Here in the U.S. we are observing our Independence Day. There are lots of flags, patriotic anthems, and fireworks. But honestly, even on a good day, I’m not terribly patriotic. As a professional historian, I know too much. Too much about our past, the atrocities, the violations, oppression, and indignities heaped upon too many. I know the lies and hypocrisy inherent in our founding values of life, liberty, and equality. In 2018, mustering any sense of national pride is almost impossible for me. I find the day’s glaring patriotism – in spite of the caged children, the looming destruction of civil and reproductive rights, the corruption, the obvious betrayals – deeply problematic.

As a professional historian, I also know there is more to the story. Survival, perseverance, triumph, creation of culture. As President Obama – someone who made me feel great pride in my country – has often noted, the work is yet unfinished. We’ve got the tools for something good, we just have to be willing to put in the hard work. We can use the stories and symbols of this day – of insurrection, of commitment, of battle – to inspire us to win the future and redefine what America will mean for our children. ALL of our children.

So this July 4th, I’m looking forward to enjoying the beautiful summer day with family, even if there is an underlying tension. The cards I drew today really seem to speak to this. When we turn our attention away from the dominant news cycle, we see progress, we see resistance. We see women rising, leaders of color rising. People mobilizing in unprecedented numbers. Good people standing up and fighting. But, of course, the battle will not be won easily. The opposition is committed. Forces stand in the way of our progress. This duality is real. We must keep going. We must look for the light where we can find it.

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