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    Freedom Fries and Rollercoasters

    AlexRandolphHeadshot2Independence Day. America’s birthday. Since my early childhood visiting my dad and aunt in America, July 4th has been one of my favorite holidays. A day when we come together as a family and country, BBQ, eat hotdogs, drink Budweiser (now called a can of “America”), and pledge allegiance to the flag, all ending in a crescendo of fireworks.

    I still remember the time when an entire movie theater gave a standing ovation screaming “USA! USA!” as Will Smith saved the world from aliens in the 1996 movie Independence Day. This raw display of patriotism was never something I got to experience in Germany. Eleven years ago it got an even more personal meaning when my husband and I, idealistic college students and summer interns, had our first official date at the Capitol’s lawn in Washington, D.C., to watch the national fireworks celebration.

    I always felt very lucky to live in a country that has given me and my family so many opportunities to pursue our life, liberty and happiness. When I witnessed in person Barack Obama taking the oath of office, I felt a great sense of pride that change has come and I never felt more proud to be American. That being said, lately I am fearful about the future of this country. A country where Trump is President. Where we build a wall to keep “others” out and America comes first. A place where Muslims are banned but assault rifles are the norm. Where freedom fries make America great again through violence and hate. BT 7.7. 1-28 final_Page_06_Image_0003

    I know we are better than that. We are a country where all men and women are created equal. This past weekend I spent a day at Great America with my family. I am too scared of rollercoasters so I just sat there and people watched. The park was filled with families of all colors, shapes, and configuration. There was excitement in the air. People talked in Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, English, and came together dancing to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

    Initially my niece Joanna was scared of the “Demon” roller coaster ride. Her anticipation grew the closer she got to the front of the line; it would be her first time riding it. But when she made it through the ride, she couldn’t wait to do it again—and did so again two more times, by herself.

    Life is like a rollercoaster. There are ups and downs. We scream, we laugh, we cry, we fear, we overcome. In the end I know that love will trump hate. Just like the idealistic teenage usher told my niece at the end of the ride: “Let’s have a Great America Day!”

    Alex Randolph is a Trustee for City College of San Francisco. He previously served in President Obama’s administration and as an LGBT advisor for Mayor Newsom. He lives in the Castro with his partner Trevor. Follow him on social media:  www.twitter.com/adrandolph & www.facebook.com/AlexDRandolph