Opinion: We asked readers to share their Fourth of July ideals. They’re worried but hopeful for our country

The American flag disassembled into scattered stars and stripes.
(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)

We asked readers to tell us what they would be thinking on this Fourth of July, at a time of profound political upheaval. More than 100 people responded, and although most expressed pessimism, that was tempered by continued faith in the words written in the Declaration of Independence 247 years ago.

Paul Thornton, letters editor


To the editor: The Fourth of July is problematic because it celebrates a false sense of freedom.

Today the millions of women in this country don’t have the freedom of bodily autonomy. Black people don’t have the freedom to live their lives without the fear of dying at the hands of police. Children don’t have the freedom to attend school without worrying about shootings.

Freedom is always precarious, as is the democracy we celebrate today. And yet 247 years ago, the men who crafted the Declaration and later the Constitution devised an idea that succeeding generations expanded upon, one for which at least 600,000 Americans died during a brutal civil war.


This democracy is still in constant need of protection, and the rights that those men envisioned in 1776 and 1787 need to be expanded.

These ideas are still worth fighting for, if we can only realize that all Americans are worthy of protection.

Claire Barta, Greeley, Colo.

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To the editor: I get sentimental every Fourth of July.

As a naturalized citizen, I still remember the day I took the oath of citizenship 60 years ago. I was only 13 and my parents and I went to the immigration office after our arrival five years earlier. The officer just asked me my name, and I raised my hand and promised to defend the United States of America.

That was very powerful for me. As a proud citizen, I vote at every election. I have marched and protested.


In recent years I have sometimes gotten discouraged about threats to our democracy, the hate directed at our fellow humans and some steps taken backward. But I have faith that the United States will survive and be whole once again.

Esther Friedberg, Studio City

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To the editor: Do I believe in the premise that was set out by the founding fathers? Absolutely. Are we there yet? Never are we ever quite there, and that to me is in many ways the point.

The act is one of continual becoming, a conversation we must have on including all who call themselves Americans, and how we adapt and evolve as a nation to improve all lives.

Though recent moments have shaken my beliefs, they encourage me to fight more resolutely for the rights I enjoy so that others may have the same.


Perhaps through the political polarization, we will see all people need a safe home, good health and a suitable planet for our children. These are not political issues per se, but they have been used by ideologues to manipulate us into ignoring what we all value.

I have hope for the future and where our country is going.

Thierry Hall, Orange

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To the editor: As I brace myself for another Fourth of July — having decided it would be best to just go ahead and drug the poor dog so she can sleep through the explosions — I reflect on what exactly it is we are celebrating with these mock-war fireworks.

Maybe if the beautifully composed Declaration of Independence was actually written for the masses rather than the wealthy enslaving landowners, we wouldn’t still be arguing among ourselves about race and gender.

Am I displaying the Stars and Stripes at my house? No. Between the ever punishing economy and worsening climate, I fear for my children’s and grandchild’s future. I am ashamed of what my generation has wrought, and the generation before us, and before that.


This Fourth of July, I just hope my enthusiastic neighbors with their illegal fireworks don’t accidentally burn my house down.

Bethia Sheean-Wallace, Fullerton

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To the editor: How’s our democracy doing? Two recent Times articles illustrate my concerns.

The first spoke to “a wave of book banning [that] continues to spread nationwide.” And the second reported on a survey showing that “confidence in the scientific community declined among U.S. adults in 2022 … driven by a partisan divide in views of both science and medicine.”

These terrifying trends, along with attacks on voting rights, represent an assault on the free expression of ideas, on the community whose sole purpose is to seek objective truths, and on our representative democracy — all fundamental to how our nation is meant to work.

The country was established on Enlightenment principles, including the pursuit of knowledge obtained by means of reason, individual liberty, tolerance, the rule of law and the separation of church and state.


It’s my hope that, 247 years after its founding, our nation will again embrace its highest ideals, and reject those whose ideologies and actions are moving us toward a new Dark Age.

Mike Diehl, Glendale

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To the editor: As a 72-year-old woman, I am hardly ever asked for my opinion — so thank you for this opportunity.

All my life I’ve watched the pendulum swing back and forth from rights to restrictions, but I have always felt optimistic about the overall direction of our democracy. I still feel that way, despite recent disastrous setbacks for women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ people and others.

This optimism may be due to my good fortune in life, which I am aware that not all people share.


But our country is founded on a great idea, and I am confident that the pendulum will eventually stop where it is supposed to stop — in the middle, where most people are. Good sense and rational thought will prevail, if we can keep our heads.

So, on this Independence Day, my head and heart are filled with gratitude, hope and determination.

Diane K. Mitchell, Lacey, Wash.

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To the editor: Frederick Douglass said what I feel — the Fourth of July has nothing to do with me.

It did not free my ancestors. It did not repair the status of the original owners of this land. It did nothing for those populations then, and it will do nothing for them on this July 4.

Kato Cooks, Walnut

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To the editor: Cycling is my favorite sport, and on the Fourth of July I go on a long bike ride. I have this great red, white and blue cycling outfit, and it makes me very happy and proud to see many people respond positively when I show off our nation’s colors.

I feel so very grateful for having the ability to do this on this special day, and I am more mindful of those who who are unable to do so due to homelessness, poverty or illness.

Armand Claproth, Venice

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To the editor: In the eighth grade, I won an essay contest titled “What the Constitution Means to Me.” The Bill of Rights and the amendments seemed inclusive and protective.


No more. Now the lesson I’ve learned is to take nothing, nothing, for granted.

Former President Trump, his minions and the majority of the Supreme Court have put the Constitution up for grabs. Up is down, yes is no, and words mean whatever we want them to, Merriam-Webster be damned.

Celebrating? Count me out.

Judi Birnberg, Sherman Oaks

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To the editor: It’s not really that strange, but people have many varied opinions about what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness really mean.

Perhaps it would be helpful if we embrace not only independence but interdependence as well.

Jerry Rubin, Santa Monica

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To the editor: In 1976, I celebrated the July 4 bicentennial in Boston, visiting my family. It was an exciting time — visiting Lexington and Concord and Faneuil Hall, and sitting on the Esplanade hearing the Boston Pops play, watching fireworks near the Charles River.

This year is a sober time. Will my granddaughters be able to have as much freedom as I had to control my body? Will they be unable to use contraception?

We are taking steps backward. I worry for them and all young women.

Susan Barrett, Los Alamitos

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To the editor: My entire adult life I’ve believed in the inviolability of the Constitution. Others, including my children at times, were skeptical.


What a shock it was to me on Jan. 6, 2021, and seeing the evidence produced by the subsequent House investigation, when I realized by how thin a thread that ties us to it.

The rule of law was upheld. Some guilty persons are being held accountable. More needs to be done to strengthen voting rights and election laws.

But this Fourth, I’ll be thankful as always that I live in beautiful California and have the Constitution and the rule of law behind me.

Isabel Rigney, Upland

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To the editor: This July 4, let’s rethink what our “independence” means before it is too late. It is a road paved with good intentions.


We have a 1st Amendment, yet we no longer know what either truth or civility means.

We have a 2nd Amendment, and 121 guns for each 100 of us.

We are the richest country in the world, yet among industrialized ones, we are behind in healthcare and education.

We have abandoned creating a human “melting pot.” So we are angry, sad and frightened. We have met the enemy, and it is us.

Lester Levine, Chapel Hill, N.C.

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To the editor: Seventy-three million Americans believe they are supporting the Constitution by subduing it.

A majority of the Supreme Court justices believe that constitutional “originalism” somehow fairly anticipates the aspirations of spurned populations.


Republican members of Congress are OK walking the halls with constitutional subverters.

An American president can freely consort and do personal business with enemies of the state, even while spewing endless litanies of fascist rhetoric designed to divide Americans.

Though so much has gone critically wrong with our American experiment in the 21st century, it has nevertheless held together. And that is magnificent, beautiful even.

Mac Moye, Lumpkin, Ga.

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To the editor: The Fourth of July reminds me that any human endeavor will have failures, and we’ve surely had many of them. But it also reminds me of our commitment to justice, democracy and hope for the future.

In this and recent years, those ideals are in jeopardy, as loud voices call for a return to the “good old days” — back when only white Christian men had rights and the rest of us just sat back and shut up.

But, as long as we have the gift of free speech and activism, July 4 will serve as a true beacon of hope and a reminder of the dreams that have brought so many to our shores.


Pam Wright, Pasadena

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To the editor: Pyrotechnics and picnics are traditional and fun ways to celebrate the Fourth, but by themselves they are empty. Flag waving may make folks feel good too, but without some introspection and a pledge to work to make the country better, it too is shallow.

Today, re-read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and ask yourself where the country is falling short. Research candidates in the coming election year, and support the ones you feel will move the country toward fulfilling our ideals.

Make sure to vote. And treat everyone with respect.

Tim Moran, Modesto