America’s Rocking Fourth

People gathered at Central Park Lawn. Photo Niyi Fote/Thenews2

The 245th anniversary of America’s declaration of insubordination to foreign authority has once again descended on the planet’s pre-eminent superpower, positioned at the crossroads of contemporary history, yet beset with an internally-turbulent political landscape and an uncertain citizenry. Accentuated by patriotic symbolism and the indomitable martial tunes of Sousa, as well as mile-high pyrotechnics unmatched in scale and cost adorning the nation’s skies, the American people will have an opportunity to momentarily-lose themselves in a well-deserved moment of respite from eighteen months of unprecedented biological and economic disruption aimed at the fabric of a great nation.  

If anything, this year’s American celebration promises to be particularly jubilant, likely as a representation of the post-CoVid premise that the American people are back on stage, ready to rock-and-roll once again. From Spokane to Savannah, Bangor to Augusta, and from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Tetons, a ruffled American Eagle will endeavor to again soar into the cloudy and turbulent skies of our time. Despite the glittering and glamorous celestial festivities, endless parades, and innumerable parties raging at ground-level however, a greater question looms in the background: namely, whether a new generation of CoVid variants will re-emerge on the world stage throughout the ensuing months. 

Notwithstanding, the Rocking 2021 Celebration of American Independence doubtless reflects a powerful, yet premature and scientifically-tenuous, national determination to escape and dismiss an unvanquished biological threat. Masks Off — Hurrah! Just a Moment — perhaps it’s just too easy for a celebrating Vox Populi to embrace the illusory premise that mother nature’s challenge has been dissipated by vaccinating a mere 50% of Americans under the age of 40 and less than 35% of adults in at least ten US States (according to the CDC), this while leaving a broad unvaccinated swath of the global population to cope on their own — thereby ignoring the risk of a rebound pandemic? It remains a given, however, that on average for the entire American population, only slightly-over 47% of Americans (155 million) were fully vaccinated at the time of this historic 4th of July. Given that illusions tend to be self-perpetuating, leaving the question of persistent risk unresolved seems disconcerting. 

In the aftermath of ballistic airborne fireworks detonating in the skies above, and with a marginally-sober citizenry emerging from the revelry of Independence Nite — as viewed from the ground-up, the ‘Morning After’ is likely to present a formidable set of challenges for the Leading People of the Free World.    

At no time in it’s history has America seemed more politically-fractured and socially-divided than at the present — the essential essence of a common, unifying identity and set of aspirations missing at an unprecedented level, only to be replaced by monotonous discord, disinformation, and acrimonious rhetoric. Perhaps the most worrisome indicator of national vital signs appears to be a near total loss of consensus. Even the opportunistic rejection of flag and symbols of national identity — not to mention institutions of democracy — appears at times embraced even by those elements of society who rose to power and prospered from the very environment that underpinned their success, yet which they now reject. 

According to an April 2021 analysis by Gallup Research, party-line gaps in presidential approval are 30-points higher under US President Biden than the maximum divide reached during the Trump administration. On average, an untenable 86 percentage points now separate Republicans from Democrats when rating Joe Biden’s performance and attempt at consensus-building, not to mention that only tepidly-growing numbers of independents who also exhibit profound division, especially on the basis of racial, socioeconomic and educational background. This polarized divide across the American political landscape becomes even more perplexing, as July 2 polling by the usually reliable Rasmussen Reports reflects an equally compelling ‘downthecenterline’ divide. 

The expanding and precipitous ‘National Gap’ even extends into the growing politicized rejection of any form of vaccination by a growing segment of Americans, as a recent CDC survey reflects that just over 50% of adults under 40 have elected to undergo vaccination or intend to do so, while over 25% of the population in key regions of the country reject any form of vaccination, with the balance remaining undecided — perhaps the best indicator of the truly polarized fractions of the American landscape. 

In concert with such trends, political posturing on what might be considered non-political issues seems to resemble a matter of convenience for the moment, rather than an attempt at offering an inspired update of a new American pathway for insuring protection of its freedoms going forward. In parallel, the essence of what America represented throughout its history, and celebrated by its people on Independence Day — at times seems elusive to grasp. If anything, over the past year the ultimate superpower has at times allegorically appeared to be scanning the western desert landscape on Route 66, without pioneers, water or gas in sight.

On this year’s Fourth of July celebration, arguably the most uniquely-positioned over nearly two-and-a-half centuries, it might not come as a surprise that a nation — whose embryonic late 18th Century emergence exemplified a fundamental rejection of traditional social, cultural and political power from across the Atlantic — might in turn one day confront the need for rejuvenation of dated political infrastructure and for reinvention of its raison d’etre.  

As seen through the eyes of history, the origin of Independence Day was initially a declaration of rebellion, with subsequent implementation of a new political structure yet to emerge on the horizon. At the time, the outcome of that courageous struggle was by no means certain against a malevolent British Empire, at least until the pivotal intervention of the French at Yorktown tipped the balance and insured the success of the American Revolution, and the birth of democracy in the New World. 

In that context, it is France who is America’s oldest and ultimately most solid ally. Alongside the massive portrait of founding presidential father George Washington, which prominently dominates the inner edifice of the US House of Representatives, it is the Marquis de Lafayette whose equally imposing portrait hangs beside that of the first American president. Given the enduring anecdotal symbolism, how poignant it seems that President Emmanuel Macron of France recently gifted to the US a new and manageably-smaller Statuette of Liberty on this year’s occasion of America’s Independence Day — a typically-Gallic understatement intended to serve as a reminder of who your friends really are, particularly in the midst of an otherwise treacherously-charged and high-risk geopolitical environment for US global leadership. 

The above bears considering. In unprecedented remarks attributed this week to a prominent member of the Japanese establishment, and directed toward the leadership of its stalwart US ally, Yauhide Nakayama warned America to beware of the risk of a potential surprise strike on its territory. Despite consternation unleashed in response, Nakayama persisted in his warning, which he claimed was backed up by evidence of preparations mounted by America’s adversaries, inclusive ongoing Russian Naval exercises off Hawaii. At the same time as their emergence on the wire services, Nakayama’s remarks were buttressed by a new book, authored by former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis, which warns of ‘hot conflict’ with China in the not to distant future, particularly if internal US social and political division persists, and is misinterpreted by both Russia and China as indefensible American vulnerability. 

With America’s very existence originally-premised on the concept of rejecting a unifying external or superior top-down authority, and with rebellion characterizing the cultural roots of the American political landscape at the nation’s origin, it thus remains an important distinction that revolution which builds consensus is a far cry from growing and persistent polarization that disrupts a nation’s foundations, to the extent of inviting a defining challenge from external adversaries. Notwithstanding momentary escape and diversion aside during this Independence Day, it nevertheless remains an undisputed historic inevitability since the antiquity of human civilization, that the natural counterpoint of internal division includes external defeat — a word for the wise. 

It is thus a fitting analogy to this Fourth of July celebration that one might seek illumination from Elton John’s iconic song, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’. In that sense alone, a great nation’s challenge appears to center on an acute search for a ‘New Direction’ and a ‘New Dawn’ — and thus a new source of integral strength — particularly at this pivotal moment of America’s remarkable and enduring imprint on both past epochs and On Our Time

Jean-Francois Parot    July 4, 2021   Thenews2

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