By Dan Feehan
As a former Army Ranger and teacher, I have always loved finding ways to celebrate our country’s independence with my family and loved ones. Like families across southern Minnesotans, this typically meant flocking to a parade, an extended family cookout, or a fireworks display. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made many of these gatherings impossible. Our realities have been upended and our daily lives are vastly different than last year. While we may not be able to celebrate this holiday as we did exactly one year ago, this new reality cannot strip away the meaning of July 4th, nor can it stop us from working toward a more perfect union.
The commemoration of our country’s Independence Day signals our common bond as Americans and reminds us that democracy and the fight for a better future is not a passive exercise. Through this country’s most trying moments, we have emerged stronger because people have risen to the occasion, and this moment is no different.
Since March, we have seen a virus sweep through our communities. As a result, local small businesses have been shuttered, hard working men and women have grappled with unemployment, and the racial disparities in our society have been laid bare. But we have also seen our communities band together and make sacrifices in the name of public health, organize food drives, and serve one another in ways big and small. This perseverance is patriotism.
The challenges that have been created and exacerbated by COVID-19 are real, and the urgency to respond is heightened daily. Yet while we share disappointment and anger with the chaos in Washington and the problems that persist, we also share a platform to call for change.
Parades and fireworks may have been canceled, and family gatherings might look different, but these traditions have never defined the Fourth of July. This holiday is defined by our collective determination to improve our communities and our country; it’s defined by our common call for a government that puts people first; and it’s defined by our resilience. This Fourth of July, our perseverance is patriotism.