On the Fourth of July, Sonoma joined the rest of America celebrating the Declaration of Independence, and, by extension, Democracy. We had our traditional and charming small town parade, and friends and family will gather to picnic, barbecue, and enjoy the benefits of freedom.
But we couldn’t help but think of the ways in which American democracy, and democracy throughout the world, is under assault. Humanity once again seems caught up in another terrible episode filled with fear, scapegoating and inclinations to using strong-arm tactics to solve its problems. The big surprise, for many of us in California and Sonoma County, is that it’s happening right here in America.
The latest uprising against separating immigrant children from their families seeking asylum when crossing our border has been quickly followed by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding the Trump administration’s travel ban–a ban clearly designed primarily to discriminate against Muslims from particular countries. Another SCOTUS decision upholding the right of Texas to gerrymander election districts, clearly done in order to limit the voting power of Latinos, is yet another assault on democracy. We find this troubling, and in addition, Congress seems unwilling to do anything to prevent it.
Here in Sonoma Valley, the impact of ICE has been less severe; from the Governor on down to our local Sheriff’s Department, state and local government have been supportive of the rights of undocumented immigrants, the people who do much of the hard and necessary work that keeps California’s economy running and healthy. However, the fear in the immigrant community has been greatly heightened, and for good reason. ICE is a federal agency, and can pretty much do as it pleases.
Overall, people on both sides of the hot political issues are sounding more extreme. Social media reinforces this tendency by facilitating the gathering of like-minded folks, and tolerating the treatment of others in ways that were heretofore unacceptable. Bullying and threats of violence are now common; in general, adherence to The Golden Rule is disappearing, and with it the fabric of our democratic society.
Some Americans have always been lucky–lucky to have been born white, male and rich. Yet it is within this group, primarily, that many of the worst offenses against democracy are arising. As ethnic minorities, women and others have progressively sought and attained greater freedom, white males have progressively become more resentful and angry. The crude and insulting language passing the lips of the President of the United States is something most of us with families would not want our children to repeat. Politically, a growing cascade of blaming “others” for America’s problems is replacing thoughtful consideration of the pressing issues we face. It’s worrisome and distressing to watch our country be torn apart at the seams and its citizens turned against each other over by hatred, resentment and bigotry. We all know about the violence and genocidal policies in America’s past, but here? Now?
Frankly, we didn’t feel much like celebrating this 4th of July. Perhaps this year a silent parade would have been in order, one during which the bands were quiet, the crowds subdued and there were no political speeches at all–just moments of reflection.