Terry H. Schwadron
July 4, 2019
Thankfully, most of us can enjoy backyard barbeques and municipal fireworks today, momentarily bowing to the glory of more than 200 years of nationhood for a United States that has made its mark in the world by promoting a mix of wonderful traits that add up to American values.
Those include individualism and hope, of course, personal liberty to speak out, the ability to live without tyrannical declaration of limiting our choices. Our Fourth of July celebrates our freedoms, even if they now increasingly are becoming fragile under a Donald Trump administration that is attacking the foundations of many of those institutional freedoms.
The president is trying to take over today’s national Fourth of July celebrations in Washington to put military tanks on the Mall, flyovers of military aircraft, and him speaking in what will be all-but a Trump political rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in an ironic replay of Dr. Martin Luther King’s address to the best of our public spirit.
But away from the fireworks, this is an administration that has fortified the growth of hate speech, of racial discord, of mean acts against non-citizens at the southern border, It has fostered division in politics, in race, in schools, in environmental outlook, in allowing people to choose whom to love or turn into.
It is especially at this times of national joy and recreation that we need to think about those among us who are being left behind a time of economic success for those who are well to do, and to those on the wrong side of the Trump push for values of another era.
In Alabama, where the state government has moved to ban and criminalize abortion, for example, the story of what has happened to one woman, black and pregnant, should capture our attention. Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when she was shot in the stomach last week, killing the fetus. It happened during an argument with another woman.
That is tragic, but what followed made it worse: The police charged Jones criminally for her role in starting the fight, according t authorities. The formal charge is manslaughter, and in the days since the local prosecutors, surprised by national reaction, have reconsidered the charges and decided not to pursue them.
Alabama has become Ground Zero for how pregnant women and fetuses are being treated. In May, the governor signed a bill banning abortion at every stage of pregnancy and criminalizing the procedure for doctors, in what became the most stringent measure to prohibit abortion in the country.
Along the border this week, we’re hearing more and more official reports of outright cruelty to migrants.Overcrowded, squalid conditions are more widespread at migrant centers along the southern border than initially revealed, the Department of Homeland Security’s independent office of inspector general said.. Its report describes standing-room-only cells and children held without showers and hot meals, even beds and toothbrushes — all with apparent government knowledge.
Apart from the specifics of the case, here’s my question: Is this what American values are all about? Is this the America that Trump wants to Make Great?
Alabama is among 38 states now that are moving to limit abortion, and Trump is beating the drum, through judicial appointments, lies about opponents at his rallies, and in relevant government policies to make fetuses into victims.
The police initially charged the second woman, Ebony Jemison, with manslaughter but that charge was dismissed after the grand jury failed to indict her.
As with a general lack of empathy towards migrant children being kept in cages, you could view this single case as part of a pattern of women of color who are facing charges for drug use or car accidents or other events that result in the death of a fetus. In this case, is it not tragic enough that the pregnancy was ended, that this woman lost her baby? Why charges?
I’m struck by the deep division that has come to reflect this country.
The message of the Statue of Liberty increasingly seems lost. Our public conversations about health care are about money, not about health, about the need to support the individualism of young hedge-fund males who think they are invincible and should not be taxed to provide health care to older, sicker, or less fortunate people. Our public conversation about climate disruption and deregulating the environment are about protecting businesses, not about clean air and water. Our conversations about judges is no longer about independence and precedents, but about packing the court with outwardly political partisans of the correct party. As a nation, we increasingly seem to believe in gerrymandering, suppressing the vote of opponents and extending power for white, male-dominant power centers.
As we watch Trump take over the literal and ideological fireworks in Washington, let’s hope we can find some good old American caring for the underdogs in our society.