Many people seem upset at Trump’s planning to use tanks in the Independence Day festivities in Washington, D.C. I’m not.
“When I was a child, we saw pictures of military parades in the Soviet Union,” tweeted Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. “We were told we don’t do that, that we’re proud of the fact that we don’t do that because we don’t wish to be a militarized society. Celebrating July 4 with army tanks on the National Mall is repugnant.”
“Trump says there will be military tanks at Fourth of July celebration, tweeted NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “This is so beyond the spirit of the holiday.”
I hate to break the news, but Independence Day celebrates a declaration of war. So there’s no better symbol of the “spirit of the holiday” than a weapon of war. In this respect, Trump has it right. He’s more in touch with the essential militarism of the holiday than many of his critics.
It might be worth remembering this passage from the Declaration of Independence:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
That’s very nicely put, but it’s an incitement to war just the same, a request for some people to kill others in droves. If the Declaration of Independence had been posted on Facebook, some algorithm would doubtless have blocked the user’s account. This is literally the document that puts the “trigger” in “trigger warning.”
And as I’ve mentioned here before, the phrase “throw off” in the last clause comes from Locke, and (strangely enough) has an exact, perfect translation in Arabic. The word for it is intifada, which means a throwing off of an oppressive force. In other words, July 4th is American Intifada Day, the day our leaders wrote a fatwa declaring an intifada against the foreign people engaged in an ikhtilal–I mean, a military occupation–against them. And an intifada sanctified by divine blessing? Well, the word for that is jihad, a never-ending holy struggle against the powers of evil. Sound familiar? If we habitually translated American political documents into good classical Arabic, we might not be so tempted to forget what they were about.
You might think me unfair to pick on Marianne Williamson, the most “spiritual” of our contemporary political leaders. But no one would accuse General Anthony Zinni of being overly spiritual, and yet I’m happy to pick on him, too.
“Put troops out there so we can thank them — leave tanks for Red Square,” said Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired four-star Marine general and former head of United States Central Command, who until this year served in the Trump administration as a special envoy to help resolve disputes in the Persian Gulf.
Thank them for what, exactly? Not a rhetorical question. And would anyone be thanked, exactly, if he or she were “put…out there”? You’d think we were talking about Old Yeller, or a mannequin in a display case. How “putting the troops out there” differs from the ethos of the Kremlin is not exactly clear to me, unless you think we can differentiate ourselves from the Kremlin by putting our soldiers on display while hiding the tanks they ride in. The only people apt to be fooled by this are the ones who insist on thanking “our troops” without being able to explain what we’re thanking them for. But that seems to be General Zinni’s primary audience.
Here’s a kindred comment from Bernard Kerik in defense of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, the latter recently on trial (and acquitted) for having killed an ISIS prisoner in his custody.
Chief Gallagher emerged from the courthouse beaming, hugging his wife and brother as photographers thronged around his legal team.
Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who put the team together, said it was time to stop second-guessing the men and women fighting overseas.
“Let them do their job. Eddie Gallagher did his job,” Mr. Kerik said. “He’s a hero. He’s a hero in the eyes of every American who followed this case.”
“Let them do their job.” Because staffing military occupations around the world is just another job we have to do. In other words, a nation that came into existence by rebellion against a foreign military occupation–a rebellion it celebrates annually, with a great show of pomp–regards it as a regular “job” to occupy people the world over, furrowing its collective brow every time the occupied people fight back in the name of independence.
This is what happens, I guess, when we take our lessons in citizenship from psychics, imperialists, and ex-cons. The funny thing is that everyone’s quibbling about tanks in the streets of DC when those are precisely the tanks that aren’t shooting anyone.
Here’s my advice. Leave the Fourth of July tanks where they are. They belong there. But while you’re gazing tonight at the “rockets’ red glare,” spare a thought or two for the tanks, planes, and missiles that really are shooting people. While you’re at it, ask yourself whether “the long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object” arises not from a foreign source violating our boundaries, but just the reverse. And if it turns out that we are the obstacle to their “future security,” maybe wonder a bit: what then is the guard of ours?
Hopefully you’ll get an answer of some sort. Once you do, feel free to share it with your representatives (and mine) in the nation’s capital. I mean, the revolutionaries of 1776 literally fought and died so that your representatives could hear from you today. Of course, that presupposes that you have something to say to them. And you do, don’t you?
I’m sure you do. Tanks for your service.