by E.C. Fish on July 4, 2012

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”
— Jack Kerouac

“Remember, we’re all in this alone.”
— Lily Tomlin

I couldn’t let this Independence Day pass completely without noting just how strange it has felt. There is precious little rockets’ red glare this year, thanks to a nationwide heat wave and the accompanying dry conditions that have canceled fireworks in many parts of the country, and made it too damn uncomfortable to stay outside long enough to watch the damn things in many of the places that did have them.

I wish I could say that it didn’t seem right somehow, but it seemed oddly fitting. The whole country feels a bit weird this year. We now share the rights and freedoms we traditionally celebrate on the Fourth of July with a passel of incorporated legal fictions whose rights and freedoms seem routinely to trump our own (no, not that Trump — he’s just a showbiz ass clown we should have stopped paying attention to long since). In some cases, this has been surprisingly literal: Localities in Michigan have had their duly elected governing bodies stripped of power by state-appointed trustees; state governments around the country are developing schemes to strip the franchise from as many people they think unlikely to vote for them as possible; a literal legislative-industrial complex has sprung up around the cause of stripping rights from gays, women, and ethnic minorities. Anyone who cares about democracy should be worried about it this year.

It would be pretty to think that this heat wave and our national state of affairs were both passing things, and that next year we’ll have more to celebrate in better weather. I fervently hope that’s true. But tonight, it’s a little hard to feature.

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