There won't be a concert and fireworks display on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston this Independence Day. There'll be an "entertainment" and some pre-recorded fireworks—a concept that sounds as bad as microwave-ready pre-grilled hamburgers. But we must make allowances—it's Covid-19 season.
And although the 1812 Overture—that "American tune" composed by a Russian to taunt the French— may be part of it, I doubt if there'll be real cannons. Even if there are, there won't be dancing, shouting, and flag-waving people—many of them sober. The novel coronavirus, whose novelty has worn off entirely, is dictating the 2020 celebration of the Fourth. And with so little to celebrate—with so many sick and dying and so many others mourning the dead—waving a flag in celebration seems not only ludicrous, but warped.
More appropriate would be a National Day of Mourning to commemorate the 126,000 who have died so far, but that would rely on the president recognizing that fact instead of ignoring it. Maybe he will wait until we hit 150,000 by the end of July, or 200,000 by Labor Day. No doubt he'll still tout his great success in quelling the plague when those next milestones are met and passed, though then—as now—no one will be paying attention to him.
But the world is paying attention to us—we're the new Frasier. Pardon the oblique reference, but if you were a Cheers fan, you may remember that Frasier (Kelsey Grammar), at a particularly low point in his existence, served as the benchmark for the browbeaten, so much so that the rest of the barflies, whose own lives were far from wonderful, took solace in the fact that they weren't Frasier, yelling that fact over and over—"We're not Frasier, we're not Frasier, we're not Frasier." (You can watch it the clip here.)
And now in 2020, we're Frasier. We have become the much pitied laughing stock for the rest of the world, and though there may be a degree of schadenfreude involved, we can hardly blame the other countries. For generations America has swaggered across the world stage, seemingly the best at everything. So revered was this country that in 2001, after the attack of 9-11, pretty much the entire world came to our aid. They may have been jealous of us, but they needed us to be "the one." We didn't require their money to rebuild, or their soldiers to fight, but we would have had those too had we asked. It was important for the free world to know that we were whole and powerful.
It took less than twenty years to squander all that good will: an unnecessary war in Iraq, another in Afghanistan, the mishandling of a hurricane in New Orleans and its obviously racist overtones, the rape of the country by its bankers and the subsequent recession, our refusal to rein in the proliferation of assault weapons, the continuing murders of Black men and women by police, and then finally the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. Now with our reaction to the novel coronavirus—the paralysis filtering down from the top and spreading out among Trump's sycophant governors and mayors—we have become an exemplum: how not to run...anything.
I don't know if America rebounds from this and becomes the country we once knew. People who lived through the Great Depression claimed never to have been the same, that their views were forever altered by that period of time. I would expect this current crisis to be no different. But I remain hopeful that we can rebound and at least remain a country, a republic, a democracy. None of that is ever guaranteed, and all of that seems more tenuous than ever.
If we lose America, it won't be because of Donald Trump. His type of ineptitude has existed on the fringes of society forever, and has been ignored or scoffed at. No, if we lose America, it will be on us, for knowingly entrusting a simpleton with the keys to the castle and expecting a different outcome.
But if we manage to retain America, it will be because, four months from now, we came to our senses and stopped Trump from continuing. I'm just putting it out there, you know, in case you'd rather spend next Independence Day on the esplanade instead of social-distancing from the other two people at your "party."