American patriotism is a local affair – By Washington Examiner Staff (Washington Examiner) / July 3 2019
In the presidency of Donald Trump, even Fourth of July fireworks become controversial. The controversies arise both because of Trump’s extraordinary way of doing things and because of the overblown reactions of the news media and other members of the opposition.
We share some of the standard criticisms of Trump’s show, although not the vehemence. But we’d like to add one point that we hope will take root with the Left. It is about localism and centralization.
Maybe you’re more concerned about the prospect of tanks rolling down Constitution Avenue. We understand. We don’t think this is a good look, either. We’ve editorialized that governments who do these ostentatious displays of military might typically are compensating for a sense of insecurity.
But such a parade is hardly unprecedented. John F. Kennedy, the Democrats’ great hero, had a military parade through Washington, D.C., with missiles and armored cars as part of his inauguration. JFK did it for a show of strength during the Cold War. Trump could make a similar argument, but we don’t agree. The United States could destroy any enemy in short order, and the rest of the world knows it.
Once again, Trump does something unneeded but precedented, and opposing partisans falsely call it unnecessary or unheard of.
Then, there’s the problem of Trump mixing campaign fundraising and government. The Republican National Committee is hosting a private party at the Lincoln Memorial. That means that military grandeur is helping the GOP court its bigwigs. This use of the incumbent advantage is not new either, but it’s fairly swampy.
We also mildly lament the imposition on Washingtonians. Trump’s decisions have added headaches and hassles to Independence Day in the federal capital. Flights will have to halt out of Reagan Airport. Security will be tighter around the National Mall. The Lincoln Memorial will be mostly off-limits. Tanks will clog the streets and possibly exacerbate the potholes, although plenty of children and adults will probably like the idea of taking selfies with the military hardware.
But our main objection is none of these things. It is, rather, that the president should not try to make himself or Washington the center of national attention on Independence Day.
The Fourth of July is a patriotic holiday, and American patriotism has most often manifested itself locally. When you ask old men and women, in their “Make America Great Again” garb, what was great about America back in the day, they’ll often cite a greater sense of national unity and pride. But the examples they give are very local, such as the Memorial Day parade through town, the local heroes hill, and, of course, their town’s fireworks show.
Americans salute America and its founding not through focusing our attention on the seat of government but by rekindling connections with neighbors, parading tricycles through town, grilling burgers and hot dogs, and laying down a picnic blanket to take our ease and view the local pyrotechnics.
Other countries have their national holiday on a day of unification. Belgium celebrates the crowning of King Leopold. France celebrates with a big military parade on Bastille Day; that’s where Trump got the idea. But in this country, we celebrate something different: independence. Being free in America, first of all, means breaking away.
America’s strength has always been in its decentralization, our hundreds of thousands of little platoons. We wish Trump well with his fireworks show and dinner party on Constitution Avenue. We just hope he doesn’t expect Americans to tune in to his show rather than staring at the neighborhood sky.