Our Fourth of July is different this year

Rainier Vista FireworksLast year, my daughter took this photo at the City of Lacey’s annual Fourth of July celebration in Rainier Vista Park. Like many of you, my family is sad that we won’t have the opportunity to gather with our friends, family and our larger community to celebrate this holiday.

Instead of mourning what we aren’t doing, I’m spending the Fourth of July taking a moment to reflect on the changes happening in our country. The United States has a long, dark history of racism. While we’ve addressed some of the more blatant instances in our country, we have yet to successfully root out the systematic racism that prevents Americans from truly experiencing freedom for all.

This Fourth of July feels different in many ways. We’re celebrating differently, we’re connecting with each other in socially distant ways, we’re wearing masks – but also, our country feels poised to take significant steps to addressing inequities that have languished for far too long.

As your representative in the Washington Senate, I am committed to eliminating systematic racism and advancing legislation that will improve equity in our state.  For instance, this year we’ve seen the dramatic divide in access to internet services in our state. This lack of connectively has harmed local businesses and made it all but impossible for some of our children to participate in their classrooms.

There are at least two important beliefs that the pandemic has reinforced for me.  First, Washington’s 19th Century tax structure does not meet today’s needs.  While lower income people pay with an average income of $25,000 pay 14% of their income in state taxes while those with an income of $150,000 pays 5.7%, and that percentage shrinks as income levels go up.

The pandemic also shows the many inadequacies of our healthcare system while the Trump Administration wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. I cannot emphasize enough how important access to health care is during a pandemic.  

So number one, we need progressive tax reform that includes a capital gains tax and an intangibles tax to make millionaires pay their fair share.  Number two, Washington needs to continue to expand access to healthcare to all living in the state.  If this is not the time for these changes, I am not sure when it will be.

Even though this year is very, very different from what we’re used to – we can come together (in a socially distanced way) to mark this holiday. The PBS guide says it will have holiday broadcasting on the Fourth. John Stamos and Michelle Williams will host this year’s prerecorded concert with no live audience.  I assume there will be no fireworks show, but we can enjoy the National Symphony Orchestra, Patti LaBelle, John Fogarty, The Temptations, Brantley Gilbert, Mandy Gonzalez, and the US Army Herald Trumpets.  I assume it will end with the usual 1812 Overture (one of my favorite pieces of mustic).  I’m tuning in!

I’m wishing all of you a Happy Fourth of July!  This year’s Fourth is not the holiday we hoped for – but it is my hope that we can come together to celebrate next year. Moreso, I hope that next year’s gathering will not be just be a celebration of our nation’s birth – but a celebration of major advancements that bring us closer to a system that truly provides liberty and justice for all.

Have an enjoyable and reflective holiday weekend.

Sam