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A friend of mine is one of the producers of the annual July 4 celebration in Washington, D.C. Every year he gives me VIP tickets to watch the performances on the West Lawn of the Capitol. I get to see A-list music stars and then the city begins its legendary fireworks display, featuring pyrotechnics from the biggest employer in my hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania, Pyrotechnico, formerly Zambelli Fireworks. No Chinese fireworks for us!

Most Washingtonians end the evening feeling energized and patriotic. I left this year feeling disgusted and angry. News flashes about shootings during the 4th — a deadly one in a Chicago suburb that reportedly killed seven people and wounded many others, followed by the wounding of two police officers in Philadelphia — confirmed my sense of so much going wrong. I know I’m going to take some heat for my “un-American” thoughts after this Independence Day. But I can’t help it.

I can’t celebrate a country this year where the highest court in the land sets society back a century with rulings so out of the mainstream of society that they harken back to the Dred Scott decision.

Newspapers on the morning of July 4 told the story of a 10-year-old pregnant rape victim who, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, was denied an abortion and told that she would have to carry her rapist’s baby to term. Her parents had the wherewithal to take her to neighboring Indiana for an abortion. It’s not that Indiana is in any way a progressive state. It’s just that the legislature there hasn’t banned abortion yet. That’s supposed to come in the next couple of weeks.

I can’t celebrate a country this year where police try to pull over a driver for a traffic offense, he leads them on a chase and then they shoot him 60 times. Not six times. That would be bad enough. They shot him 60 times. They fired 90 shots. Have we learned nothing as a nation from George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner or any of the other African-American victims of police violence? Will this never stop?

I can’t celebrate a country this year where whistleblowers who tell the public about the crimes that the government is committing in their name find themselves in prison suffering under conditions one would expect in a banana republic, a tin horn dictatorship or a Soviet gulag.

Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale should be celebrated.

His heroism should be taught in schools. Instead, he’s in a maximum-security penitentiary that also holds some of the most dangerous and notorious criminals in the world. Joshua Schulte is in a prison unit in New York that does not even meet the most basic level of human decency. And Julian Assange can expect no better if and when he is extradited to the United States.

I can’t celebrate a country this year that sends unaccountable billions of dollars to a government in Ukraine known widely for its corruption, while the United States has underfunded schools, an embarrassment of a healthcare system and a national infrastructure in shambles.

I want my children and my children’s children to have the best of everything, including education and healthcare. We can certainly afford it as a country. So why throw away our money on unnecessary (and illegal) wars, aid to Israel that is used to prop up an apartheid regime and a bigger overall military budget than the world’s next nine largest countries combined?

I can’t celebrate a country this year where nearly half the population supports a man with an obvious mental illness to be our once-and-future president, a man who has divided our country like no other president in generations, a man who has taken his responsibility to the country so lightly that he recently told an associate, “Why can’t people realize what you guys realize about me, that I’m playacting and full of it at least 50 percent of the time?” Hanging the vice president of the United States, encouraging insurrection and supporting a coup are all just hilarious, aren’t they?

I can’t celebrate a country this year where the corrupt political duopoly is so entrenched that they work together to force third-party candidates off the ballot. A friend of mine, Matthew Ho, is the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in North Carolina.

He received a text message last week saying, “Hi Matthew. My name’s Drew and we’re texting you because your name was listed on a petition submitted to help place the Green Party and its candidates on the North Carolina ballot in 2022 and 2024. We just wanted to confirm whether you signed this petition.”

When he confirmed that he had, indeed, signed the petition, “Drew” texted again.

“Thank you for confirming. If the Green Party is on the ballot it will give Republicans a huge advantage that will help them win in North Carolina in 2022 and 2024. In past elections, we’ve seen that the Green Party takes votes away from Democrats, which helps Republicans win. With abortion rights in the balance, we can’t afford to give Republicans more of an advantage. Are you interested in asking the elections board to have your name removed from this petition?”

Matthew said no, he did not want his name removed from his own election petition. But “Drew” was persistent.

“I understand this seems like a lot of effort, but we want to make sure the Democratic candidates have the best chance to win this November and this could make a big difference. Would you be willing to have your name removed?” Matthew asked, “What organization is this?” “Drew’s” answer was “the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.” In the end, the Democrats were successful in throwing Matthew off the ballot. That’s not democracy. And the Republicans do exactly the same thing to the Libertarian Party.

I could go on, but I’m starting to really make myself angry. I’m going to write some checks to the Green Party, the National Abortion Rights Action League and a small charity that puts Palestinian students through medical school. I’m tired of the propaganda being force fed to the American people. In the immortal words of Howard Beale, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

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