Greetings from New Jersey, where I’m spending the holiday with a friend and her family. We’re looking forward to a fun Independence Day, and I hope you are as well.
As longtime readers know, each year on this date I try to find an image that captures America in a nutshell (here are the ones from 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). So what’s the story behind this year’s image of an elderly, wheelchair-bound man backdropped by American flags? Bear with me as I try to explain.
Back in April, I wrote about how my 99-year-old mom doesn’t have a great quality of life and is pretty much ready to let go. I thought about that a lot as Uni Watch girl mascot Caitlin’s health declined over the past month or so. Much like my mom, Caitlin was very old (almost old as my mom, in cat years) and had reached the point where daily life was more of a burden than a pleasure. In Caitlin’s case, I had the capacity to do something about that, so I did.
I was thinking about that the other day and it occurred to me that America is, in some ways, a lot like my mom and Caitlin. We are the world’s oldest democracy (or, if you prefer, we have the world’s oldest constitution), and that age is showing. Our national framework increasingly feels creaky and outdated, and our institutions feel sclerotic and dysfunctional. Few people would say that the state of our national civic health is good, and many might say that, much like my mom, we’re stuck inside a vessel that feels like it’s deteriorating and spent.
Obviously, we can’t just euthanize the country like I did for Caitlin, or have the country die in its sleep like my mom wishes she could do (and after reading a lot about the idea of a “national divorce,” as some have advocated, I’ve concluded that it isn’t feasible). So it appears that America, much like my mom, will just have to limp along in a diminished state and make the best of it.
So that’s the story behind the photo. I realize it’s not exactly the happiest message for Independence Day (sorry about that), but that’s what’s been on my mind lately — thanks for letting me share it with you.
But hey, if we can’t have national unity, we can at least enjoy the holiday that marks our separation from the British crown. So please accept my sincere best wishes for a happy Fourth of July. I’ll be busy today, but the comments are open, so feel free to chat among yourselves. If you have a few minutes, I heartily recommend reading the Declaration of Independence, whose ratification is what we’re celebrating today. (Here’s a typeset version, in case you can’t decipher the handwriting.)
If you’re traveling today, travel safe. If you’re playing with pyrotechnics, don’t pull a Jason Pierre-Paul. If you’re working, thanks for keeping the world spinning while the rest of us get to enjoy a day off. And if you’re spending the day in the company of a Britisher, kindly pass along my annual Independence Day rallying cry: In your face, Redcoats! — Paul