Joe Henderson: We’ve come a long, long way in just one year

Jacksonville fireworks 2019
Last year on the Fourth of July, Americans hunkered down in equal parts of fear and civic duty against a mutating virus that killed randomly. This year is better.

Sometimes we need to see where we were to understand how far we’ve come. That’s especially true on this Fourth of July, which, in a sense, is a symbolic rebirth for our nation as we emerge from the pandemic.

We remember this date from a year ago, and not fondly. Americans hunkered down in equal parts of fear and civic duty against a mutating virus that killed randomly. Medical experts told us to wear masks, and most of us did. They said to wash your hands what seemed like 20 times a day and to use sanitizers — if you could find them.

We couldn’t visit grandma in the nursing home, and that was heart-breaking. Public schools geared up for an academic year that promised to be like no other we had ever seen, and we feared for our kids.

Leaders canceled public displays to celebrate our nation’s birth. No fireworks, no parades, or summer vacations. We saw the death toll rise every day, and we didn’t even have baseball to distract us. That delayed season didn’t begin until August.

Here we are, though. The pandemic still has teeth and claws, but we have weapons to fight back. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna became household names, and that was a game-changer. People proudly display via social media and other ways that they got their vaccinations.

Yes, we still have to take some precautions, but life has returned to something resembling normal again. People again line up to board airplanes or head to the beach. Grandma looks pretty good, and we’re not limited to virtual hugs via Zoom anymore.

Oh, it’s not perfect.

We have a former President who can’t admit that he lost the election, and it’s concerning that too many people believe him.

Idiots and thugs stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, but many of them will stand before a judge and get what’s coming to them.

Politics still divides us, but I think that’s in our DNA. Not long after succeeding George Washington, President John Adams pushed through the Sedition Act.

That made it a federal crime to commit “false, scandalous and malicious writing” against Congress or the President. It also was illegal to conspire “to oppose any measure or measures of the government.”

So much for the First Amendment, right?

How would Fox News or MSNBC handle that today?

Yeah, we bark and snarl at each other, and we focus too much on the fringes of the left or right. Most Americans live in the middle, and they don’t believe either side has all the answers.

They are charitable and want to live in peace. The vast majority of Americans judge a person for who they are, not what they look like. They don’t spend all day glued to cable TV because they’re too busy raising a family and making a living.

Yeah, that’s America.

The past year reminded us that things can go terribly wrong, but we’ll get through it. So, on this July 4, take a break because you deserve it.

Watch a ballgame. Have friends over for a cookout.

Visit grandma and give her a big hug. Go to a parade, watch the fireworks, and wave a flag if you have one.

It’s the Fourth of July, and today we celebrate our independence.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Tom

    July 4, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    Well said, we have indeed come a long way. Most of us, anyway. Some never will, but they can still go see Former President Rump put on a show, live in that past.

  • zhombre

    July 7, 2021 at 6:31 pm

    It did not kill randomly. The eldlerly and those with pre-existing medical conditions were most at risk. The casual way you disseminate misinformation is appalling. At the tail end of a 45-year career in newspaper, it’s apparent you haven’t learned shit. You remain a half assed hack who spews bias and misinformation. You wonder why people in polling distrust the media. Look in the mirror.

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