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Opinion | Happy Birthday, America! Don’t be a jerk (or a Trump)

Happy Birthday, America! You are 243 years old. We love you. Thank you, America.

Is there ever a country is good as ours? I don’t think so. But I’m sure the people in France or Italy or Great Britain would disagree.

They are proud nations. We’re not particularly special in being a nation, are we?

I know that President Donald Trump’s “America First” campaign makes us seem special. Somehow, in some people’s views, God endowed us with an unique role in the world. We know better than anybody else. We get to decide who we will allow to exist unfettered, who we will attack.

America first, right?

No. America best. I like that better.

We should be a beacon for other nations that are drifting. Nations like Venezuela or Honduras or El Salvador or Guatemala. We should be helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda and Ethiopia.

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Instead, we treat their citizens and the immigrants from those countries like criminals. We have this statue, in the harbor in New York, that says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, your homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” But we don’t. We have the space. We have the economy. And we treat immigrants — these tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free — like criminals.

Happy birthday, America!

What has our nation become? We bully our neighbors, threatening them with tariffs and sanctions if they don’t do what we order them to do. We tell Iran to go to hell, then threaten them with war because we told them to go to hell. We have a president who coddles tyrants like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, China’s Xi Jinping and Poland’s Andrzej Duda.

Our president wants to be a tyrant. Like them. Like him.

We want our president to be the good guy, somebody the world can look to and feel he’s got their backs. Or she. That’s what we need in a president. A she.

Happy birthday, America! What’s wrong with us?

We’ve gone off the rails. The racists and misogynists and xenophobes and homophobes have taken over. We let that happen. Because we just didn’t care enough.

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Shame on us.

So this is what happens when we don’t care. In fewer than three years. Our president has undone important environmental regulations, health care protections, personal rights safeguards. Some of us cheer him in that, and they are deplorable. Many of us are appalled.

Happy birthday, America! What are we going to become?

We, in the next year, have a chance to decide that. We can reject this awful narcissist. We can tell him he’s been a sad, terrible anomaly in what America’s promise truly is. We can toss him out, and we must.

We must, if America is going to continue to reach for its potential. We must, if America is going to be a good place to live, a free nation that doesn’t offend every other country around it and every other country around the world.

Happy birthday, America! We’re 243 years old. We need to act like an adult. Not like a petulant child who doesn’t get his way.

Let’s celebrate the ideal of America today. And then let’s elect leaders who will guide us there.

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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].


Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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