The main problem I had with Donald Trump and his Washington Mall rally, going into the Fourth of July, was that the national holiday is not about the military and partisanship, but rather about ideas and a deeply held philosophy regarding the rights of man along with the role of laws and government.
Following the embarrassing spectacle on the Mall, with twisted and distorted history being spewed from the podium, I was left jarred once again about my country. The world watched, and Lord it was a most awful representation of who we are, given that we provided to a world, needing to see that free men and women could indeed govern themselves, an example of how it could be done.
And then Trump was inaugurated and the essential ingredients of a republic have, one by one, been removed from the national mix. The latest to fall was a proper reverence and appreciation from our top elected official about the very reason we have a July 4th celebration.
Missing, as Trump spoke in Lincoln’s shadow, was any sense of humility as a vital aspect of American greatness. But you might have guessed that.
That is outrageous, of course, but not surprising. It was clear from the beginning that Independence Day meant nothing more to Trump than an opportunity to choreograph a made-for-television reelection event and give himself an obscenely expensive ego massage.
Presidents, as a rule, have treated the Fourth of July with special reverence because they understand that the day belongs to us, not to them. The few attempts by presidents to take partisan advantage of the holiday have not gone well.
This is the most collective of our holidays, in that it celebrates our common heritage and enterprise, but it is also the most individual. It commemorates not a battle but a document, and each of us gets to decide what the Declaration of Independence means — what patriotism entails, what the flag represents, what the fireworks symbolize. Your view of what the Fourth of July means is every bit as valid as the president’s. Mine is, too, and it excludes fighters and bombers over the Lincoln Memorial.