The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. For one thing, it occurs right after my birthday, and I might secretly still believe what I was told as a little kid — that the fireworks are for me.
My love of fireworks aside, the Fourth is not tied to any religious observance except the amorphous religion of patriotism, justice, and freedom. What those words mean in America, and to whom they apply, has constantly evolved over the course of the 244 year American experiment. My belief, my constant hope, is that the arc of history, aided and abetted by good people, bends towards justice.
But if you share the same principles I do it can be hard, upon waking up each morning, to face our present world with optimism. For the past few years, and particularly since the start of our most recent (pandemic) nightmare, America has felt darker and further off course than ever.
It is hard to be optimistic, but it is important to see hopeful signs.
While the current occupant of the White House stokes the flames of racial animus, millions of Americans marching for justice and equality presage a shifting tide.
While perverted national institutions reject science and good policy, state and local leaders try, valiantly if imperfectly, to keep their citizens safe in the face of an unprecedented health crisis.
While a minority party with fascist impulses has erected nearly insurmountable barriers to voting access in their quest to maintain power, an energized opposition has the glimmer of a path to retaking the halls of government and reinstituting democratic norms.
On the climate — well. I don’t know. I’ll keep looking for hopeful signs there.
And even as the world may be burning, I have immense gratitude for the many people and circumstances that make my own life a good one.
In just a few short years I have completely rebuilt my life.
I have a good job where I can work as a leader to make a positive impact through engaging work. I met and married an incredible life partner who makes me a better person and brings me joy every day. I am happily settled into a wonderful new home in a safe neighborhood. I have adorable animals whose antics bring me joy.
I have a yard, a hammock, a vegetable garden, and, currently, some amazingly juice heirloom tomatoes. I am building a new woodworking shop, and am excited about all the fun projects I have planned. I am financially secure in a time when financial security is sometimes hard to come by. I have far-flung friends who I care about and who care about me. And I even have an awesome new toy, a spaceship cleverly disguised as a battery-powered four-wheeled driving conveyance.
Some days it is hard to get out of bed. Some nights I am up for hours just worrying about where this will all end. But in so many important ways, my life is good. And I need to recognize that more, and be grateful for it.