Hamel: Happy Journal #28

Opinion editor Peyton Hamel views the identity of an American to be a work in progress, like the country itself. 

Peyton Hamel

Happy belated Fourth of July, y’all! When I was writing to you last Wednesday, I honestly forgot about our grandiose holiday. I was at work yesterday when a customer wished me “Happy Fourth!” and I felt a shudder of embarrassment from forgetting. (The Fourth is even my favorite holiday, just because of all the fireworks.) 

I think we can all agree, though, that this Fourth of July has been one of the stranger things we’ve seen:

In my state (Colorado), fireworks were banned to encourage social distancing, yet I have never seen more fireworks in the sky in my life. 

Protests were still occurring and Black Lives Matter did not freeze in time for our patriotic holiday (and rightly so). 

COVID-19 was still floating around, but only as a silent weapon most people find themselves immune. (I saw too many large gatherings to find myself comfortable throughout the night.)

One thing bothered me more than anything on the Fourth of July: people belittling the holiday and declaring “All countries matter.” No, we do not have the greatest country in the world. That one is obvious. Our country has more broken systems than I can count on my 10 fingers (social work, politics, health care, etc.). But, view it this way: so many changes are happening so fast in 2020 that we can finally be proud of ourselves for making our country a work in progress. We have been nothing besides a work in progress since July 4, 1776. 

We can, at the minimum, be proud of that. 

We have a long way to go and I hope I live to the day where at least one of our systems is reformed or dismantled into something that will actually help our people and society. I don’t know if that change will happen, but I know staying optimistic and acting as an advocate for these systems will do something. 

You can’t be an American and not contribute toward a cause.

You can’t be an American and not advocate for an issue.

You can’t be an American and be a bystander. Not anymore. 

America is a work in progress just like you and me. And I’m glad 2020 has been so empowering for so many communities.