Fresh off his Authoritarians Tour 2019, President Trump is ready to celebrate himself on July Fourth.
Oh sure, there’s that whole Independence Day thing going on, but whatever. Trump’s “Salute to America” isn’t about this country. It’s a masturbatory self-tribute by the man cruelly leading it. This is the military parade Trump has wanted for more than two years to show off his big-boy toys like tanks and jets, in formation for his own glorification.
If his dictator buddies like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can have expensive and pointless pomp and circumstance, why can’t Trump?
“I’m going to be here and I’m going to say a few words and we’re going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too and we’re gonna have some tanks stationed outside,” he told reporters. Those tanks won’t be rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue because they could endanger infrastructure, and we know that terrible things have happened whenever this administration talks about infrastructure.
“We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display — brand new. And we’re very proud of it,” Trump said. Some of those pieces of equipment are newer than others. One of those tanks, a World War II-era M4 Sherman, hasn’t been used by the armed services since the 1950s.
For Trump, having such a public display of military power is a clenched fist shaken at perceived enemies both foreign and domestic. These are the actions of a man already eager to emulate his anti-American idols in terms of repression and cruelty. He would be even further along if not for that pesky old Constitution, which he and his administration ignore every chance they get.
For now, a parade he can boast about — and I imagine he already bored everyone silly with details real and imagined at the recent G20 summit in Japan — will have to suffice.
It’s Trump throwing his own party, with fighter jets roaring overhead.
With his love of military symbolism, it’s always worth restating that Trump had no similar affection for actually being in the military. When his country called him to service in the Vietnam era, he did what he has continued to do as president — he turned his back. Trump was not a conscientious objector, but a rich man’s boy accustomed to having Daddy’s money as a cushion for life’s hard landings.
Trump would probably be the first to remind anyone listening that only bone spurs — and four military deferments — kept him from becoming a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, the likes of which the world has never seen before.
Instead, as commander in chief, he’ll oversee a grandiose military parade the likes of which many of us will never want to see again. Except his base, who probably envision the mother of all Trump rallies. And that makes the Fourth of July a more appropriate day for this self-aggrandizing nonsense than Veterans Day, which was first considered.
Absent the bunting, beach days, and barbecue, July Fourth is a very Donald Trump holiday. It’s a celebration of broken promises, of supremacy for white people, and the dehumanization of black people that continues to this day. It’s about men who had a chance to save this nation’s soul in 1776, declaring their own independence while denying that same agency to millions.
At its core, this is a nation holding fast to the same old lies about its greatness as it buries every truth about how it gained, and has held onto, its status and power. Trump is the living embodiment of what happens when a country refuses to own its past, and dismisses, as politically correct, any discussion on how to rectify the depth of its present-day implications.
Trump understands brutality over compassion, fear over communion, and cheap chest-thumping over thoughtfulness and nuance. It’s a holiday that always ends with a show of lights and sounds signifying American ferocity, war, and destruction.
It’s no coincidence that Trump will use the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop to his July Fourth speech. That was where Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream for his nation during the 1963 March on Washington. It’s also the spot where opera singer Marian Anderson sang “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” after she was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing for an integrated audience at Constitution Hall, in 1939. Those steps have special meaning to African-Americans.
In the course of this inhumane presidency, it’s just a small atrocity from a man who enjoys nothing more, and seems to have a bottomless supply. His “Salute to America” is a self-salute. Every military step Thursday will feel like another step toward the dictatorship to which Trump believes he is entitled — the likes of which this world has already seen too many times before.