Growing up in Washington, D.C. means no other Independence Day celebration will live up to your childhood memories. For a relentlessly political, cynical city, they throw a heck of a party.
First, there’s the National Independence Day Parade. This ain’t no small, hometown parade where the local horses and fire trucks are the stars of the show. This is A Historical Spectacle. There are hundreds of Uncle Sams (some in balloon form or on stilts). Bewigged Founding Fathers abound, as do Paul Revere impersonators. Military bands–past and present–are pressed into service, sweating in wool uniforms and 100 degree heat. My sisters and I once counted seventy-five Betsy Rosses. (We would’ve liked some Deborah Sampsons better, but we cheered what female historical figures we could get.)
After the parade, tens of thousands of people descend on the National Mall. Some visit the National Archives, home of the Declaration of Independence, which has its own concert and historical impersonators.
When my dad worked on Capitol Hill (and had a parking space), we’d picnic on the hill below the Capitol building. Sometimes we’d watch the PBS “Capitol Fourth” concert (my younger sister was on TV once, even). Sometimes we walked to the Washington Monument for the best view of the fireworks, whining about the bugs and heat the whole way. When it was time for the big finale, Dad would race off to get the car. He’d have it waiting at the closest curb. We’d all pile in, trying to beat the traffic from the mass exodus.
After Dad lost his job and primo parking space, we picnicked at the Jefferson Memorial (less crowds, worse view of fireworks) or the Lincoln Memorial (more crowds, better fireworks view).
Every area that didn’t involve the fireworks display or wasn’t being restored was open to the public. Hippies with sparklers sang “Happy Birthday America.” Religious fanatics screamed that we were going to hell. Sunburned Midwesterners bought up flags and bug repellant. There were protestors of all kinds, but the celebration was open to all.
This is the first year I’m glad I’m not back home. Not because of the bugs, or the 100 degree heat, or 100% humidity. It’s not even because of crowds of willfully ignorant, drunk, white, flag-waving Americans confusing nationalism with patriotism.
It’s because Trump fucking ruins everything.
This year, Trump’s taking over the Lincoln Memorial and holding a political rally called “Salute to America.” You need a ticket to enter, and you won’t get one unless you’re a Republican friend, family, or political donor. If you support Trump, you can sit in the bleachers he’s erecting and have a perfect view of the fireworks display, which he moved to give himself the best seat in the house.
Trump’s diverting money desperately needed by our underfunded National Parks to pay for all this and tanks (technically “armored personnel carriers”). Never mind that the National Park Service and everyone else has warned Trump that tanks may crack roads and do other damage.
The Orange Pustule doesn’t care. He has to have military trappings to prove his greatness. Just like Hitler.
Maybe you think the Hitler comparison is over the top. It’s not, but fine. Here’s a more obvious comparison.
There was one other President who did his best to turn the Independence Day celebration at the Lincoln Memorial into a conservative, pro-President, pro-military, nationalistic event. The “Honor America Day” was arranged by white, conservative, Christian men (Mormon J.W. Marriott and Evangelist Billy Graham). It began with Graham praying. Next up were acts by Hollywood C-listers (because the A & B list declined). Marriott and Graham called these acts a “Salute to America” (which should also sound familiar, as, yes, Trump’s team is actually using the EXACT SAME NAME because they have no original thoughts). The first “Salute to America” even had Jeannie C. Riley bashing anti-war protestors by singing:
If you don’t love it, leave it
Let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’
When you’re runnin’ down our country, hoss
You’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me.
In case you haven’t figured out which President ordered the first odious “Salute to America,” it was Nixon.* Seriously. I can’t make this shit up. Trump literally stole his celebration idea from disgraced President Nixon, who eventually resigned rather than be impeached.
May Trump’s era end in the same ignominious fashion.
*Unlike Trump, however, Nixon was smart enough not to attend his own “Salute to America.” He stayed home in San Clemente, far away from the heat, the bugs, the protestors, and the tear gas.