Torn on the 4th of July: America, where are we now?

“I’m afraid of Americans

I’m afraid of the world

I’m afraid I can’t help it”

— David Bowie, I’m Afraid Of Americans (1995)

As it’s the fourth of July, a timely reminder of the fight for independence and liberty not just from colonial powers but the right to live our lives the way we want to, free from discrimination based on colour, gender, sexual orientation or taste in music.

On the 10th of December 1948, when my mother was a mere sapling of two days old, the United Nations General Assembly in New York City proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a revolutionary document that recognised the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”

Since then, we have seen the civil rights movement in the USA, second-wave feminism which fought for equal rights for women, and the end of the vile apartheid in South Africa.

And then, while I was visiting my sister and her wife in Canada, 469 miles away the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made a momentous announcement: that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution will now require every state of America to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples when requested.

The date the news was announced was brilliantly timed and heavy with emotional resonance: a coincidence not in the slightest, 26 June 2015 was the anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, and the kicking off of a long battle for LGBT equality not just in the USA but for the colours of the world. Visibility was key…..if the gay community is invisible then we don’t exist. If we don’t exist then we don’t need civil rights protection.

The move to equalisation, aided and encouraged in no small part by the current president Barack Obama, who lest we forget, was a rather late convert to the cause but thanks to persistent lobbying by his then VP, one Joe Biden, realised sooner or later he needed to be on the right side of history before he left office. 

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden following the announcement of the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Obama gave a powerful speech to the American people.

“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle — that we are all created equal. This ruling is a victory for Jim Obergefell and the other plaintiffs in the case. It’s a victory for gay and lesbian couples who have fought so long for their basic civil rights. It’s a victory for their children, whose families will now be recognised as equal to any other. It’s a victory for the allies and friends and supporters who spent years, even decades, working and praying for change to come.And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free. All people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love”.

The spirit was briefly exultant, euphoric even, but it didn’t take long until it was back to the utterly bleak. Seven years later, and forgive me for paraphrasing David Bowie again, but where are we now?

From triumph to tragedy then. As I write, yet another mass shooting has occurred at a July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois. There has been such an incident every single week of 2022 and this latest occurred less than half an hour away from the area of Chicago where I’d spent much of Independence Day 2015 (a pitstop on the way to an Aretha Franklin concert in Iowa, my ancestral home state) just a week after leaving Toronto during that ecstatic week of celebrations. 

The news of more murderous mayhem comes less than a fortnight after the very same Supreme Court — albeit now a more conservative-leaning male-dominated rabble thanks to the sinister mafia era of Donald Trump — announced a long-feared decision on June 24 that struck down a 1973 legal precedent known as Roe v. Wade, which eliminates the nearly 50-year-old federal constitutional right to abortion in the US. 

President Biden criticised the court ruling for “literally taking America back 150 years.”

God bless America for yet another step towards ensuring the once gleaming “leader” of the free world is well on the way to becoming the most screwed-up backwards-looking democracy on the face of the earth. 

It is in many ways one of the very bleakest episodes in recent history – and that’s going some, when you think about it; a day when the most powerful of the western democracies can be said to have taken a wholly deliberate step in the direction of the kind of legislative savagery for which the west traditionally condemn their enemies.

Still, I suppose all of the unintended children that will now be born will replace the ones who’ll be gunned down at school because the ‘right to life’ anti-abortionists are the same ones who oppose any control of the right to bear arms.

By the way, those same people also claim to be Christians. They’re not; they’re hypocrites. And if you agree with them, you’re part of the problem. God is an American, right? It’s true, vast swathes of Americans view God as a version of themselves. The nation’s biggest bible-thumpers are generally the biggest patriots, be they military people or just those annoying little fucks who like to scream “USA! USA!” at the top of their lung, usually to compensate for small dick syndrome.

According to a CNN poll, most Americans now say they believe it’s looking likely that the Supreme Court will eventually end or limit same-sex marriage (57%) and universal access to birth control and contraception (55%).

With every breath, decent Americans must fight far right fascists and the blindingly corrupt SCOTUS or risk never reversing their once great country’s slow agonising death. 

Wot mess America.

That’s all.

Steve Pafford

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