This Fourth of July will be unlike any other. While Americans usually greet the holiday with a blend of pride and patriotism, this year many of us will approach it with a mixture of fear and anxiety.
Even before the recent decision by a majority of voters in Great Britain to leave the European Union, one could be forgiven for feeling as if the world had gone crazy.
Last month, there were no less than a dozen major stories which seemed to come along one after another. They included Donald Trump’s dismissively labeling a federal judge as a “Mexican,” the California primary, Hillary Clinton’s securing the Democratic nomination, the shooting in an Orlando LGBT nightclub that left 49 people killed and 53 wounded, a renewal of the gun debate, the tragic case of 2-year-old Lane Graves who was killed by an alligator at Disney World, a pair of major Supreme Court decisions on immigration and affirmative action.
Finally, came the Brexit vote which sent the U.S. stock market tumbling and which could prompt other countries to also leave the European Union with devastating consequences.
How ironic that the vote in Great Britain should take place just days before our nation’s birthday here in the United States. In fact, with a throwback to 1776, supporters of Brexit declared the day of the vote their “Independence Day.”
That is highfalutin language given that one of the major driving forces behind the decision to leave the European Union appears to have been xenophobia — the fear of foreigners. What the British seemed to be most afraid of was the possibility that a wave of Muslim refugees from Syria, Turkey and other countries would find their way to London.
With so much going on, it’s worth taking a second to think about what we believe.
I believe this: There is no such thing as coincidence. Things happen for a reason. Messages are sent to you by a higher power, and they bring wisdom if you’re smart enough to listen.
A few weeks ago, on the night of the Orlando shooting, my wife and I were in a club near San Diego helping a neighbor celebrate her birthday. We had no idea what was happening at that very moment 3,000 miles away in Florida. People were talking and straining to hear one another over the music.
And, when the subject turned to politics and the presidential election, a friend leaned in toward me and whispered: “What’s going on? For the first time in my life, I’m afraid for my country.”
My friend is not alone. Look at the polls. A lot of Americans must think about the idea of having to choose between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — the major political parties’ presumptive nominees — and wonder if they’re doing penance. A write-in candidate named “None of the Above” would probably win in a landslide.
There is no doubt that these are scary and difficult times for Americans, and for many of their brothers and sisters around the globe. They are times of unrest, unease and uncertainty.
There is even chaos. But from chaos, comes opportunity. These are the moments that test our resolve, principles and beliefs. And it’s how we respond that will define our character.
Americans can’t afford to give into despair, or retreat from the world, or turn inward toward our own self-interests.
We must maintain our optimism and faith. We need to ask for inspiration and guidance from above.
John F. Kennedy’s words still resonate. He was the nation’s first, and to date only, Catholic president who — in his inaugural address in 1960 — issued this challenge to his countrymen: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
Let’s get to work.
Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a columnist for the Daily Beast, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” (Bantam), and editor of MOSH OPINIONS — the opinion page of the multi-platform digital media company MOSH.US.