Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
It was a strange 4th of July back in ’74, when it looked like Nixon was getting ready to get impeached. He resigned a few weeks later, so everyone felt like the system “worked” somehow and shook out the chaff in a way that made democracy stronger, even though one of the first things now-President Ford did was pardon Nixon of any crimes he might have been charged with.
Then I found it to be a strange 4th of July when I was in London in ’79, and my friend and I got off the Underground at Wimbledon while Jimmy Connors or Roscoe Tanner was playing there – not sure which. Americans were all over the place and there was some kind of buzz that McEnroe had done something strange even though he was already out of the tournament. I don’t think it was even true, but my friend and I got excited about being in the midst of something American and fun, in a foreign country. Björn Borg won the giant cup that year.
And it was a strange 4th of July in 2001, I thought, on the heels of the Supreme Court deciding who to give the presidency to. I wasn’t in a good frame of mind that year, and, of course, 9/11 was only two months away, though no one knew it. We were all worried about sharks.
But it’s the strangest of all Independence Days I can recall this year. Because democracy is on shaky ground. Because fundamental ideas about citizenship and its attendant rights are softening. Because a boorish brute occupies the Oval Office and shows every sign of wanting to trash the place. And because there is no sign yet of the political courage that will be needed to turn things around. This year it’s possible to imagine something happening that changes the whole game, an event that provides the tipping point that will excuse the undoing of all the progress made since the New Deal.
I hope not, and I hope that the small things that millions of us can do will make a difference. As in ’74, I’m hoping today that the system is built to work in spite of the cunning manipulations fashioned to undermine it. I’m hoping that enough of us believe in that to make it real.