This July 4th, I struggle to celebrate the United States

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As we begin the week leading up to Independence Day, the US’ national holiday celebrating the birth of our country, I find it difficult to think of ways we remain a bright spot in the world today. As a lifelong American, born and raised in Ohio, it takes my breath away how far we’ve fallen from our ideals in just the past few years.

We used to be a beacon of democracy, with fair and public elections and the calm, polite transitions between leaders and parties in control. Now, we are more partisan and divided than ever. We have a President who sees politics as a blood sport. We have a Senate Majority Leader who is willing to suspend any and all legislation that distracts him from his goal of completely replacing the federal judiciary with subservient judges, many of whom are modestly (at best) familiar with constitutional law or thoughtful about the role of the judicial branch in our national government. We have a Congress full of Republican officials who routinely defy logic, abandon tradition, and lie outright in their attempts at preserving their party’s hold on the Executive branch. Our democracy has cracked under the weight of corruption and deceit, all in the pursuit of unchecked power. And, ironically, all this happened because our Electoral College has twice in the last four elections handed the Presidency to someone other than the person who won the popular vote. We are no longer that shining example of how the people’s will should be represented in government. We are, rather, a budding kleptocracy, ruled by con men, liars, and fanatics willing to do whatever is needed to sustain their positions of power. …

A new American future requires us to reinvent ourselves as a nation

My belief, whenever asked, has always been that Trump’s mismanagement of this pandemic in the US has created a catastrophe that will take the US years to recover from (much like the previous Republican president, George W. Bush, whose “leadership” led to the Great Recession). We will not be rid of this downturn any time soon.

This past Friday, the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan government department, projected that unemployment would peak at ~16% later in 2020, but remain over 10% throughout 2021.

As the graph below shows, since the Great Depression (1929–1933), we’ve only been >10% unemployment once (late 1982 — early 1983). …

Nearly every important issue can be viewed as a matter of justice

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I’ve been thinking a lot about two quotes:

“I think the first duty of society is justice.” — Alexander Hamilton

“Life isn’t fair.” — at some point, literally everyone

These two quotes highlight both the frustration and the motivation of those who believe in justice. While life will never be entirely fair, we can and should work to make it less unfair.

What do I mean about fairness? It’s a complex notion that is conceptualized in a huge range of ways by people. Fairness incorporates ideas like equality (e.g., everyone getting the same amount of food), equity (e.g., better or harder-working athletes earning bigger salaries), and need (e.g., everyone getting the amount and kind of healthcare they require to survive and, if possible, thrive). Fairness can also be heavily dependent on context; what seems fair in one situation may not seem fair in another. And, of course, fairness is perceptual — two equally well-intentioned people can sincerely disagree on what “fair” means in any particular situation. …

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