Hijacking The Fourth

Alan Zendell, July 4, 2019

I loved parades. Every year I waited for Memorial Day, Independence Day, even Labor Day, so I could see soldiers, bands, artillery batteries – you name it – marching down Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, with my father, a purple heart World War II veteran beside me. Of course, I was a child, then. All I knew was that we’d won that horrible war and we were all so proud and grateful that our fathers and uncles were safe at home.

It didn’t take long to outgrow the lure of military parades, notwithstanding Blue Angel flyovers at football games. Not too many years later, government sponsored military parades were uniformly seen as bluster by other nations putting on a show for their people. We saw May Day parades in the Soviet Union and China, replete with soldiers, tanks, and ICBMs on truck beds. It was always a chilling sight, but we were told they were merely signs of weakness, an inferior military puffing out its collective chest showing the rest of the world how tough they were. After that, we still honored our war veterans when they marched in Veterans’ Day parades, but we stopped waving our weapons under the noses of the rest of the world.

Until now.

Disgusting and obscene as it is to see tanks on flatbeds moving down Pennsylvania Avenue, is anyone really surprised at the way Donald Trump hijacked our holiday of national pride and turned it into a personal ego trip to bolster his base? He must be nervous as hell seeing polls that say he’d lose to almost every one of the Democrats who have declared their candidacy, were the election tomorrow. So he’s rattling our sabers again and sending ICE storm troopers out to round up all the hard-working people who have been doing the jobs Americans see as beneath them, all the while paying taxes, going to school, and serving in our military. That’ll show the rest of the world what bad-asses we are.

I’m writing this from Canada, Banff to be specific. I didn’t plan it this way, but having been here for Canada Day last Monday and for the Fourth, today, I couldn’t be happier that I’m not home to see the latest desecration of our treasured traditions and values. The contrast with Canada Day was impossible to ignore. To my eyes, it was a happy, proud celebration of Canada’s 152nd anniversary as an independent nation. Happy, friendly people, public cutting of giant birthday cakes, everyone wishing everyone he came in contact with Happy Canada Day. It’s the busiest weekend of the year in Canada, and it doesn’t offend anyone.

There are thousands of people here enjoying the Rockies, British Columbia, and Alberta from every English-speaking country in the world. From several non-English-speaking ones too, but I wasn’t able to interact much with them. From the others, Canadians, Brits, Australians, Kiwis, there was a shockingly consistent outpouring of negative comments every time Trump and the USA were mentioned. And that came up a lot, as all the American news channels are available everywhere, here.

All we saw and heard this week was headshaking dismay. How could you let your country come to such a pass? It was never said with malice or in a mocking tone. It sounded like the compassionate comforting you might offer a friend who just lost a loved one. My server at dinner last night, a young woman from Montreal, actually hugged me when I told her how glad we were to be far from Trump’s latest embarrassing spectacle.

It’s never clear what’s going on in Trump’s head, but if it’s true that the only reason he backed off on having tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue under their own power was the cost of having to repair the streets afterward, that speaks volumes about how he thinks. It apparently never occurred to him that a military parade in Washington would conjure memories of Soviet tanks putting down uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, of Nazi armies occupying Paris, Antwerp, Warsaw, and Amsterdam. Or of Chinese troops and tanks facing off against civilian protestors in Tiananmen Square. My guess is he wouldn’t care.

It was both mildly surprising and refreshing to hear all those well-meaning foreigners lament with us. The most commonly heard comment was that Trump adores dictators and autocrats and does everything possible to imitate them. Note that the people expressing that are from all over our planet, far from the clutches of fake news.

This new development is more than disturbing. Except for those in Trump’s base who find the idea of American forces bombing everyone Trump dislikes sexually arousing, for the rest of us, it’s another reminder of how desperately we need to be rid of him.

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