The President and the Fourth

From 2016 through 2020, I received letters from the RNC. I posted some of them here. They consisted almost entirely of lies and nonsense intended to produce donations by stirring up resentment, bitterness, and anger. Maybe you remember these horrible letters. So I want to share the July 4 email that I received from the DNC.

Night and day. No analysis needed. No political ideology needed. Res ipsa loquitur: the thing (in this case, the text of the letter) speaks for itself. Or as a wise man once said: “Do you not yet realize that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then is eliminated? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart.” And “By their fruit you will recognize them.” Sure, this is politics. But I don’t believe there is any sphere of human life to which the wisdom of Christ does not apply.

Of course this letter is also intended to produce donations. It has a postscript: “P.S. This team put our country back on track by helping elect Kamala and me and helping get the American Rescue Plan passed. Now, we’re counting on you to keep electing Democrats who support our vision. If you can—and only if you can, James—please consider making a $25 donation to the DNC to elect Democrats up and down the ticket in the years ahead.”

The RNC letters succeeded with me in a way: they made me angry. But they did not motivate me to donate to the RNC. The DNC letter reminds me of how thankful I am this year to be celebrating a nation who values are understood and promoted by its president. The Biden administration and the Democratic party have not brought heaven on earth and never could. When I say “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” I am certainly not talking to any human politician. The vision of the Democratic party, beyond the sorts of points made in the July 4 letter, fractures into many subvisions, and I certainly cannot endorse every element of all of them, or even of any of them. I am looking at the big picture. And I am grateful.

I live in an area where people love to celebrate the Fourth of July by setting off large numbers of small explosions, normally accompanied by bright flashes in the sky. It’s also an area where Trump got more votes than Biden. But this year the bangs and flashes over the last several nights—and I fully expect to hear them again tonight—have been as plentiful as they were over the four previous years. Which is as it should be. We celebrate not the current president of the USA or even its history, but its Idea: that all people are created equal, and that their creator has given them certain rights that no human power is authorized to take away, and that among these are life, freedom, and open common space in which to work out a flourishing life. We certainly should not pretend, and demand that others pretend, that the USA’s history adequately fulfills its Idea. But should we not be devoted, and each year on July 4 rededicated, to bringing its reality into alignment with its Idea?

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