Richard Palmer, a 51 year-old salesman from West Virginia, took his family to Washington, DC, this weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July and, for a brief time, to forget about the doubts that now haunts his mind about his country.
“It’s a scary time,” he told The Washington Post. “I hate what’s going on. But coming down the street here and seeing all this, I thought, ‘Maybe everything will be good.’ There are so many nationalities here, and people seem to care about things.”
He marveled at the diversity of the large crowd coming and going in front of Washington’s most famous address on the morning of the Fourth of July: a California couple in American flag T-shirts volunteering to photograph an Asian family; a schoolteacher from Florida reveling in the idea that he was standing where Abraham Lincoln once lived; a British couple wearing crowns matching the one atop the Statue of Liberty.
Palmer, who worries about the contentious 2016 presidential race and the sharp, angry divisions of America, said “it give you a renewed sense of hope.”
Mother Nature seemed to share the doom and gloom of much of America on this July 4th. Many communities, including Roanoke City, cancelled or postponed fireworks displays because of the rain. A thunderstorm swept through Floyd County Monday night, leaving the area soaked and, in some cases, flooded.
Washington went ahead with its firework show but low, overhanging clouds prevented good views of the displays. The Public Broadcasting System tried to help by using old footage of the fireworks to brighten the telecast. Viewers were not happy.
“We showed a combination of the best fireworks from this year and previous years,” said a tweet from producers of “A Capitol Fourth.” “It was the patriotic thing to do.”
“It was the fraudulent thing to do,” responded viewer Ben Anderson.
Some residents in Floyd County and other areas of Southwestern Virginia stayed home for the holiday.
“Not much to celebrate,” said Beth Rogers in an email. “This is not the country it used to be.”
In a field north of Floyd Tuesday afternoon, a pickup truck with large twin Confederate battle flags flying from it bed added a harsh accent to an anti-Muslim sign, laced with obscenities, in its window.
I asked: “Where’s your American flag?”
“No reason to carry that flag,” he said with a sneer. “The country it represents doesn’t exist anymore.”
In Frederick, Md., Realtor Fernando Herboso, who came to America from Bolivia and became a U.S. citizen.
“I have been a proud American since 1982,” he says.
But that pride took a hit recently when he tried to show a a couple a nice home they might want to buy in Frederick. The couple, an American military veteran and his wife, ran headlong into hate when he showed them the neighborhood clubhouse with a party room, exercise room, tennis courts and a pool.
“We don’t want Muslims in our clubhouse,” said a woman at the pool after she saw the wife’s traditional Muslim garb. “Take off that robe over your head!”
Herboso apologized to the couple but they said it wasn’t the first time they had run into hate in their own country.
Herboso, on a real estate forum, wrote about what happened.
“My post somehow gave my colleagues in real estate permission to reach out to me with hateful comments about my Hispanic heritage,” he said. “I never experienced that before.”
Herboso has owned his real estate company for 25 years and said the reaction shocked and disturbed him.
“I don’t even know what Hispanic means,” wrote a fellow Realtor to him on the forum. “Are you from Spain, Mexico, Argentine, Guatemala, Cuba? I have to assume that it refers to some culture that you relate with that is different. But what do you put first, Hispanic or American?”
Hermoso was dumbfounded.
“It was like they were wearing mask all these years,” he said of the people he thought of as colleagues. “And they just took them off.”
Violence against Muslims has become so prevalent in America today that the United Arab Emirates is urging its residents to avoid wearing their traditional clothing when visiting the U.S.
Ahmed al-Menhali, a UAE businessman, came to Avon, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, for followup medical treatment at Cleveland clinic but was rousted at gunpoint and handcuffed by police over the Fourth of July weekend because they thought he was a terrorist because of his traditional white robe and headscarf.
The town government of Avon and the police department issued apologies and admitted “deep regret” for the incident that should have never happened.
A hotel clerk had called 911 and said al-Menhali was using “multiple disposable cellphones and pledging allegiance to ISIS (the radical Islamic terrorist organization.”
What al-Menhali was doing was using his one cell phone to call Booking.Com to make a hotel reservation because he wanted to spend more time in America as a tourist.
The hotel clerk later admitted he made up the story about “disposable cell phones” and any talk about ISIS.
It was “a terrible dream,” al-Menhali told NBC news after incident.
“I was more than angry,” he said. “I am sad, too sad.”
As Americans, we should share that sadness.
The American Dream appears to becoming a National Nightmare.