In recent weeks, readers have written letters to The Post recounting their memories of gathering on the Mall and watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July. Claire O’Dwyer Randall remembered her father driving her family in a 1939 DeSoto sedan “as close as we can get” to the Mall. Mary Resnick wrote about “our” special spot on the steps of the reflecting pool, surrounded by tens of thousands of “our best friends.” Carol Cavanaugh explained how the celebration was her annual reminder of the United States as glorious melting pot.
The letters were written in response to President Trump taking direct control of plans for the country’s premier Independence Day festivities; the writers were worried that a day traditionally set aside for Americans to come together for simple love of country was in danger of being co-opted and usurped. Judging by the latest revelations of the president’s plans, they were right to worry. The order of the day as ordained by Mr. Trump will not be patriotism but instead personality and politics.
It was bad enough that Mr. Trump sought to make the holiday about himself with plans to deliver a nationally televised address from the Lincoln Memorial, thus eliminating what many consider the hands-down best spot in Washington for fellowship and fireworks on the Fourth of July. But Mr. Trump now plans to cordon off an area in front of the memorial reserved just for dignitaries, family and friends. Nothing about reserved seating says “We the people.”
Equally, if not more troubling, is his insistence on a display of military might that will include a flyover of warplanes and the stationing of tanks or other armored military vehicles on the streets of the capital. What this will cost the Defense Department and the National Parks Service is anyone’s guess. (Officials have refused comment.) But the question of expense pales in comparison with the message that will be sent by a gaudy display of military hardware that is more in keeping with a banana republic than the world’s oldest democracy.
Administration officials say the celebration will be bigger and better than before, with more music and a longer fireworks display. But Americans shouldn’t be lured by the trappings or the spectacle or the rhetoric of Mr. Trump. Instead, like our letter writers, they should claim the day for values embraced by the founders: freedom, tolerance and respect for all.