On the eve of America’s birthday, is there anything to celebrate?
Monday is the Fourth of July. Independence Day. America’s birthday comes as the Supreme Court wrapped its session with seismic rulings on gun rights, climate change and abortion, which will no doubt reshape America for decades. While hinting that it may roll back even more rights underpinning decades of civil rights progress, the court capped its session with the surprise announcement that next term it plans to take up a case that could fundamentally alter the way national elections are conducted, potentially giving more authority to state legislatures to determine election outcomes while preventing state courts from hearing challenges to election processes and the results.
So, ahead of the holiday, we wanted to take stock to see how people were feeling about America these days. Here's what they told us on a recent afternoon in Winter Garden.
Rochelle Hayles (right)
There’s nothing to celebrate. There’s more homeless people. Every time you turn around somebody is shooting up a school, killing people in supermarkets. It’s just not getting any better. It’s sad. When does the government decide what a woman does with her body? And it’s always men making that decision. Can we just walk up and say, I think it’s time for you to have a vasectomy? Stop worrying about whether we have a baby or not. How ‘bout you control some of these guns? An 18-year-old can buy an automatic rifle, but they can’t go into a liquor store. Wow ... wow. How’s that working for us?
I’m certainly not celebrating the Fourth. I’m very … not pleased with the direction I feel the country is going in. And that saddens me a lot. And it’s sort of a borderline depression. You can be [depressed] if you think about everything that is going on now between the violence, the homelessness, just everything in general. What do we have really to celebrate at this moment? I guess our basic freedom that other countries don’t enjoy. I realize that. We do have certain freedoms that other countries don’t have, so I’m blessed in that way to be born in America.
Pastor Howard Salter with Becky Salter, Belong Church
From a faith-based perspective, I feel like things are changing rapidly for us, the American culture, and I think there’s a push to get back to community if we can get past political differences. I’d really like to see us as a nation be more inclusive with our communities. I see that happening in some places. I think America is coming back to a place where we begin to know our neighbors again — or at least the people who shop where we shop and eat where we eat. I may be a little optimistic, but I think if we can get past the idea that in disagreeing with politics you are disagreeing with the individual, that’s the path to be more community-oriented.
Dania, Arya at Windermere
“I love America. I’m very patriotic. I think sometimes we can go through difficult stages. Everyone has their own opinion, and I’m okay with that. Everyone will have their different point of views on the different decisions that are made, and America in general is known for having a diverse culture and a diverse population, so I think the fact that everyone can speak their own mind and have their own opinion is what makes us who we are.”
Bianca Suarez, Pet Wants Lake Nona
“We can do better. Less of a political mess, less of the oppression that keeps coming back, and a little more fairness. I served six years in the Marine Corps., and it’s kinda tough to see the country I was fighting for fight itself at this point.”
“It’s scary. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we know [Roe] protected a lot of other laws that are probably going to be unraveling soon, and it’s just really scary. Honestly, I don’t want a child right now, I’m 18, so it’s very scary for me. But when I’m older, and I want children, it’s going to be incredibly unsafe for me to start a family, too, because I won’t have the proper healthcare, let’s say I have an ectopic pregnancy. It’s going to be really dangerous. I don’t feel very American. I’m already planning on emigrating. I don’t want to stay here. I was thinking maybe Canada or a European country, like Sweden or Norway where they have universal healthcare. "
Miquela with her 8-month-old daughter
“[America] is not really for its people anymore; it’s more against it. Roe v. Wade just got overturned, and it’s a big step back for women. It’s scary having kids in this world. But all you can do is protect your kids, show them a lot of love and show them how to be good people, so maybe they can make a difference, even if we can’t.”
Elise and Juan with their 2-year-old daughter
Elise: It’s impossible to always be happy with what’s going on in your country, but whenever it's around the Fourth of July, I’m thankful we live in this country for a lot of reasons. [Juan] is a first generation American. A lot of his family immigrated to this country, seeking freedom and a better lifestyle and the American Dream, and that’s very valuable.
Juan: My family came here for the American Dream. They did really good for themselves, way better than had they stayed in the Dominican Republic. The results they were able to create here and the opportunities they were able to have here, it’s really special. It’s only what you can get in America, not anywhere else. That’s why a bunch of people move here from all over the world, right? It’s sad though, because it’s going to be Independence Day, but I feel the country is more divided than ever. I feel that people don’t appreciate what America once was. There’s more divide than anything. There are still positives. But I feel like because the media just shows negatives all day long, that’s what people are filled up with. And what you’re filled up with will, in turn, be poured out.
“We are in a bad situation right now. We have poor leadership. I was in the military and we had leadership. Now I’m afraid if we got into a conflict, we would really be hurting. I don’t know what to do to change it, but we need to do something. America, our country is a great country. I would fight for it again in a minute. The leadership we have right now is leading it in the wrong direction. I just hope that things change.
[The Supreme Court] almost got it all right. They did well on three things, and the fourth one was kind of iffy. Our border right now, there’s no border* at all. They keep saying we got to take tests and do vaccinations, and yet we’ve got all these people coming across the border that they don’t do anything with.** Then they’re putting them out into the different parts of the states and counties and hospitals and they’re needing medical care and attention, and kids are needing schools, and then they’re still coming across. And it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a slow-down soon.
*[Editor’s Note: 2021 was a record year for unauthorized Mexican migration, with border agents making 1.73 million arrests of migrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally. That number outpaces the 1.64 million stops made in 2000, the last record-breaking year. However, according to the Migration Policy Institute, those statistics don't reflect that many arrests are of repeat offenders, trying multiple times to cross the border, not unique attempts. In addition, increased use of technology along with a near-doubling of the number of agents at the southwest border between 2000 and 2020— from 8,580 to 16,878 — means that while more people attempted to enter the U.S. illegally, fewer succeeded. In 2000, 2.1 million migrants slipped past border agents; in 2021, that number dropped to 540,000.]
**[Editor’s Note: Politifact reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security works with federal, local and nongovernmental organizations to ensure that 100 percent of Mexican immigrants are tested for Covid-19 at some point in their journey. A negative test is required before entering the U.S.]