Letters to the Editor: A unifying celebration of our nation? Not this Fourth of July, say some readers

A U.S. flag where the stripes are torn away from one another, flying in the wind with fireworks in the background.
(Photo illustration by Jessica de Jesus / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)
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Today, our nation brandishes the flag and our collective pride as we celebrate the day when, 248 years ago, a group of traitors to the English monarchy formally declared the independence of the United States from the British empire. The flags we wave and the national union we exalt may be the same, but as the letters below make clear, the reasons we have for doing so might be different — especially ahead of the November election.

Last month, we asked readers to share their thoughts on the Fourth of July, specifically what they see as continuing to bind our nation together in a politically fraught time. Some readers wrote letters saying they detected an effort to elicit a positive reaction — but sorry, L.A. Times, not this Fourth of July. Others said they felt a sense of heightened pride over American ideals that are under assault. A handful saw plenty to praise about our nation.

Perhaps this is a display of our national motto, “e pluribus unum” — out of many, one. I suppose that’s one positive way to look at a polarized nation on its 248th birthday.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor


To the editor: I never gave much celebratory thought to July 4. When civics was taught in my high school during the 1970s, I was engaged enough to learn it was when the United States formally broke from Great Britain in 1776. That’s it. Let the fireworks begin.

It is only now, as a senior citizen, that I am beginning to realize the Fourth of July means so much because of what may be lost.

My young adult children have fewer rights than I had at their age. After all, I had the privilege of attending and graduating from a prestigious university due to affirmative action. I had the right to have an abortion after an unfortunate circumstance. I had the right to read the books of my choice without a raised eyebrow.

And oh yes, we had the right to protest our universities’ investments in apartheid South Africa with minimal blowback.

While I have always regarded Juneteenth as the true date of my ancestors’ freedom, the wave of authoritarianism hitting our nation forces me to recognize that our democracy is fragile. The Constitution is increasingly being interpreted without consideration of the amendments meant to level the playing field for marginalized groups. We may soon take a deep dive into dictatorship.

So this year, my celebration extends from Juneteenth to July 4. I hope the movement backward can at least be paralyzed by having more Americans get their information from credible sources and voting in November. If you don’t know what an authoritarian government is, research and read. If you don’t know how it might affect you, challenge yourself to think about it critically.


This year, I celebrate the freedom to vote — because make no mistake, that can change too.

Lynn Williams, Los Angeles


To the editor: I am celebrating this Fourth of July because the America in which my grandsons are growing up is a better country than the one I did.

Between 1960 and 2020, our country made more progress in education, politics and economics than in any 60-year period in our history. America changed dramatically, and our institutions have reflected that.

Between 1976 and 2020, our minority population grew by more than 200%, as we became one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. High school dropout rates declined, and the number of minority students who went to college increased by nearly 400% — and the number who graduated, by almost 700%. Poverty rates have declined, and median family incomes have gone up.

In 1964, out of 435 House members, only 12 were women and eight were minorities. Today, as a consequence of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, there are 126 women and about 130 minority members in the House.

Millions of Americans fought to make America a more egalitarian and a more democratic nation, and they succeeded. The abolitionist minister Theodore Parker and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the moral arc of the universe being long but bending toward justice — and in the last 60 years, that arc has bent more toward justice than in any period in our history.


John Perez, North Hollywood

The writer was a member of the California Postsecondary Education Commission from 2005-2011.


To the editor: The Fourth of July brings up mixed feelings of pride, pain and sadness.

Pain, because my daughter was born on the Fourth of July and died on Dec. 25, 1972, of leukemia.

Pride, because our family has served for six generations in various military branches. It began with our ancestor Andres Nava, who died during the Texas Revolution defending the Alamo. It continued with grandfathers on both sides of the family who were drafted in World War I. In World War II, our ancestor Alfredo Basaldua Nava served in the Pacific theater and received many medals.

Many more family members served our country elsewhere and were commended for their service. As is traditional in our family, the names of Andres (Andrew) Nava and Alfredo (Alfred) Basaldua Nava have been given to many of their descendants.

Finally, I feel sadness knowing many people do not know just how many Americans of Mexican descent have served in the military, including many Medal of Honor recipients. Furthermore, many immigrants from Mexico have served or are serving to protect our nation’s freedoms today.


This July 4, I will be remembering my daughter, who called herself a “real-life niece of my Uncle Sam” after she found out the fireworks and barbecues were not really about her birthday. I will be thinking about my ancestors and descendants who served this country for all these generations and in all these wars, and I will pray that we can one day celebrate peace on our nation’s birthday.

Mary Lou Nava Hamaker, San Clemente


To the editor: In your invitation for people to write commemorating Independence Day, I sensed a desire for letters in the vein of, “There’s still more that unites us than divides us.” While I wish that were the case, it clearly is not.

As we’re staring down the barrel of another Donald Trump presidency, what can you say about the man that hasn’t been said before? You’re talking about an individual completely lacking in honesty, compassion, intelligence, morality — virtually everything that makes a decent human being, well, decent.

While I am revolted by the man, my dismay is more directed at the roughly half of the voting populace that will mark their ballots for him in November. I will never understand what kind of hatred and delusion these people are under, and no amount of “talking it out” will change anything.

What mystifies me as well is that there is no discussion of breaking this country up. If there ever were any values that truly united us, they’re long gone. Those of us out west would be happier governing ourselves, and I’m sure those in Texas would as well.


Would a break-up be messy? Of course. But I fear the status quo will be worse.

Mark Battista, Studio City


To the editor: As an Indigenous Native American, my perspective on celebrating the Fourth of July probably differs from that of most others.

My family lived on a reservation, and we loved the Fourth of July celebration — it was the highlight of the year. When World War II started, as a 10-year-old I was convinced that everything American was good, and anything relating to the enemy was bad. I identified strongly and proudly with America. That patriotic spirit bound our union.

As an adult, I am a family man of faith, a Korean War veteran, a retired business owner and a taxpaying citizen. I have been blessed in all those endeavors.

But recently I have become aware of some ignored history that causes me to wonder: Should we be celebrating the Fourth of July at all?

Consider what the greatness of this country was built on. In the 15th century, explorers were empowered in the name of religion to take land, and to enslave or exterminate the Indigenous inhabitants if they resisted. Chattel slavery of Africans enriched slave owners. Indigenous people were victims of government-ordered genocide.


Our land was stolen. We were removed to reservations or massacred. Our cultures were eliminated in boarding schools. Very little of this is revealed accurately in our history books.

Politicians usually end their speeches with, “May God bless America.” I now believe, rather that seeking God’s blessing, we should be pleading for mercy.

Harold Printup, Mar Vista


To the editor: I am sorry, L.A. Times. I would like to be as positive as you seem to be and write a nice essay on what binds this country together.

Not today. I only celebrate a publication such as yours to allow me my voice, and maybe for not much longer.

Early in his presidency, Trump declared the free press to be the enemy of the people. That should have been the reddest of red flags. If he wins back the White House, how long before he can shut down The Times and every other publication that he finds disagreeable?


We’ve seen an entire political party bend the knee with no shame. We know the people will follow, as too many already have.

The question is, do we survive this? Will we be bruised and bloodied but still holding onto our ideals? I’m not so sure.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak my mind.

John G. Hill, Mission Hills


To the editor: As my city of Huntington Beach prepares for its popular Fourth of July parade, one cannot ignore the fact that Surf City is greatly polarized because the ultra-conservative majority on our City Council consistently focuses on contentious culture-war policies. Tension will surely be noticeable at this year’s event.

Behind the veil of overt patriotism, one cannot ignore what took place during the past year in city government, including attacks on the public library, false stories of election fraud and blatant anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

Despite such gloom, democracy has been rekindled in recent weeks. Thousands of signatures have been collected for two ballot initiatives, which would give all Huntington Beach citizens, not just a handful of far-right conservatives, a voice in how our public library is managed.


During the summer of 1776, American towns celebrated their new independence from a monarchy ruled by a few. Let’s hope that Huntington Beach can return to the day when residents can celebrate the true meaning of the Fourth of July — because as Abraham Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Carol Daus, Huntington Beach


To the editor: Philosophies aside, what binds our nation is our flag.

Born and raised in Baltimore, I have always held a special place in my heart for our flag. To this day I get teary eyed whenever I hear “The Star Spangled Banner” and see our flag on display.

Our nation has fought for it.

Soldiers have died for it.

Other nations can only wish they had one like it.

It is hated by some, revered by others.

It moves me.

It calms me.

It commands my respect.

It is the most iconic symbol of my lifetime.

Mark Skurnik, Mission Viejo


To the editor: This is the 95th birthday of our nation within my lifetime. My introspection is influenced by the experiences of my grandparents, who fled antisemitism and the pogroms of 19th century Ukraine.

America did not invent freedom and individual rights. Those yearnings have dwelt forever in human hearts the world over. Rather, our nation is ennobled by the institutions and documents created by the founding Fathers — the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, which guarantee the blessings and define the obligations of U.S. citizenship.


My innate optimism about the future of our nation is tempered currently by these concerns:

I am appalled by indications that roughly half of the voters are currently inclined to return Trump to the presidency, even though his term in office was beset by administrative chaos and terminated with illegal actions to reverse the 2020 election. He is a convicted felon who admires tyrants and a person of deeply flawed character.

I am concerned about the eminence of extremists in both major parties. I am concerned about the failure of our schools and colleges to produce well-informed citizens. I am concerned about societal ills such as homelessness and aggressive lawlessness.

I hope this Fourth of July will celebrate the emergence of inspirational and unifying leadership to realign our nation toward its benevolent potential.

Mel Spitz, Beverly Hills