It occurred to me, as I was watching the Murray City Fourth of July parade, that I was watching something uniquely American. It is a quintessentially American way of celebrating our communities, country, history, traditions and, most importantly, the people of all stripes who truly make America great.

All over the U.S. there are 4th of July parades, as well as founder’s day parades, parades of support and celebration for winning sports teams, parades supporting and celebrating the LGBTQ community, parades celebrating returning servicemen and women, etc.

The best of these parades include and celebrate everyone in the community, regardless of their ethnic origins, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or political affiliation. We are all Americans, celebrating with our families in a joyful, peaceful way.

Contrast this with the kind of military display that our president has just presided over this Fourth of July. (Not yet the full blown military “show of might” parade like those seen in countries like North Korea, Russia and China that he has expressed a desire for.)

The people who line those parade routes are more likely coerced into participating. These flag-waving citizens are not celebrating what is truly unique about their own history and culture, but perform for an authoritarian leader whose ego is lifted by the spectacle.

What will keep America great is not a parade of military hardware but the citizens of America coming together regardless of the external differences that some exploit in an effort to divide us.

We must unite to make the “United” States the place our ancestors dreamed of coming to; a nation of immigrants working together to repair and preserve this imperfect, yet wonderful, colorful, free and culturally diverse country.

The power to keep America great is in our hands and hearts. If we stand united against bigotry, xenophobia, greed, censorship and authoritarianism; we will cast our votes and lend our voices to those who speak up for right, not might.

If the U.S. is crumbling from within, the rot is a result of apathy, greed, ignorance, neglect, and intolerance. No amount of military spending will fix it. The well-being of our people and our communities is our true strength.

Those who seek to dismantle and undermine American institutions established to address and ameliorate real needs and problems in our country (free public education, Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, environmental protections, humane immigration policies, etc.) are not “Making America Great” but instead hijacking resources meant to help people and the environment and giving them instead to the very rich under the guise of tax reform and “small government.”

I’m holding out the hope that, as we celebrate the 4th of July in the not too distant future, we can also celebrate the results of a “woke” citizenry who came together to create a kinder, more inclusive and more tolerant society.

Shelley Robinson

Shelley Robinson is a writer who lives in Holladay.