Far between sundown’s finish
An’ midnights broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts
Struck shadows in the sound
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ every underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
– From “Chimes of Freedom,” Music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, performed by Warren Zevon
This weekend, the vast majority of the 74 million who voted for Donald Trump will cloak themselves in red, white and blue jingoism and pretend they give two shits about America, liberty, democracy, rights, equality or opportunity.
The reality, though, is that their patriotism is a tattered rag. No matter how brightly they dye their stars or stripes, their garments are threadbare. Anyone choosing to look beyond a mere glance will be able to see right through their thin veils of nationalistic fervor and rapturous recitations about rights and observe all those things they believe they’ve concealed — illiberalism, racial superiority, bastardized religion, resentment and fear. They are an existential threat to the chimes of freedom.
This year will mark the 245th time bells have tolled as the calendar has flipped to the fourth day of July since that fateful year when 56 flawed men signed a practically perfect declaration of the idea of liberty. In all the millennia of human civilization, the United States remains the only government ever established based on ideas. No matter how imperfect that government has been in word or deed, the spark they lit that day has allowed each generation to refine, evolve, and strive for a more perfect union. Forging these changes has always required the heat generated by the pressures and frictions of inequality and injustice.
July 4, 2021, will also mark the first Independence Day since those sitting at the very top of the American government led a deliberate and direct attack on the very constitutional government and freedoms to which they pay rote lip service. Last year’s celebration was memorable because the United States was still amid a lethal (and largely avoidable) pandemic while also roiling in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the ugly underbelly of systemic racism it exposed. We didn’t realize at the time it marked the end of a 244-year run.
Never again will we be able to point to the inevitable peaceful transition of power – no matter how deep our divisions have been — as an example of how exceptional the ideal of America is. That claim was erased forever by those very people who will most enthusiastically enjoy the explosions of fireworks and rockets this weekend. They’ll watch baseball and ingest their hotdogs and apple pie under the delusion that they love the country and its Constitution, believing without question they’re the guardians of liberty’s flame and freedom’s chimes.
The reality facing the United States, however, is that one major political party and its tens of millions of adherents is either actively involved in the subversion of that very Constitution and the rule of law, or they’re willing to stand idly by while their cohorts pervert the truth and lurch toward autocracy. The Republicans spout “liberty” but applied only to non-woke whites, not those who look differently or have competing ideologies.
They believe the might of the military and their idolatry of soldiers are the definition of patriotism. Yet they ardently cheer Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, Michael Flynn, and others who calculatingly sew division between the troops and their commanders to exploit the power of the armed forces for their dark objectives.
They zealously gibber about “fighting crime,” “law and order,” or “supporting the blue” – even celebrating lawless thuggery by police — to justify subjugation and brutality against fellow Americans. They yearn to wield the full force of the justice system to punish others but expect no consequences or legal accountability for themselves.
They distort the tenants of God and Christianity to justify suppressing anything that challenges their idyllic cultural fantasies. They apply salve to their consciences by attending church whether or not they listen to or understand the Gospels. What they really worship is their vanishing power. They will tolerate any means that stems change and preserves their ability to rule.
We didn’t escape the collapse of our democratic republic with the Jan. 6 insurrection. We merely avoided it happening that day. As we join our families, friends, and neighbors to celebrate July Fourth this year, let it serve as a stark reminder that the Republicans have spent every day since the attempted coup working to fulfill what they intended to achieve that day — autocratic rule. Never forget that though they are a distinct minority, they have the passionate support of tens of millions among us.
Let this Fourth of July renew the commitment of the majority of us in this country who oppose the Republican Party. There are more of us than there are of them. But it isn’t enough that we keep striving to realize the ideal of what America is supposed to be.
We must first recognize the malevolent intent of Donald Trump and his Republican minions and the existential threat they pose to our freedom. They are not just political opponents. They are foes of freedom, truth, democracy, the law and justice. They must not be accommodated, abided or underestimated. They are enemies who must be defeated — at the ballot box — in every year and in every race up and down the ticket.
If we fail to grasp the scope of the peril, we will be spending future Independence Days in forced observance and servility to the ruling few who will seize our liberty from us and silence the chimes of freedom forever.