Twitter has been ablaze with jokes about the historical inaccuracies contained within the speech delivered by the republican President Donald Trump during Washington DC’s 4th of July celebrations held at the Lincoln Memorial. He referred to airports existing in 1775, and he mixed up the War of 1812 with the War of Independence.
It went as expected. It was a rainy day where President Trump catered mostly to his base of voters who were present. It looked like a better run campaign rally with a military display, followed up by fireworks.
Here’s the rest of the story regarding the Washington DC’s 4th of July celebrations…
On July 4, 2019, Patrick Granfield, a national security appointee in the Obama Administration, served as a speechwriter for Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, penned for Politico, the following description of the 4th of July Washington Dc celebrations, “Trump’s Grand Display of Isolation” (“The view from the VIP tent suggests there are some things the president missed.”)
“When Donald Trump arrived on the National Mall on Thursday, accompanied by his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, and acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the mood in the VIP tent was subdued. In the moments before his arrival, perhaps because of the rain, or perhaps because of the higher-profile crowd closer to the podium, the chants of “U.S.A.” heard on the Mall never quite reached the necessary volume to sustain themselves or spread beyond small corners.”
“The event, for all its fanfare, had little of the boisterous joy that you feel on a typical July 4 on the Mall. The rain didn’t help. The president’s appearance gave it more weight and pomp than usual. Some of that weight came from the contradictions of this president choosing at this time to speak at this location, one as close to sacred as any in America’s secular religion.”
“Trump staged his speech in the shadow of a monument to a president who spoke of “malice toward none,” a message nearly the opposite of his own political strategy; he was just a stone’s throw away from a memorial to American dead in Vietnam, a war he had avoided.”
“One of the many unusual things about this Fourth celebration was its VIP tents; I watched it from the second of four separate areas reserved for VIPs, a dozen or so rows from the podium but with a view of the president somewhat obscured by a decorative military personnel carrier. Around me were numerous service members and their families; closer to the president, and among the multiple military honor guards, were men and women with bars on their starched sleeves indicating the number of combat tours they had served, most at least two or three, others even seven or eight.”
“Speeches are as notable for their omissions as for what they include, and Trump’s were manifest. Unlike other presidents speaking at moments of national tension, there was very little effort from Trump to show how the nation’s disagreements had been resolved by Americans who reached across divides. In Trump’s remarks, it seemed enough for Trump to simply mention they had been overcome.”
“There was mention of Lewis and Clark, but no mention of their native guide Sacajawea. There was mention of God, and Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, but none on Lincoln’s meditation in his Second Inaugural on the Lord’s justice, and perhaps his punishment, for the sin of slavery in hundreds of thousands of American dead.”
“There was even mention of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in 1963 from the spot that Trump did yesterday evening, but nothing about the racial and economic divides that he worked to repair, or the work yet to be done before America shall overcome. There was mention of a Catholic nun who has long served the needy in Washington, D.C., but none about young migrants, most of them Catholic, and whether their needs were being met. And in Trump’s call to national service, encouraging young Americans to serve in the military, there was no hint of humility or irony that he had not chosen to do so.”
“In his recognition of Americans, both living and deceased, it was possible to detect a feint towards comity. Trump extolled the service of John Glenn, one of the first astronauts and also a long-serving Democrat. Of course, Glenn was from Ohio, a state Trump must take again to win another term in 2020.”
Trump’s speech and the “Salute to Service” itself was rescued, or at least energized, by celebrations of each of the military services. But even here there was a noticeable absence in Trump’s telling of their history and what it revealed about America’s. He spoke almost entirely about American military power without reflecting on the power of America’s example—the example that those service members strive to uphold—and how the nation has inspired other countries across the world in their own marches to greater dignity and freedom.
Trump’s vision of the singular importance of America’s military supremacy was driven home in scores of some of the most sophisticated military platforms flying low over the Lincoln Memorial. He was right about the fly-overs: They were magnificent. What Trump saw in them, exactly, is harder to know. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman had an apt description of the particular appeal this kind of event has for the president. She covered the president’s visit to Paris on Bastille Day two years ago when he was the guest of French President Emanuel Macron at a military parade and lavish display of French military capabilities. “It was like watching a kid with a new LEGO set.”
Link to article: politico.com/magazine…
As per the July 3, 2019 Washington Post opinion piece, “Forget the tanks. Trump’s violation of the Lincoln Memorial is the real offense” by Philip Kennicott:
“The Mall is a place of public reconciliation.”
Although originally conceived as a wide avenue in Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the city, the Mall and its surrounding parks were configured in the early 20th century as a grand symbol of national reunification, centered on a monument to Abraham Lincoln, the man who led the country through civil war. From the Lincoln Memorial, one looks down the long expanse of the Mall to the Capitol, at the base of which is a monument to Ulysses S. Grant, who won the war against the South. And from the opposite side, one looks across Memorial Bridge, which connects the District to Virginia, and by extension, the loyal North to the defeated South. Memorial Bridge also joins the Mall to Arlington National Cemetery, where Civil War dead are honored along with those who have fought in battles ever since.
The Mall is fundamentally a civic rather than a military space.
The grounds around the Lincoln Memorial have become cluttered with war memorials, but the best of those, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was also conceived as a place of reconciliation. It doesn’t celebrate the war whose fallen it honors. Rather, it focuses entirely on the pain of loss, and the memory of those who died. It is the opposite of bellicose, a place for national healing rather than a patriotic display, which’s why it was so controversial when it was new.
The drama of Civil War reconciliation was often hollow, a whitewash of sentiment over the divisions of a country that was fully engaged in the racism of Jim Crow and segregation. But over the past century, the monumental central axis of the nation’s capital has evolved from a particular statement about post-Civil War reconciliation to a broader one about reconciling national ideals with national realities. The Lincoln Memorial, which has the words “to bind up the nation’s wounds” inscribed on its walls, isn’t just a grand edifice ideal for photo-ops and television spectacle. It exerts gravitational pull on people who sense a contradiction in what the nation claims to be and what it is in fact. A memorial to this country’s most thoughtful president is now the locus of a basic kind of civic thinking: How can we reconcile our treatment of African Americans, people of color, ethnic and religious minorities, women, the poor and the unemployed, and LGBT people with the basic thesis that “all men are created equal”?
The gravitas of this place also exerts a pull on politicians who want to lay claim to its emotional power and aspirational symbolism. The Mall is appropriate for the quasi-political pomp of inaugurations in part because most inaugurations include some kind of call for national unity. Donald Trump is not the first politician to attempt to intertwine his personal brand with the nation’s most revered brand, Lincoln, and Lincoln’s call for “a lasting peace among ourselves.”
But no president since the Civil War has been more uninterested in the rhetoric of healing and unity than Donald Trump. “
Link to entire article/ video: washingtonpost.com/…
[Can a photograph of dead migrants break through our indifference?]
Hello Gronda. My view is the 4th of July on the National Mall use to be a celebration of the grand things our country stood for, but this time the activities on the 4th at the mall was a hostile take over to showcase our dictator-want-to-be crime family boss president. I think this was as far from a legitimate celebration of the US as could be. It was a disgrace and I hope this will be the last time any one tries to do this. Hugs
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Gronda, while people have lauded his speech as more unifying than usual, primarily because of the low bar and source, I feel it was entirely political. I think about flaunting our military like a football coach once said about touchdown celebrations – it is better to act like you have been there before. Jingoism is a key part of authoritarian regimes On Bill Maher’s list of authoritarian leaders, having a military parade was the final item on his checklist. Sans our Congress, the Fed, SCOTUS doing their job, we are well down the path. I also thank the various groups that have selectively sued the agencies under this president. That is keeping us out of the ditch. As the economy softens further, he will blame everyone else, but trade fights have hastened the slowing. Keith
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