On Independence Day, believe in America

On
its 244th birthday, America is in bad shape.

Millions are without work in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Rather than petering out, the coronavirus is resurging with a vengeance. America is not leading the world to face the crisis of the moment. Faith in our nation among the American people is at a low. The conservative entertainment establishment and some GOP elected leaders, including President Trump, have turned a simple and effective public health measure — wearing masks — into yet another battlefield in the partisan culture war. America is reckoning with long-standing racial injustice. Liberal values — including tolerance of diverse points of view and engagement with those with whom you disagree — are threatened by cancel culture and Twitter mobs. The president of the United States too often does not seem to understand the liberal values, norms, and institutions that are the foundation of our system of government. The American people seem to have trouble acting to serve the common good.

But
this Independence Day, remember that America has a remarkable capacity for
self-renewal — an amazing ability to reinvent itself. The seeds of that renewal
are present in the depths of this awful moment.

A U.S. flag hangs on a home for the Independence Day holiday in the U.S., in the Merrymount neighborhood which urged its residents to decorate their homes to make up for Fourth of July events cancelled because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S., July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

White Americans are being made to understand better that far too many black Americans live in fear of excessive brutality and unjust treatment by the police. This better understanding will improve the lives of black Americans. It is raising the consciousness of white Americans. It will make America a better, stronger nation.

The
president’s illiberal tendencies are being rejected by key institutions, and in
the process that rejection is elevating the importance of America’s basic,
foundational values and norms. Protests continue, despite Mr. Trump’s efforts
to stop them. The press does its vital work despite the president’s attacks.
The military pushed back against the president’s attempt to politicize it.

The
president’s handling of the coronavirus is hurting his standing among seniors.
The understanding that competent executive leadership is vitally important is
reasserting itself precisely because of Mr. Trump’s failure to effectively
address the virus.

Those
who have lost their lives or loved ones to the coronavirus have suffered an
incalculable loss. But for the nation as a whole, this terrible moment will
pass. The ingenuity and skill of pharmaceutical companies and scientists will
lead to therapies or a vaccine. Confidence and faith in our ability to meet
this challenge will improve.

The
cultural pendulum has swung too far on both the right and the left. Resistance
to masks is absurd and dangerous. Canceling those who disagree with you and
reducing George Washington to a racist slaveholder is absurd and dangerous.
Many Americans watch all this and scratch their heads. When these excesses are
corrected, the danger of partisan conservative media and the illiberalism of
the progressive left will both be front of mind, which will make America better
by strengthening both common sense and our commitment to basic liberal values.

I
don’t mean to suggest that the current challenges we face won’t be with us for
some time or that utopia is just around the corner. They will, and it isn’t.
Recovery from the Pandemic Recession will be long and painful. Progress on
racial injustice and police brutality will be slow and often disappointing. The
virus will lead to a difficult fall and winter.

But
national renewal is possible — indeed, it has already begun. That should
inspire faith and confidence. It should inspire all of us to act for the common
good.

“We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these
are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This sentence has set millions of hearts on fire across nations and centuries. It will continue to do so. And the United States is still leading the world in advancing these self-evident truths. Our work making these truths fully manifest in our own nation is unfinished. It always will be. Progress is halting, and can go backwards. But the distance between America’s ideals and reality can be decreased. Seasons of renewal often follow our darkest moments.

As
citizens, we have a shared responsibility to renew our nation and our
commitment to our founding ideals. Don’t doubt that we can rise to meet these
challenges — together.

This Fourth of July, believe in America.