Protesters face off against Baton Rouge’s heavily militarized police force following the shooting of Alton Sterling.
On the evening of July 27, 2004, during a steaming hot summer in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, the junior senator from Illinois took the stage at the Democratic Party’s national convention and delivered one of the most important speeches in modern political history. Though the convention’s focus was to anoint the hapless John Kerry as the party’s standard-bearer for what became a futile effort to boot President George W. Bush from the White House, the convention’s keynote speaker focused less on an uncertain present and more on a hopeful future.
That keynote speaker — future President Barack Obama — delivered an address squarely aimed at undermining the toxic national divisiveness that defined America during the Bush years. In perhaps the defining moment of his political career, Obama insisted that, “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.” Twelve years later, in the twilight of President Obama’s second term in the White House, some think that America is more divided than ever.
Americans like to believe that they’re a special people. Every waking hour in the U.S. of A., we try to spin new yarns into the gargantuan American mythology quilt, trying to add new patches that somehow reiterate the idea that America is a better place than anywhere else in the world. We’re the Land of the Free;™ the Home of The Brave.™ But the reality is that the United States of America is prone to many of the same vices that have characterized humanity for centuries, especially violence. If you want evidence of this, you need look no further than the blood-consecrated national death cult that is American gun culture.
A monument to Union soldiers from Iowa at Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi. Nothing is more patriotic than making sure that death for country is a last and necessary resort.
The Fourth of July holiday weekend is here, and, in keeping with tradition, Americans will be observing the founding of their nation as only they can: by searing woolly mammoth flanks (on sale at Walmart) on their Realtree-decaled, 124 propane tanked, patio grill to commemorate the time Chuck Norris, a laser cannon-armed cyborg George Washington, and a velociraptor-mounted, open-carrying, tax-cutting Jesus teamed up to win American independence from the overbearing colonial clutches of the gay-communist-British-liberal-anti-freedom zombies.
The Fourth of July is the official holiday for American patriotism, and Americans are a very patriotic people. But in the spirit of Independence Day, it’s worth examining what we mean when we celebrate “patriotism.”
In 21st century America, meet the new “neighborhood” town center.
Few institutions represent the bloated, socially stratified, natural-environment-degrading, corporation-worshipping, beached on a mile-wide parking-lot corpse that is 21st-century America better than Walmart. The voracious Aspidochelone from Arkansas is not only the current twentieth most valuable brand on Earth, it’s also the largest employer in America, providing dynamic, food-stamp-assisted careers to some 1.3 million people. Unless you’ve been living under a boulder shamelessly draped with the American flag, you know that Walmart has for years been the subject of controversy. For some, it represents the essence of American freedom, to others, it’s the ultimate symbol of the ethically challenged, cheapness-obsessed, soul-degrading state of modern capitalism.
South Carolina resident Luis Lang is the classic example of the perils of taking ideology too far.
Few things in this world are more dangerous than the true believer. If you’re thoroughly convinced that the world should be ordered in accordance with your predetermined ideology, then reality can slap you until your mug is redder than a beefsteak tomato at Uncle Bernie’s Memorial Day cookout and you still won’t change your mind. But every once in a while, the true believer is faced with the ultimate test of his belief: believe or die, or at least believe or get horribly maimed. In some of these instances, the true believer must open his maw wide and swallow that quarter-inch-wide, grainy pill known as pride without so much as a sip of water until that pill tumbles down his gullet and activates his gut’s underutilized reality-check nerve.