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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

For every American who venerates the ideals set down by this country’s founders in the Declaration of Independence, July 4 is a day of reflection as well as celebration. For me, this holiday has also become an occasion to point out that liberals and progressives cherish those principles, along with the symbols that represent them, just as fervently as our conservative compatriots.

So over the past several years, I’ve written an annual Independence Day column examining the politics of patriotism – and exploding the myths behind the right-wing monopoly on patriotic expression like so many festive firecrackers.

Looking back over American history, it isn’t difficult to argue that the Sons (and daughters!) of Liberty were the progressives of their era, fighting to end monarchy and aristocracy, in bitter conflict with Tory conservatism. Nor is it hard to show that the abolitionists whose movement sparked the Civil War were the progressives of their time, battling the revanchist conservatism of the Confederacy. Or that the liberals of the New Deal era, struggling to save the world from fascism, confronted entrenched resistance from prominent rightist and corporate leaders — sometimes in league with the nation’s foreign enemies — whose heirs later founded the modern conservative movement.

In all those historic turning points is embedded a fundamental truth, that the right’s claim to patriotic exclusivity is and always was ludicrous. Repeating that  every year is a necessary corrective as the wingnuts wrap themselves in Old Glory, pretending once more to be its sole owners.

But July 4, 2015 is a little different.

Following the massacre of nine innocent citizens by a thug named Dylann Roof at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, the national discourse has turned toward an important issue raised annually in those July 4 columns. At long last, the Confederate battle flag, a banner of racism, segregation, secession, and yes, treason, may be removed from public display in state Capitols across the South – because Roof waved that flag while stomping and burning ours in the pictures posted on his website. A long overdue movement toward that flag’s interment in museums, where it belongs with all the other regalia of the old slave regime, has won support from the same kind of politicians who once enabled its disgraceful flaunting.

In South Carolina, Republican governor Nikki Haley, recognizing the imperative of this moment, stood with Democrats and African-American leaders as she called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds. According to the Associated Press, she can expect enough legislators in her party to vote for that change. In Mississippi, Republican legislative leaders are calling for the Confederate symbol to be struck from their state flag. Jeb Bush, who removed the Confederate flag from public display when he was governor of Florida, finally spoke up in support of Haley’s initiative. So did Mitt Romney. Walmart, a company based in Arkansas, has announced that it will no longer market items bearing that emblem.

And those Republicans have spoken up despite polls showing that most members of their party, especially in the GOP’s Southern heartland, still condone the display of Confederate symbols. Southern chapters of the Tea Party cling to the Stars and Bars, while ventilating the usual swill about “states’ rights” and the Constitution. They have closed ranks with the fascist right, including the usual suspects in neo-Nazi cells, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Council of Conservative Citizens, whose racist propaganda inspired Dylann Roof.

Obviously the Tea Party’s self-proclaimed super-patriots lack enough wit to notice the embarrassing irony of their position. It is not possible – indeed, it was never possible, as Robert E. Lee and other honorable Confederate veterans swiftly acknowledged – for anyone loyal to this country to salute that standard or any of its variations. And it is troubling that most of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates cannot yet find the courage and decency – the patriotic morale – to stop pretending otherwise.

On this day, however, in Lincoln’s own spirit of charity toward all and malice toward none, we ought to embrace those Republicans who have reaffirmed their loyalty to the flag that represents all of us. Today we should stand together — as President Obama suggested in his remarkable eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Mother Emanuel — to honor the flag that flies over the “United States of America.”

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.