Our Best Stuff for You to Read on Independence Day
Thoughts on freedom and unity.
Many years, it’s easy to take the Fourth of July for granted. It’s a day to have cookouts with family and friends, and hope that your neighbor doesn’t lose a finger setting off fireworks in the cul-de-sac.
When I was a child, we’d often celebrate with my maternal grandparents, because they lived within walking distance of the park where my hometown had its fireworks display. My grandfather would man the grill, cocktail in hand. I don’t remember what the adults talked about during those lazy afternoons, but I do know that one topic almost never came up: his service in World War II. He was a belly gunner in a B-24 bomber (the Fascinatin’ Witch, pictured below), and on his last mission he was shot in the leg and could have died. He didn’t hide his scars—his thigh was pretty mangled—but neither did he tell his war stories until later in his life.
Much has been made of the stoic nature of the men like my grandfather who went off to fight the Germans and the Japanese. Freedom was under siege, and they went off to do their part. But that sense of duty was not limited to soldiers overseas. The war effort required huge upheavals on the home front, as companies shifted production toward the war effort and women entered the workforce. Americans accepted rationing and planted gardens.
In the best of times, living in a free society affords its citizens countless opportunities, to be who you want to be and do what you want to do. But when there are threats to that freedom, it’s incumbent upon us to come together with a sense of unity.
The symbolism of our Independence Day celebrations being curtailed should not be lost on anyone. The coronavirus isn’t “an enemy” per se, and it alone is not a threat to our democracy. But it’s unquestionable that all of us feel considerably less free than we did last winter. What we need now is unity, and instead we fight about wearing masks, and whether it’s protests or partiers who are to blame for recent outbreaks, and which people get how much blame for various decisions that have contributed to the deaths of 130,000 Americans.
It’s depressing, but I want to end on a lighter note. There is a movie that feels particularly apt for this time. It’s corny, and hokey, and even mentioning it here ends whatever chance I have of taking up a second career as a movie critic, but it also has Will Smith decking an alien and ranting while he drags its unconscious body through the desert. Oh yeah, I’m talking about Independence Day.
When the rapacious aliens take out the world’s major cities and communications are down everywhere, somehow militaries around the world coordinate on a plan to fight back. And so we get war-hero fighter pilot President Bill Pullman delivering this speech to rally his ragtag band of quasi-amateur pilots. Now, if you can buy in enough to believe that the U.S. government is going to turn over a fighter jet to a drunk Randy Quaid, you’ll be inspired.
I can’t really top that, so let’s get on with the good stuff.
When Senate Republican leadership tapped Tim Scott to lead the way on the GOP’s police reform legislation, it seemed like an obvious fit. Police reform has always been a priority for Scott, and he’s one of three African Americans in the Senate (and the only Republican). But in an insightful profile, Declan Garvey reveals that for the early part of his congressional career, Scott avoided being the go-to for the “conservative black perspective” in Congress. That changed in 2015, when police shot and killed Walter Scott, an unarmed black man from Tim Scott’s hometown, after a routine traffic stop. And then a few months later, Dylan Roof killed eight people at a Charleston church. Scott’s Christian faith—at one point he thought about going to seminary—called him to raise his voice on this issue. As his friend Trey Gowdy explains, “He believes that he has been given an opportunity, and that he should seize that opportunity, even if it is not necessarily what he most wants to talk about.”
If you weren’t confused by the Supreme Court’s action on abortion this week, in a members-only French Press, David French explains why you should have been. He walks through John Roberts’s siding with the progressive judges to strike down a Louisiana abortion law. David explains that Roberts didn’t entirely agree with the liberals and wrote his own concurrence. And then he dives into the two new abortion cases that the court will hear next term. “The law is confused and contentious. The future is uncertain. I’m tempted to do my best Donald Trump impersonation and say that I, David A. French, call for a total and complete shutdown of Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence until the justices can figure out what is going on, but I have the distinct feeling that the court is going to place its own pause button on cert grants, at least until the reaffirmed Casey standard works back through the lower courts.”
As we watch protesters tear down statues of Confederate generals, Christopher Columbus and—bizarrely—U.S. Grant and abolitionists, we’re also seeing universities reckon with renaming buildings. And when it comes to canceling Woodrow Wilson, Jonah is here for it. He writes about how much he learned about Wilson while writing Liberal Fascim, none of it flattering to the former president. We’ll let him explain: “Wilson was a reactionary on race and the Confederate cause in his own time. The first Southerner to take the White House since before the Civil War—a war in which he thought the good guys lost. When he came to Washington, one of his first priorities was to undo the racial progress made by the Republicans: He restored segregation in the federal government.”
Back when we launched The Dispatch, we had planned to offer members not only great journalism and podcasts, but also live events. Smaller gatherings like live podcast tapings and meet-and-greets with staff, and larger events like weekend conferences. Well, then COVID happened. It gave us pause, but slowed us only temporarily. Like everyone else, we discovered Zoom. On Thursday, Sarah—with a special (and brief) appearance from her new son—led a conversation with Steve, Jonah, and David where they answered reader questions. They shared their lists of fundamental conservative readings, and also discussed their favorite writers and thinkers on the left. Live events are available to members only, and normally we send the video to those who couldn’t make it. But, hey, it’s a holiday. The video of Thursday’s event available to all. Enjoy!
And now for the best of the rest.
Charlotte Lawson talked to several experts about China’s sweeping new national security law that strips Hong Kong of some of the autonomy it has enjoyed since the British handed control back to the Chinese in 1997. She points out that the law is less designed for mass arrests than it is to silence Hong Kongers.
Have you seen the videos going around Facebook wherein someone uses a fancy device to measure oxygen levels while wearing a mask? You’ll be shocked—shocked we tell you—to learn that the devices are not designed for that purpose. Masks are safe, folks. Alec has all the details in this Dispatch Fact Check.
The videos of two St. Louis homeowners brandishing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters who had entered a private street might have been ugly, but was their behavior illegal? Andrew talks to Stephen Gutowski of the Washington Free Beacon—one of the country’s best reporters on firearms issues.
On the pods: Atlantic contributor Yascha Mounk has a new editorial project, Persuasion, and he came on The Dispatch Podcast with David and Sarah to talk about it. After you get through that, you won’t want to miss Jonah’s conversation with Kevin Williamson on The Remnant. And back to David and Sarah, who had a very busy week on Advisory Opinions. On Monday, they tackled the court’s big decision striking down a Louisiana abortion law, and on Wednesday they did a deep dive on Espinoza, in which the court handed down a victory for religious liberty.