In America today we see anger and fear, but also hope and resilience

Fourth of July is normally a day to celebrate our nation’s birth and extol the virtues of freedom, liberty and justice for all.

But this is a divided country. We see the violent images from Jan. 6, 2021, replayed during congressional hearings convened to investigate our former president’s role in the Capitol insurrection.

We see the tens of thousands of women across the country marching to protest the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that denies them sovereignty over their own bodies, and we see those who praise the justices for placing the right to life over the right to choose.

We see yet another unthinkable school shooting that claims the lives of 19 fourth-graders and two of their teachers, and we see the U.S. Senate take the smallest of steps to reduce gun violence, steps it never took after Sandy Hook, Parkland, Aurora or The Pulse nightclub shootings.

And we see the country, still reeling from two and a half years of COVID-19, facing the possibility of a recession fueled by a global inflationary spiral that is sucking away their hard-earned dollars at the gas pump, the grocery store and everywhere else as they struggle to feed their families and keep roofs over their heads.

Against that backdrop, Press Democrat reporters asked a cross-section of Sonoma County residents to tell us in their own words how they are feeling about their country. Some responded with a mix of anger and fear. Some responded with messages of hope and resilience. Almost all agreed, however, that America is still an idea worth celebrating.

Mark Heller

Mark Heller (Courtesy Photo)
Mark Heller (Courtesy Photo)

Mark Heller, 67, is a real estate agent who lives in Santa Rosa.

On July 4, the American people will be celebrating the nation's past, arguing about its present and perhaps making dire predictions about its future. That is, if anyone is even willing to breach any political subjects at all.

We are a nation divided, and we know it. It seems more so than ever before. We have less courtesy and more distrust and hate.

I am too old to react to anything with hate. Hate never benefits the hater. The athlete does not get mad at the game. In fact, in most sports (and life), if you get mad and rattled, you lose.

It is time to make a proactive plan, put on those rose-colored glasses and reread the Serenity Prayer. Each of us has the opportunity to make this country a better place. The challenge is to find the best options.

So take a look around you at the greatness, resolve to help fix what you can and find peace whenever possible. Let that win the day.

— Diane Peterson

Simoné Mosely

Simoné Mosely (FMZ Media)
Simoné Mosely (FMZ Media)

Simoné Mosely, 33, of Penngrove, is a neo-soul artist.

It feels disgraceful to celebrate America when there’s awful things happening in the world: gun violence, racism and now women’s rights are being taken away? Any time we’ve made progress — we take three steps back.

I feel conflicted celebrating Fourth of July, a holiday I grew up celebrating, with pride and gusto knowing what’s happening behind the American flag and pretty politics.

Despite the state of the world, though, I feel hopeful. I hope people are angered enough to make change and stand up for what they believe in. People think their voice doesn’t matter but that voice (vote) can create waves. Every voice counts.

As artists, it’s our job to use our voices by spreading the truth through music.

We can’t give this world to our children. That’s unfair. We’ve done so much damage, we’re pushing our children’s futures away. We’ve got to do better.

— Mya Constantino

Jim Mickelson

Jim Mickelson  (Courtesy Photo)
Jim Mickelson (Courtesy Photo)

Jim Mickelson, 63, of Bennett Valley, is a third-generation Sonoma County resident, a well-drilling contractor, grape grower and cattle rancher.

My view of what’s going on is we’ve got problems in government and leadership. I think whether you’re Republican or Democrat — I don’t care which it is — they think too much about their party and not enough about the people in the country. And it’s family values, and it’s country, is who we are and what we are. To me it’s important that we are the United States of America. I believe in the flag, and I believe in the Constitution, and I believe if you’re going to be here you need to follow the laws.

You talk about gun violence. We’ve got plenty of laws, but no one enforces them. You’ve got to use them properly. If you violate the law, if you have mental problems, they’ve got to get on top of that.

You aren’t supposed to protest in front of Supreme Court justice’s house but they don’t do anything about that. There’s the protests in Seattle, and they cheer that. We’re governed by laws and we should follow the laws. We have enough laws on the books now to make us a safe country and make our citizenship safe, but we don’t follow the laws.

It’s the people that are in the justice system that don’t enforce them. Our police and sheriff, our law enforcement, they follow the laws, but it’s the judicial system that doesn’t enforce it. Our law enforcement system is doing their best but their hands are tied.

It really just goes to people who are really liberal and believe everybody deserves 10 chances. What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong.

— Mary Callahan

Daniel Garcia

Daniel García (Courtesy Photo)
Daniel García (Courtesy Photo)

Daniel Garcia, 17, of Santa Rosa is a senior at Roseland University Prep.

Each day when I'm waking up, I have a bad habit of checking the news. One thing after another, the bad things keep piling up and honestly, it makes me feel very, very pessimistic.

But I’m going into my senior year. It’s exciting. It’s my final year of high school, I’m going to be going to college … I’m really looking forward to it. Not everything is dark, thankfully. I am also going into my second year (as a youth promoter) with Latino Service Providers.

Especially in Santa Rosa and specifically Roseland, it's a predominantly Latino community here, so it is a lot easier for me to talk to people around me (about issues), because we come from very similar backgrounds. At the national level, I can’t really wrap my head around it because of how insanely diverse the U.S. is and what people consider normal.

This program I’m in with Latino Service Providers, it really shows me that there really are a lot of people that do want change. You don’t see them on TV, but they are there. People in your own cities that do want change and are willing to work with you for those changes.

— Kaylee Tornay

Allison Ford

Allison Ford  (Courtesy Photo)
Allison Ford (Courtesy Photo)

Allison Ford, 39, of Santa Rosa, is an assistant professor of sociology at Sonoma State University.

(Patriotism) is not a word that I use comfortably … If I'm thinking of patriotism and I'm thinking about what's best for America, well what's best for America might not be what's best for the world. And I'm also part of the world.

In the environment, which is my specialty, American patriotism and choices about what's best for the country have grossly disproportionate effects on people around the world. So if we're only thinking about patriotism and nationalism and we lose sight of that kind of, you know, connectivity with other peoples and places, we're intentionally putting blinders on ourselves …

(In) sociology, we draw a lot from history, and understanding not just what happened, but patterns in what happened. The Supreme Court is an institution that is embedded in these broader historical structures of our government, which is a government that has always been dominated by men and masculinity, that has always favored white people and whiteness. That is a function of a colonial society.

— Elena Neale-Sacks

Nelson Pinola

Nelson Pinola (Courtesy Photo)
Nelson Pinola (Courtesy Photo)

Nelson Pinola, 67, of Windsor, is a retired Sheriff’s Office lieutenant and the former tribal chairman of the Manchester Band of Pomo Indians

I’m not feeling hopeful at all about the way our country is going. It is the most divisive I’ve seen in my lifetime. The racism I experienced as a kid after moving to Santa Rosa from the reservation of my tribe, the Manchester Band of Pomo Indians, only went underground. But it is in vogue again.

Moving forward on equal rights for all made a great portion of our country uncomfortable, because those with privilege were made to feel afraid they would lose it if others got any. But I’m not surprised. For the folks who have always been on the fringe of things, we are always on the outside looking in, so we can see clearly what is going on.

It’s going to have to be our children who are going to sit down and say, “We have had enough of this garbage. We have to fix this.” I was a lieutenant at the Sheriff’s Office, a leader on diversity in law enforcement and my tribe’s chairman, among other things; but I have since retired and stepped back, because I think it’s time for the younger folks to take the reins.

— Emily Wilder

Carroll Estes

Carroll Estes (Courtesy Photo)
Carroll Estes (Courtesy Photo)

Carroll Estes, 84, of Healdsburg is a longtime policy researcher and advocate and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, where she founded the Institute for Health & Aging and Emancipatory Sciences Lab.

I’m intensely aware of the pain and suffering in our community and particularly for people of color and marginalized populations. I’m discouraged, but I’m motivated to work toward the unified projects and actions that will bring the best out of our society. Fear and uncertainty motivate action. We’ve got to step up.

I’m considered one of the foremothers of critical sociology which really means understanding that there is inequity and inequality and injustice — partitioning of the “have-nots” and the “have-mores.” As an academic who has worked on public policy for decades, the exciting thing has been to see the use of the word structural — structural racism, sexism, ageism. These concepts are now in the dialogue, and that is an advance on which we can build.

I’m worried, and, I’m hopeful that it’s going to wake up enough people.

— Marisa Endicott

Randy Ferino

Randy Ferino (Courtesy Photo)
Randy Ferino (Courtesy Photo)

Randy Ferino, 54, of Santa Rosa is an employment and recruiting manager and a U.S. Navy veteran.

I was an air traffic controller for the U.S. Navy. I was at a Spanish air force base for two years and on a ship for two years (from 1989 to 1994).

I have a lot of friends in the military who live back East and in Florida. They are best people in the world. But their ideology is different than mine. I don’t mind that. When I see the American flag, that flag means prices have been paid. That flag means that people have died for me to get to where I am at.

Some people think we are heading for a civil war. I don’t think that. I don’t think there’s enough people to walk away from everything they have.

I remember when Whitney Houston sang the national anthem (at the 1991 Super Bowl). I was serving during the time, and there was a major war at the time (the Persian Gulf war). There were people crying at the game and people crying while watching the game while she sang. It was at a time when all this stuff was happening and I really felt like I belonged. When you look back, you felt proud (to be) part of that.

— Bill Swindell

Maureen Merrill

Maureen Merrill (Courtesy Photo)
Maureen Merrill (Courtesy Photo)

Maureen Merrill, 69 of Windsor, is a leadership coach.

I’m feeling a mix of deep, enduring gratitude for my country, and at the same time a dread that’s been growing over the last few years. Do we appreciate the extent to which we have the right, and the chance, to strive for security and happiness? I’ve seen horrible poverty in other parts of the world, places where hope and self-reliance is crushed by corruption and tyranny.

Our Declaration of Independence states that equality is a self-evident truth, meaning that it needs no explanation or justification. The imperfections in our national ideals are obvious, both in form and fulfillment, but for the first time in my life I worry about their fragility.

It shakes and sickens me to see oppressive forces, outside and within the U.S., actively fighting against our democratic ideals. I fear eroding ethics, paramilitaries, degradation of language and civility, demonizing of differences and loss of trust in institutions and one another. It’s motivating me to be more engaged. I still hope and believe that we can strive for the liberty, justice and peace that we have pledged to honor.

— Kathleen Coates

Angel Garganta

Angel Garganta, left,  pictured with his husband, Michael Schwarz. (Courtesy Photo)
Angel Garganta, left, pictured with his husband, Michael Schwarz. (Courtesy Photo)

Angel Garganta, 61, is an attorney with a national law firm who lives in Petaluma. He came to this country from Cuba at age 7.

My husband and I live an awesome town in a great country that’s given us countless blessings, among them opportunity, security and the freedom to love each other. But we’re unsettled by America’s drift toward fascism, which started with the election of Donald Trump, and continued, in our view, with the Supreme Court’s deeply flawed, overtly activist ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

I was born in Cuba and left that country when I was 7 years old in 1968. My parents saw it turning into a totalitarian, Communist, cult of personality built around a dictator, Fidel Castro. So we got out. Now I live in a country where one of the two main political parties is committed to another cult of personality.

Michael, my spouse, is the son of a German Jew born in Berlin in 1930. He and his family left for America in 1938, not long after the Kristallnacht pogrom. Michael’s whole idea of patriotism is shaped by his father’s escape from a fascist dictatorship.

His mother’s family sailed from Europe into New York Harbor in the early 1900s. Visiting the Statue of Liberty, visualizing what it must have been like to see the statue reflecting the values of this country, has always been a powerful experience for him.

What I see, and this worries me, are parallels between what’s happening here and what we had for a long time in Cuba: an intense factionalism and partisanship, I mean to the death, where people were incapable of working with those they were politically opposed to.

And that’s what’s happening in America — a demonization of political opposites on the left and the right, a growing notion that the way to achieve your political ends is through violence.

People end up putting their faith not in the democratic process, but in some supposedly transcendent leader who is going to solve all their problems. That kind of politics has always been the bane of Latin America. But I never thought I’d see it in this country.

— Austin Murphy

Jackie Elward

Jackie Elward (Courtesy Photo)
Jackie Elward (Courtesy Photo)

Jackie Elward, 43, is mayor of Rohnert Park.

With gun violence, inequality and everything that is happening in this country, my heart is really heavy. It is sad what is happening but for me as a leader I want to bring people together despite our differences.

I want to be the bridge in difficult situations and I want us to come together and sit at one table and talk … There is a lot of racial inequality that we are seeing and continue to see here in our county. That needs to stop.

I want to make sure that those that cannot have a voice, find their voice. … I want people to reflect on how their decisions impact other people that can’t fight for themselves.

My background: I’m from the Democratic Republic of Congo which for the last 30 years has gone through war and disparity. That’s not what I want. America has something really special that other countries die to have and that is freedom.

America has given a lot of people the opportunity to see their dreams become a reality. I am a good example. Once we lose that freedom that’s it. My fight is for unity, for peace, because America is the land of the free and we need to keep that freedom for all.

Paulina Pineda

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette