Uneasy U.S. Tries to Fete a July 4 Marred by Parade Shooting

shooting that left five people dead at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb disrupted Monday’s celebrations across the U.S. and further rocked a country already awash in turmoil over high court rulings on abortion and guns as well as hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection.

According to police, 19 others were also taken into hospital after the Highland Park shooting.

Around 10:45 a.m., the parade started but was abruptly stopped 10 minutes later when shots were fired. Hundreds of parade-goers—some visibly bloodied—fled the parade route, leaving behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets.

The nation was trying to find reasons to celebrate independence and strengthen the bonds that hold it all together when news of another mass shooting broke. You were supposed to take the day off, go on parades, eat hot dogs at backyard barbecues, and gather under stars and fireworks.

“The Fourth of July is a sacred day in our country—it’s a time to celebrate the goodness of our nation, the only nation on Earth founded based on an idea: that all people are created equal,” President Joe Biden tweeted earlier on Monday. “Make no mistake, our best days still lie ahead.”

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The shooting at Highland Park resulted in a chaotic and discordant July Fourth scene.

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter captured video of a band playing on a float as screaming people ran past. Parade-goer Gina Troiani told The Associated Press she fled with her 5-year-old son’s bike, decorated with red and blue curled ribbons, through a neighborhood to get away from the parade route.

At first, she thought the loud sounds were fireworks—until she heard people yell about a shooter.

These are difficult times. An economic recession is imminent, and Highland Park’s shooting will put pressure on an already fragile national psyche that has been exposed to mass shootings such as those at New York’s grocery store and in Texas elementary schools.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that New York’s law restricting public gun ownership and overturned the constitutional right of abortion. This has exposed deep social and political differences.

“Independence Day doesn’t feel like much of a celebration when our basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are on the chopping block,” New York Attorney General Tish James, a Democrat, tweeted. “Today, I encourage you to imagine what this nation could be if and when we live up to our values.”

Many were able to celebrate the relief of coronavirus preventions, which was for the first time since 2003.

To the delight and satisfaction of residents such as Kirstan Monroe, Baltimore is once again celebrating Independence Day after a two year hiatus.

“I’m happy to see that downtown is getting back together, how it’s supposed to be,” she told WBAL-TV.

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From New York to Seattle, Chicago to Dallas, colorful displays large and small will lighten the night skies. Others, especially in the West’s drought-stricken or wildfire-prone areas, may forgo these displays.

Phoenix is also again going without fireworks—not because of the pandemic or fire concerns but due to supply-chain issues.

Many will be able to participate in emotional ceremonies all over the country and swear citizenship oaths, thereby allowing them to vote at the midterm elections.

During a ceremony to naturalize citizens at Mount Vernon (the Virginia home of George Washington), Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed 52 participants from 42 countries that their participation was essential in building a strong labor market.

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“Immigrants strengthen our workforce, and, in the process, help drive the resiliency and vitality of our economy,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for the Monday event.

For many, July 4 was also a chance to set aside political differences and to celebrate unity, reflecting on the revolution that gave rise to history’s longest-living democracy.

“There’s always something to divide or unite us,” says Eli Merritt, a political historian at Vanderbilt University whose upcoming book traces the fraught founding of the United States in 1776.

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But he sees the Jan. 6 hearings probing last year’s storming of the U.S. Capitol as a reason for hope, an opportunity to rally behind democratic institutions. Even though not all Americans or their elected representatives agree with the committee’s work, Merritt is heartened by the fact that it’s at least somewhat bipartisan with some Republicans joining in.

“Moral courage as a locus for Americans to place hope, the willingness to stand up for what is right and true in spite of negative consequences to oneself,” he said. “That is an essential glue of constitutional democracy.”

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