This essay is written by Checks & Balances co-founder Stuart Gerson, and was originally published in Just Security.
Although only half gone, it is no exaggeration to describe 2020 as an annus horribilis, especially in the United States. Millions of Americans have been infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus, and at current count, more than 130,000 of us have died. That number continues to rise. The pandemic has driven us into isolation and devastated our economy in a manner whose negative effect will be felt for years to come. The ranks of our unemployed have swelled and our system of health care seems inadequate to meet the needs of a large segment of the population. States that precipitously have tried to reopen their businesses and institutions have seen an upswell in cases that matches or exceeds the rate of infection experienced at the outset of the pandemic. At the same time, demonstrative cases of police misconduct and institutional racism have opened old societal scars, and our people are angry, afraid and disunited. At the national level, our leadership doesn’t lead. It simply blames. Our status in the world has declined to the point where we cannot control events, our critical alliances are weakened, and our citizens are not even welcomed into allied countries. We have a presidential administration that bows to dictators and even tolerates an adversary’s contracting for the murder of our soldiers. And, amidst it all, we have a president and a Department of Justice that are eroding the rule of law — the glue that holds a free society together.
So, now it’s the Fourth of July, the day on which Americans celebrate their independence and the greatness, innovation and prosperity that our freedom has produced. It is the holiday that most embodies patriotism, that is, love of country. In this year, some might argue that there is less to love. To the contrary, especially in this year, it is time to love it more and to exercise individual responsibility to call out abuse — especially affronts to the rule of law — and take action to end it.