Today when Benji and I went to our neighborhood park for a little bicycle riding practice, we both compliantly masked up, despite being outside and nowhere near anyone else. We saw a group of a dozen or more 20-somethings having a nice little BBQ all crowded together in a nice intimate circle, not a mask among them. The mom in me wanted to go over and tell them, “I’m so sad to see you risking the health and lives of our community like this. I’m not mad at you; I’m just disappointed.”

Later I realized this sums up how I feel about our country right now in general.

This Fourth of July I feel even more ambivalent about celebrating ‘MERICA than usual. In past years, I’ve appreciated the community and the opportunity to spend time with people we love. Not only is that gone this year, but the June protests about police brutality and social injustice, the President’s inflammatory race-baiting rhetoric, and the staggering health consequences of our need to cling to individualism over collective good at all costs all leave me feeling more disappointed and ashamed of being American than anything.

Listening to our the sporadic pops, crackles, and booms of our neighbors blowing things up interspersed with the sound of sirens (someone blew their fingers off or maybe caught their roof on fire), it feels like another little window into how the good of individualism can turn so easily into selfishness and coldhearted uncaring toward the needs of the community. Fireworks, to me, are the ultimate expression of selfishness: Gratifying to the person setting them off, while being unwanted and aggressively intrusive to all the many people who don’t want them, as well as dangerous and, in some places, likely to start wildfires that risk the lives and property of non-participants.

So it seems appropriate that this year we’re hearing more fireworks discharging than in years past. Social distancing has canceled all the city-sponsored shows, and clearly individual citizens have taken matters into their own hands. I also wonder if a certain Trump-voting contingent has decided to celebrate “their” heritage more aggressively than usual this year, just to give the finger to us leftist fascists.

I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.

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