Happy July 4th Weekend!
I’m sending this latest Jane Looking Forward newsletter from Virginia, where I am visiting family and thinking about Independence Day.
It feels different this year, and not only because I no longer live in the suburbs and therefore can’t host our traditional July 4th party. Starting with a backyard barbecue with friends, of course, we’d then wrap up dessert, grab a few blankets , some bug spray, and head over to the local ball field and stake a claim on the bumpy ground. The kids would run around with those day-glo wands until night fell, when we would lean back and watch a gorgeous cascade of fireworks accompanied by a scratchy tape of patriotic songs by everyone from Kate Smith to Bruce Springsteen.
Pure, hokey Americana. Neighbors and strangers, united by nothing more than sparkles in the sky. I loved every minute of it.
And that is what feels different this year. My simple, holistic sense of patriotism is sullied by the vitriol spewing from the White House; it seems as impossible to grasp as a firefly at dusk on the ball field. How do we reclaim it?
I suggest we start by remembering what America has done for us, and being grateful for it. This idea came to me while reading the searing account by my colleague Larry Cohler-Esses of the terrible damage the Republican health care bill would do to children with special needs, like his son, who depend on Medicaid for their very lives.
As a child of the 1960s and a dogged journalist, Larry had always appreciated America as a place to pursue truth and fairness, and protest when it was hidden or denied. “But the experience of seeing my son, with his extensive needs, cared for with government support in ways that I could not care for him gave me something new to learn about America’s complexity,” he wrote. “I have a bottomless sense of gratitude for what this country is doing for my son and the millions like him — and what it declares about our integral fabric as a society, not just a polity.”
President John F. Kennedy famously instructed us to ask what we can do for our country, and not only what our country can do for us. But at times like these, when the very concept of patriotism is being undermined by a president who caters to the basest and most selfish aspects of human nature, perhaps we should think about what our country has done if not for us, than for others. And be grateful for it.
Zman matn kheyruseynu.
I’ll have what she’s having.
I’ve become mildly obsessed with “Wonder Woman” after finally seeing the film, so I loved this piece on our food blog in which we asked four top Israeli chefs what they would cook Gal Gadot for breakfast. My favorite? Shakshuka fit for a superhero, or in the words of chef Zachary Engel, “a big, bad Israeli breakfast.”
Our exclusive interview with Senator Al Franken will be posted online this week, along with other summer must-reads. Meantime, enjoy the holiday and keep in touch by emailing me.
Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, is writer-at-large at the Forward and the 2019 Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University. For more than a decade, she was editor-in-chief of the Forward, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward’s digital readership grew significantly, and won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.