apple pie.

America just celebrated its favorite holiday, but I'm not sure there were as many joyous revelers as there had been in the past. My guess is that there were more than a few Americans—just like me—who stopped to question the security of our democracy, or who asked themselves the question, "What does our flag really stand for?"

I don't know about you, but I don't worship a flag. And when it comes to allegiance, mine is only to those principles that have made America great—not to a piece of red-white-and blue fabric. There's no question the 4th should be joyful. But this year, there are too many patriotic Americans cringing at the thought of where our country is headed.

After some of our country's roughest years—enduring a world pandemic, suffering the let-down of a corrupted SCOTUS, facing the reality of Putin's megalomania, staggering under some of the worst inflation in our history and dealing with the sad, lingering reality of a traitorous chief executive—the tint of our rose-colored glasses has paled a bit. America doesn't look the same.

Even the most optimistic citizens are suffering dismay, wondering if the greatness of our U.S.A will continue indefinitely—or if, like a soggy firework, it may merely fizzle into the trash heap of great civilizations.

The flag is such a powerful icon. For millions of Americans, it is—just as it was 246 years ago—a symbol of satisfaction and pride. I'm assuming that most citizens get that tingling euphoria each time they see our flag, boldly waving at the top of a pole. In fact, I'd have to describe the feeling inspired by the waving of the American flag as being much akin to the swooning of a lover. It can literally take my breath away.

As a journalist, I'm always trying to find ways to inject a little snark and humor. That's half the fun of writing opinion columns. Fortunately, that's been fairly easy in the past, but what's happening in today's America doesn't exactly make me chuckle. The reality is, it's no laughing matter.

While the ridiculous ex-Embarrassment-in-Chief occupied the throne, his only real claim to celebrity status was—and still is—that he's so incredibly outrageous in every respect. Trump's antics, madness and lies were an endless windfall for columnists. During his White House stay, there was rarely a day when he deprived writers of something outlandish, sensational or just plain stupid to cover.

Now, you'd think that the glaring confrontation with fact would diminish Trump's enthusiasm, but he still seems incapable of the act of concession. And despite the monumental weight of his failure, he's somehow managed to keep the shitshow coming. Bill Maher recently pointed out on one of his weekly TV monologues that, to wit, "Trump's gone, but his awfulness lingers on—he's a fart with bad hair."

Well, farts and their lingering smells are unpleasant, but they're not life-threatening. A little air freshener and, presto! Everything smells lovely again. But keep in mind, that's only the way it's supposed to work.

Instead, the stubborn evil of Trumpism seems to go beyond the expected. It's kind of like a scene from The Exorcist, when the priest is endangered by the power of evil. The Trump exorcism—despite the January 6 Commission and the pronouncements of the courts—is still incomplete. Sometimes, demons just dig-in their heels and refuse to leave.

It has become obvious—the smell isn't dissipating. The disaster of the Trump White House has never really ended. In "The Donald's" own sick mind, he's still POTUS. He's desperately clinging to that delusion and, like Charlton Heston's six-shooter, he holds a death-grip on his failing power.

Defeated? Yes, but he's still very much front-and-center in his one-man quest to topple our democracy. His kingdom should have ended with the tally of the 2020 votes, but we all know that story. It's the biggest lie in the history of our country.

The specter of repeating the mistake of 2016 is very much alive, and the fallout from Trump's presidency continues to plague America's greatest institutions. Remember, he hopelessly imbalanced the Supreme Court, packed federal courts with his cronies, added inches to the waistbands of America's fat cats, and dissolved the mandatory separation between the so-called Christians and the state.

It is time for Americans to show the spirit of '76. Trump's daunting, unofficial power cannot be allowed to continue. If it doesn't stop, we may not be celebrating the 4th of July much longer.

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist, and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He lives in Riverton, Utah with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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