This Fourth of July was different than holidays past in several ways, because of the pandemic and because of the economy. But as BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes in this Boomer Opinion piece, it also was different because of the way the president used it. To serve his interests, not ours.
The Fourth of July means something special to us. More important, it means the same special things to all of us. A celebration of our nation. Of its origins, of its freedoms, of its promise, of its strengths.
But now, there’s been an attempt to hijack the holiday. By the president.
How dare this vile man. Friday at Mount Rushmore, then the next day at the White House (which under more deserving leaders has been called the People’s House), this vile, vicious, vacuous excuse for a president sullied, soiled, and spoiled our most patriotic holiday. He turned it into an accolade for his ego, an attack against his antagonists. He tried to hijack the Fourth of July.
How dare him!
Every Independence Day for decades, until the pandemic put a temporary stop to it, I have attended concerts of patriotic music, surrounded by friends. Some have views that reach much farther to the Left than mine. Others come from farther to the Right than I like. But year after year, concert after concert, we have stood together, singing in unison to eulogize our unity. My Country Tis of Thee, America the Beautiful, the Star Spangled Banner. No matter how we vote on Election Day, we all vote on Independence Day for America.
Except this president. On the Fourth of July, he chose to extol America by assaulting his adversaries: “American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles, and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the earth. We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing.”
Equating the Nazis, the fascists, the communists, with the miscreant troublemakers on America’s streets is sick. Depreciating the savage slaughter of millions just to foment his faithful flocks is shameless.
He also assured his unmasked (translation: asinine) apostles, “We will not allow anyone to divide our citizens by race or background. We will not allow them to foment hate, discord, and distrust.” He defined his opposition as “the very definition of totalitarianism.” On Independence Day, no less.
Dividing citizens by race or background? He would know about that. Fomenting hate, discord, and distrust? He would know about that, too. And if totalitarianism means a nation led by a wannabe dictator who thrives on obedience and subservience, he knows all about that. Remember when President George W. Bush infamously invoked, “Either you’re with us or you’re against us?” Today, that sounds almost quaint.
On Independence Day, the rest of us wave the same flag, no matter where we fall in the body politic. Not the Confederate flag by the way, the salient symbol of slavery which this president has dared to defend, but Old Glory, the American flag, which soldiers and citizens have died to defend.
The president pretentiously wraps himself in our flag too, but as if it is his and his alone to defend. The irony of his professed passion for Old Glory is that to this day, despicably and inexplicably, he still hasn’t ordered it flown at half-staff to memorialize the more than 130,000 Americans who have died— on his watch— from the coronavirus. Perhaps the Denier-in-Chief just doesn’t want to draw attention to the tens of thousands who experts say still might be alive if he had marshaled a national strategy to combat the disease, rather than an inept endeavor to ignore it.
He has their blood on his hands. And yet in his two consecutive tirades at Mount Rushmore and the White House, amid a streak of six days’ worth of new record-high Covid infections, their lives— their deaths— rated hardly a mention.
Many years ago at Mount Rushmore, I had an unparalleled privilege. As part of a story I was reporting about technicians examining some expanding cracks in the four faces of the presidents, a camera crew and I got to join them crawling around the faces ourselves, sometimes gripping their granite features, sometimes suspended by ropes. What I remember thinking was, these were four great men, some flawed far more than others, but each having done this nation more good than harm.
That story was part of the run-up to that year’s Fourth of July.
On this Fourth of July holiday, in front of those same storied faces, this president had darker thoughts: “There is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for.”
That’s another irony, since the growing danger I see comes from a leader who, in the run-up to Independence Day, was threatening anyone who leaked or reported news about his unpatriotic failure to act on intelligence that Russia was paying the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill American troops… but didn’t threaten Russia itself.
Another growing danger comes from a leader who unpatriotically threatens the constitutional right of every American to vote. He fails to fight the invisible enemy, Covid-19; he fails to confront the obvious enemy, Russia. But he will muster up an army to stop a straw man he created called voter fraud, which really means, to prevent minority voters— typically (and justifiably) not his supporters— from exercising a right written into the bylaws of their democracy.
The writing already is on the wall. Although absent any evidence, he warned his ill-advised Arizona rally a few days before Independence Day, “These will be the most corrupt elections in the history of the country.” Could this become a pretext if he loses for refuting the results? The growing danger, the growing threat, is that this man knows what he’s doing. And will stop at nothing to look like he’s winning every war.
We are bigger than that.
There is a stunning summit in Colorado, over which my wife and I passed last week, called Independence Pass. The views from the top— 12,000 feet above the seas— are a metaphor for the endless horizons of America. If independence meant tearing away from the English monarchy, it also meant turning toward something new, if untested. Toward endless opportunity. Endless liberty. An endless American Dream.
Any other president would appreciate that. Any other president would want that for his (or some day, her) fellow citizens. But not this president. He speaks, and acts, and enacts, only for himself. As a former GOP Capitol Hill communications director named Tara Setmayer put it this weekend, his presidency is “the antithesis of patriotism.”
He has no right to hijack our holiday. Hopefully at this time next year, we won’t have to worry. We will have it back.