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The Third of July

As patriotic Americans we don’t want to spend the Fourth of July with another screed about the President of the United States, as it’s supposed to be one of those all-too-rare apolitical and non-partisan days, so we’ll get it off our chest on the Third of July. President Donald Trump seems intent on turning Independence Day into another one of his endless campaign rallies, with a heaping helping of militarism on top, and several million taxpayer dollars thrown in, with big-bucks donors getting front row seating, and we find it outrageous.
Starting with President George Washington it has been a time-honored tradition for presidents to stay out of the spotlight while the country celebrates the birth of America, except for a brief and humble statement acknowledging the occasion, but Trump cares little for time-honored traditions and always on insists on being the center of attention. He’ll be hogging a stage that’s been set up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, claiming credit for the traditional fireworks just as he claims credit for people saying “Merry Christmas” in December, with generals and admirals of the American military standing next to him as tanks and troops march down Pennsylvania Avenue as fighters and bombers fly overhead.
Trump is calling it a “Celebration of America,” as if it were his novel idea to celebrate America on the Fourth of July, but everything about it seems a betrayal of American ideals.
The basic idea of the Declaration of Independence that was signed on the Fourth of July in 1776 is that all men are created equal, none are above the law, none are irreplaceable, and America’s greatness derives from e pluribus unum. Trump openly brags about being exceptional, brazenly violates the rule of law and dares his opponents to do anything about it, has repeatedly said that “Only I can solve,” and claims full credit for supposedly restoring America’s greatness by his clear efforts to divide the country. If he somehow manages not to do so on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the Fourth of July we will be surprised, but his mere presence there seems to imply his usual political rally rhetoric.
America’s military might won our independence from Britain, and has maintained our freedom throughout some very difficult years ever since, so of course it deserves some gratitude on the Fourth of July. Still, the show of strength that Trump has planned is not the way to do it. The top military brass has made it clear to Trump that their soldierly humility makes them uncomfortable flexing their muscles in gaudy parades, the enlisted men and women would probably prefer to have a day off with their families rather than being props in a Trump propaganda ploy, and the whole thing seems more like something you’d see in the old Soviet Union or modern day North Korea rather than in the United States of America. The draft-dodging Commander in Chief bragged the parade would include the Sherman tanks, although there haven’t been any Sherman tanks for more than 50 years, and he also bragged there’d be the newest Abram tanks, although they’re actually called Abrams tanks.In Trump’s skewed worldview America is great because it can kick any other country’s ass in a war, but to our thinking America has that capability because a nation of free men and women and free markets that doesn’t want a fight with anybody made it rich enough and great enough to sustain such a formidable force.
As rich as America is it’s more than $20 trillion in debt, and racking up a trillion more every year even in what Trump calls the best economy ever, and Trump’s show of force won’t help with that problem. He’ll spend millions with the flyovers, millions more rolling tanks and other armored vehicles over streets that weren’t designed to bear such heavy loads and will surely require expensive repair afterwards, and he’s diverting some $2.5 million dollars appropriated for the upkeep of national parks to pay for the stage on the Lincoln Memorial and the other changes to the time-honored tradition of Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, D.C.
Way back in our early teens we had the good fortune to be in our nation’s capital for a couple of Independence Days, and we can say that even Trump couldn’t have made it any greater. They had great fireworks even then, which lit up the skies over the Washington and Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and the Capitol and the reflecting pools and the rest of the gorgeous National Mall, and it was jam-packed with Americans of all hues and every variety, and nobody seemed to care much who was a Republican or who was a Democrat. Rich or poor didn’t make any difference, either, and there was a wonderfully palpable sense of e pluribus unum.
Tomorrow we expect there will be a lot of people in those red “Make America Again” ball caps showing up for another Trump rally, as well as a lot of people and that “Baby Trump” balloon showing up to protest the President of the United States, so at least a few fist fights will result. You can add the D.C. and Capitol Hill police department’s costs to the total bill, and subtract that from how great the Fourth of July used to be on the glorious National Mall of our nation’s capital. The big bucks donor who bought the front row seats for Trump’s speech and “Celebration of America” might not notice, but any average American who gets caught up in the potential riot surely will.
Our plan for tomorrow is to watch our city’s annual dazzling fireworks display in front of the Wichita Art Museum on the banks of the Little Arkansas River, which will light up the skies over the  Keeper of the Plains statue on the nearby confluence with the Arkansas River that marks the spot still  held sacred sacred by the plains Indians. We look forward to sharing the moment with Wichitans of all hues and every variety, and not caring who’s a Republican and who’s a Democrat. Wichita still has a palpable sense of e pluribus unum, and now that we’ve got this off our chest we won’t let the likes of Trump ruin that on a Fourth of July.

— Bud Norman

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Storming the Barry-cades

The most heartening story of the past weekend, with even the Kansas City Chiefs’ improbable run to a 6-and-0 record notwithstanding, was the continuing wave of civil disobedience protesting the administration’s peevishly punitive policies during the government’s partial shutdown.
Apparently worried that the public might not notice the absence of so much of the governments’ employees, or worse yet start asking dangerous questions about why we need to keep racking up such enormous debts in order to keep them on their officially nonessential jobs, the administration has endeavored to make the shutdown as painful as possible. One of the more obvious tactics has been to close national parks, monuments, and other public lands even when doing so requires more manpower and expense than keeping them open. Supposedly essential government employees who remain at work have reportedly enforced these closures with an officiousness that one elderly national park visitor described as “Gestapo tactics,” and efforts by the House Republicans to fund public access to these sites as well as offers by state and local governments to assume the costs have been rebuffed by the administration. One might not know it from reading or listening to the major media, who are mostly concerned with the alleged intransigence of the stubborn Republicans that President Barack Obama has refused to negotiate with, but the administration has acted to deny the public its right to public lands.
This is an outrage that a free people shouldn’t bear, and it is therefore good to know that many among us have chosen not to. The social media are full of accounts of people defying the attempts to shut them out of their land, often with hilarious pictures of the protestors happily frolicking behind the “do not enter” signs that were erected by the putatively shut-down government, and even such a polite press outlet as The Chicago Tribune has featured a tale of a usually law-abiding writer’s visit to a closed national park. Harder to ignore was Sunday’s mass demonstration at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, where several thousand people, including some very seasoned veterans of that conflict, knocked down the barricades to reclaim their rightful place at the monument. Some even dragged the barricades — now known in the feistier sort of media as “barry-cades,” in honor of the president’s nickname before he decided that exotic sold better — to a noisy protest outside the White House gates. Such a tumult would have brought banner headlines had it been a scruffy bunch of leftists shouting down a Republican president, but veterans and truckers and other middle-class Americans protesting a Democrat’s infringements on the public’s rights was worth only a passing mention on the evening news.
More attention was paid to the pro-illegal immigration rally recently held on the National Mall, despite the area being closed to such troublemakers as the veterans who hoped to pay honor to their fallen comrades, but it was little noted that the speakers at the rally made a point of thanking Obama for being allowed on the property. As the estimable Mark Steyn has already noted, the land isn’t Obama’s and “his most groveling and unworthy subjects shouldn’t require a dispensation by His Benign Majesty to set foot on it.” That there are still a few bold Americans willing to act against such monarchical madness is a story worth telling, and celebrating.

— Bud Norman