Fourth of July

Today, the fourth of July is an apt occasion to express more of my mixed feelings about the United States. These passive-aggressive emotions are not exactly subsiding, either. On the one hand, I still love taking part in the country’s cultural and geographical multitudinous. As far as I’ve experienced, only India and China can muster nearly as much width and breadth. On the other hand, I loathe that so little effort is put into addressing many of the nation’s most pertinent societal problems.

The chronic incapability (or, unwillingness) to change and evolve is both sad and pathetic. 

There is plenty of evidence to support the theory that “The American Empire” is coming to an end after a relatively long and at least partially successful run. It’s probably time for China and what could possibly be a very slippery slope downhill for democracy as we know it. I don’t think the dispassionate Chinese leaders are focused on political conversion or force-feeding their flavor of communism to the rest of the world. No, it’s time again for some classic colonialism; securing financially significant (and potential military) outposts around the world at any cost and any means. Much like the US has been busy doing for about 100 years or so. Same game, different player.

There’s no doubt that there’s been a great deal of impactful and historically noteworthy milestones for the US to celebrate along its bumpy timeline. But I don’t think the country’s version of capitalism has scaled very well. The population has grown way beyond what the system was originally designed to manage sustainably. It’s not yet completely defunct, but clearly not firing on all cylinders any longer.

Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I still think the EU has achieved much more cohesiveness within the union and helped several member nations begin evolving out of poverty in less time than the combined tenure of the last three US presidents. PM Boris has been inspired/hypnotized by the current populist movement sweeping acrosst the world and only time will tell how the UK fares without the EU and vice-versa.

Today, much of the US fabric I grew up under is slowly unraveling. If you can’t see it, nevermind accept it, you probably also feel a dose of indignation when anything critical about the US is brought to your attention. Or, you can’t see beyond political boundaries and subscribe to the notion that all that is wrong is the other party’s fault. But even so, there’s no denying that there are way too many disenfranchised Americans who will ever see their lives improve in any measurable way – and far too many well-to-do folks perfectly fine with the others dire outlook. They don’t see how or why it’s their problem. Which is a very scary attitude and one that Trump constantly propogates.

Words like solidarity, humanism, and compassion have effectively been deleted from much of the American lexicon. Increasingly, flag-waving, gun-totting patriotism has become the norm and a way of life for tens of millions of Americans. If you’re not part of that movement, you’re pretty much defined as a communist or even a potential terrorist.

It makes me sick to think about how un-nuanced and divisive the public discourse is nowadays. That the intellect of so many has over time been collectively inculcated by the oversimplification of complex societal challenges, including police brutality, economic injustice, racism, and political divisiveness is frightening. These still unaddressed challenges have proved to be similar to viruses – but much, much harder to beat than say, COVID-19.

I think most Trump supporters are simply tired of having to think independently. In a land perversely obsessed with being entertained and saturating life with all forms of consumption, it’s obviously much easier to just fall in line, put on a MAGA hat, wave the Stars and Stripes frantically and yell aggressive slogans until it’s time to go home and turn on Fox News for the latest serving of propaganda.

The fall will undoubtedly be interesting. Like most sensible people, I’m hoping DJT gets voted out of office. Should you sign a confession stating you admit to being a degenerate if you think he should stay put for another term? Yeah. Definitely.

Pretty sure Joe Biden isn’t really up for the task. Jeez, the dude’s going to be 80 before his first term is over. But as long as his running mate is at least a little younger (and considerably more coherent), I’m ok with anybody that replaces the sitting regime’s unbridled, relentless kleptocrat.

Man, I still can’t wrap my head around how so many people voted and will continue to vote for Trump. Then again, in 1932, close to 14 million Germans voted for the Nazi Party. It’s clear to me that it isn’t beyond Trump to use similar propagandistic tactics to ensure his reelection in November. I believe he’s even capable of starting a war just to distract the nation and secure a new term.

Speaking of the man with short, stubby fingers, I got a letter from the White House yesterday. It had fallen face down and the envelope’s whiteness almost camouflaged it against the bottom of the mailbox. Dated May 1st, it contained information related to a $1200 check that I was supposed to have already received but that has yet to show up. With the headline “Your Economic Payment Impact Check Has Arrived”, the letter kicked off a harangue of propagandistic platitudes I don’t want to waste space repeating here. The gist of it was likely taken from the first few pages of the “Authoritarian’s Handbook”.

Though $1200 would certainly be most welcome, I don’t understand why I received the letter in the first place. I’ve not resided in the US permanently since 1978 and thanks to the double taxation agreement between Sweden and the US (and because I’m way under the income threshold where double taxation is unavoidable), I don’t pay income tax to the Internal Revenue Service – I only have to file an income return form. Like most Swedes, I already pay way too much tax to the Swedish government. Way too much.

So today’s questions are:
• how can I possibly be eligible for the Economic Payment Impact Check?
• Is it really just by virtue of being a US citizen?
• How did the White House find me? Through the US Embassy in Stockholm?
• Is the check an ill-hidden attempt to get me to use my right to vote and pick Trump this fall?

History’s packed with politicians paying money for votes. Would it be beneath Trump to try something like this? I realize that the bill preceding the check was passed with bipartisan support and probably helped millions of Americans for a week, possibly two. But what about afterward? In a country with a fragmented, largely dysfunctional healthcare system and where the cost of living, at least in major cities, makes it challenging to survive even under normal circumstances, how effectively did $1200 cushion people’s lives?

I’m pretty sure the check serves multiple purposes. It shows that Trump could actually get a bipartisan bill passed in a timely fashion. The check is also yet another example of Trump’s use of misdirection. It temporarily veiled the media’s investigation of how late the White House responded to clear indications about the spread of the virus and the president’s well-documented downplaying of its impact.

As a child, I looked forward to celebrating the fourth of July. The picnics, all the flags and if I was at West Hollywood Park with its nearby fire station, there might even be fireworks galore. But I don’t think I really understood what we were celebrating. In a nation made up of both voluntary and forced immigrants from all over the world, the connection to the revolutionary war against the English some 200 years earlier, the unification of a string of loosely connected colonies and their independence from Great Britain, probably seemed as old as the dinosaurs to the younger me. My friends came from all kinds of exotic countries, so I suppose I just couldn’t relate to the historic symbolism the fourth of July represented. Today, I feel a little disgusted and worried whenever I see people expressing patriotism, regardless of country. I get that it can be innocent and harmless. But still…

I think the nostalgic, glorified fixation of its own history is a crucial part of what’s holding America back from taking charge of its future. That and a shitload of people that hate change.

The shot is from a junkyard exhibit of some kind in Tonopah Station in Nevada – straight across the border from Yosemite National Park in California.