The Gay Pride March in NYC always takes place on the last Sunday in June. This year it fell on June 30th, the last day of the month. As the world came together to recall the changes in the last 50 years since the Stonewall riots, NYC celebrated GLBTQ+ pride with marches, parades and parties. The world joined in the celebration too. In my lifetime, I have seen the Gay world expand though the alphabet and people are free to explore their identities. Whether you consider yourself Gay, Lesbian Trans, Queer, Non-Binary, or the myriad of choices out there, this is your time. Americans and many around the world are free to marry who they love, serve their countries, and join professions of their choosing.
On the heels of the high from Pride, just four days later is the Fourth of July. I always see this as one of our nation’s most sacred days. Fun, food, and fireworks. That is the hallmark of this day. Inevitably, on TV I will see a group of new Americans being sworn in as citizens and I will become teary-eyed. Is there anything more American? Welcoming those seeking freedom. So, along with many in this country, I am disturbed by the President’s coopting of the July 4th celebration in DC for his own purposes. I am disturbed by the flagrant display of military tanks being brought to our capitol. These are instruments of war while the nation’s birthday is meant to be a day of peaceful celebration. Instead, the President wants to speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. He wants to remember our military by making so many of them work on this holiday, in hot, humid, and stormy weather. (I do not blame the President for the weather. But it is DC in the summer.)
Our President believes that we should not disrespect the flag. I believe that we should not disrespect the values of the flag. It is not the flag itself that has meaning, it is what it stands for: our standing up against tyranny, our fight about the British for freedom, our support of the neediest among us, our reaching out to the work to be an example of good to the rest of the world. Our flag represents our Democratic rights of protests, our right to disagree, our right to be who we are.
Six years ago, as the Defense of Marriage Act fell and the Supreme Court effectively legalized Gay marriage, I stood in the NYC municipal building with my long time partner and we became legal spouses. We knew that it was time to celebrate our freedom to marry after almost 20 years together. (A chuppah followed six months later.)
Jews know how fragile freedom is. We have a major holiday that celebrates freedom. We remember how Pharaoh restricted our freedom and only upon a threat of death, let us go. We know how we have been enslaved. We remember this in the reading of the MiChamocha prayer three times a day so as a people, we should be wary at the caging of people in camps. (Yes, they are akin to the concentration camps.) We should be wary of shows of military might. We should be afraid of unbridled patriotism that uses the flag as weapons and not a symbol.
On this Fourth of July I pray that we take a cue from the Pride celebrations and go forward with pride. Pride in our diversity. Pride in our founding fathers who envisioned a better life than one under a king. And pride in retaining our democracy. There are budding Pharaohs everywhere. Let’s be sure that they do not get a chance to rise.
Happy Fourth everyone!