On our nation’s birthday, I openly pledge my intention to engage in an enduring fight for the ideals that our country was founded on, in support of future generations of Americans.
As was the case for many Americans, the election of Donald J Trump transformed my understanding of this country. I was brought up in a family that proudly waved the flag, and knew the words to every patriotic song. As a young boy, my heart swelled with pride for my country every fourth of July as the Austin Symphony masterfully played the 1812 Overture and Texas-sized fireworks exploded overhead. In school, I dutifully and earnestly recited the Pledge of Allegiance with my hand over my heart every morning after the bell rang. Mine was – by the way – a SOLID blue household.
Of course, as a young person, it is much easier to have unqualified pride in something so complicated as a country. But even at that young age it wasn’t the flag itself, our military or the President that served as the focus of my pride. Mine was not a puffed-up patriotism of Blue Angel flyovers, but a pride in our national progress – the continuous, though lurching, forward momentum that was made possible by the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. America was equality. America was liberty. America was justice. America was truth. My heroes were Lincoln, FDR, Susan B. Anthony & Martin Luther King, Jr. That hasn’t really changed.
Over time, obviously, my purely positive conception of America was challenged, and my fervor was dampened as I learned about the darker passages of the American story. And there are plenty of them. But dark passages always seemed to lead – in a very general sense – to redemption: events that ultimately stood in contradiction to our ideals were rectified in some way, resulting in relative social and political progress.
I witnessed this in real-time as a young adult. After marching against the unjust Iraq war and the Bush Administration’s grotesque policy on torture, which stood in direct contrast to our founding ideals, along came Barack Obama. Though he was by no means a perfect President, his presidency itself reinforced what had become a strong belief in me: that America was on course toward an ever-purer manifestation of justice and equality. Regression, to the extent it happened, was temporary – and even necessary – to spur the next iteration of progress. My understanding of America was “two steps forward, one step back”.
This belief was, as it happens, delusion. And the presidency of Donald Trump has shattered it. I now humbly admit and take responsibility for the fact that – although I was previously a fairly knowledgeable citizen who voted – I took very little ownership over my part in ensuring that tomorrow’s America would be better for my fellow citizens, our children and our grandchildren.
The fact is, America can devolve. Demagoguery, disinformation & propaganda are extremely powerful – powerful enough to re-chart America’s progressive course.
This unusual combination of internal conditions – my deep and lasting sense of boyhood patriotism, my desire for progress and social justice, and my alert state following the pure shock of the Trump presidency – has awoken in me a fierceness and passion that I had not expected, though I do take pride in it.
I actually love America more deeply now than ever before. Maybe it’s because all the cards are on the table: America’s vulnerabilities are more obvious than they’ve ever been. She is lumbering and imperfect. And wounded. I cannot and will not stand by while America dies. Though I’m basically a nobody – just your everyday American – I promise to do what I can to help save her now, nurse her back to health, and ensure she thrives into the future. May all of her future birthdays be brighter than this one.
Though the path ahead for the nation is fraught and complicated, I hereby pledge my allegiance to the America of tomorrow – an America I now realize is no foregone conclusion, and one we have to actively pursue together with intent and determination.
This is no hobby for me. This will be my focus moving forward. Join me?
PS – America’s path to recovery and health runs straight through the 2018 election. Please go to our November Democrats page, find a swing district candidate you aren’t familiar with, and find ways to support them.