"A century and a half ago this weekend, hundreds of thousands of white Americans in the lowland South did something unprecedented in their lifetimes: They declined to commemorate the Fourth of July. On July 4, 1865, newly freed African-Americans and an occupying army were celebrating the Fourth as a triumph of Revolutionary principles beneath the federal flag and portraits of the martyred Abraham Lincoln. “The white people,” a Columbia, South Carolina, diarist reported, “shut themselves indoors.”
Now, on the eve of another July 4 one hundred fifty years later, we find that these issues haven’t quite gone away. Following the horrific slaughter in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month, as Gov. Nikki Haley was calling for removal of the Confederate flag from the State Capitol grounds, the Ku Klux Klan—still around after all these years—planned to hold a pro-Confederate rally on July 18. In Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans pledged to oppose Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe's order to remove the flag from state-issued license plates, and a new CNN poll shows the nation is still remarkably split on the very meaning of the Confederate flag: Fully 57 percent of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism; opinions on the flag are sharply divided by race, level of education and region.
Welcome to the Disunited States of America. Nominally we are still a single nation, and average Americans still feel a surge of patriotism as they raise their eyes skyward to watch the rockets’ red glare at July 4th parties across the country. And of course the idea of a nation of very different kinds of people united only by a common passion for freedom and democracy—E Pluribus Unum—has always been a part of our self-identity. Yet in recent weeks a number of social and political issues—the Charleston slaughter, made more horrific by a vicious online manifesto in which the alleged killer declared he hates the American flag; history-changing Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and gay marriage that elicited bitter exchanges even among the justices themselves; and heated arguments over marijuana legalization—have highlighted how much remains unresolved in our national conversation. Politico