I have complicated feelings about this country. What I mean by that is… well a lot of things. There are many problems with the United States. I acknolwedge that and begrudge it. Our democracy is deeply flawed, based on an electoral system devised by a bunch of White dudes who were worried about giving too much power to commoners. Despite all of this, I still believe in the promise of America. I love the idea of this nation, but it has a hard time living up to that ideal.

I thought about all of this as I ambled around Fourth of July event hosted by Columbia. On that day, I saw a bunch of posts from my friends on social media about how much the holiday sucks, how much fireworks such, and how America is horrible country with no redeeming qualities. I understand this sentiment, especially from people on the left-wing, because I used to feel the same. I was the cynic who didn’t like the Fourth of July. I remember the first Fourth after Trump’s inaguration, I felt like the Fourth wasn’t worth celebrating at all. But, I worry that this defeatist attitude leads to a cycle of cynicism that prevents those who buy into it from trying to improve the country. Why try to reform something that’s fundamentally broken?

I moved away from this thinking as I grew older and especially after the election of Joe Biden. While his presidency wasn’t automatically going to fix everything, it at least signalled hope that this country can come together to defeat the gravest threat to our democracy since a bunch of fascists tried to coup Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Then January 6th happened.

January 6th is a watershed moment in US history. From it flows our current political climate and our understanding of this country. A silent majority elected Joe Biden, and the very loud minority couldn’t handle the assault on their dear leader. However, I don’t think its an indictment of America so much as the culmination of Trump’s cult of personality being threatened. Our democratic processes survived, the courts did their job, and the participants in January 6th are facing the consequences of their actions. The system can work… eventually.

Because of the potential for the system to work, I still believe in the idea of America. I see the same vision FDR saw of an America that protects its citizens. And I see the potential for America to protect its lower- and middle-class and the underrepresented. Unfortunately, while it’s a system that can work, it’s also a system that can be easily gamed by those seeking to destroy it. Just look at the Supreme Court

I acknowledge the reason a lot of people have lost faith in this country is because of the wholly undemocratic institution that is the Supreme Court. In the past two sessions they destroyed the fundamental right of bodily autonomy, affirmative action, and they sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community. All the while, the conservative justices (all of which have some hint of illegitimacy to them being on the court) complain about how people are disparaging the Court. The Court deserved to be disparaged, and it desperately needs reform. I admit, it is a stain on America’s system of democracy (along with the incredibly undemocratic Electoral College), but I hope that future presidents will make attempts to reform the Court (because Biden is too much of institutionalist to do anything about it).

So this Fourth of July, while I acknowledge America is not a great country for a lot of people right now, I also thought about how amazing America could be. We have the power, money, and resources in this country to do a lot of good. That’s why it’s so important to vote, protest, and participate in mutual aid projects. It’s not the politicians who can make America great, it’s us, and I believe we need to realize the promise of America if we want to fix it.