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Trump’s July Fourth Tank Display Is a Glaring Sign of Fascism

It’s right there in front of our faces.

A worker washes one of two M1A1 Abrams tanks that are loaded on rail cars at a rail yard on July 2, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Let’s see how many boxes have been checked so far: Is the right to vote being dismantled? Check. Does one political party control virtually the entire government, including the highest court? Check. Are the concentration camps up and running? Check. Are there threats of violent retribution against those who speak out against all this? Check. Are many mainstream media outlets willing accomplices? Check.

What are we forgetting? Oh, right, a gaudy display of military might on the front lawn of the nation.

Multiple reports have confirmed the July Fourth celebration on the Mall in Washington D.C. will be transformed into an armed and armored outdoor fortress in the service of Donald Trump’s egg-fragile ego. According to CNN, this will include M1 Abrams tanks that will have to be brought in by train, because there are no battle tanks housed in the district. “We have the brand-new Sherman tanks,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Monday. M4 Sherman tanks have not been in service since the 1950s.

Along with the Abrams tanks will be two Bradley fighting vehicles and an M88 Recovery Vehicle. There will be flyovers by a B-2 stealth bomber, F-22 fighter jets and the new F-35 stealth fighter jets, provided the notoriously fussy and gruesomely expensive F-35s can actually get off the ground and avoid tumbling out of the sky. The Navy’s Blue Angels squadron has been dragooned into the show, and Air Force One along with Marine Helicopter Squadron One will also make an appearance.

“Mr. Trump, who is to speak at the celebration, has requested that the chiefs for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines stand next to him as aircraft from each of their services fly overhead and their respective hymns play on loudspeakers,” reported The New York Times on Monday. Along with the brass will be around 300 military servicepeople, surrounded by what I can only assume will be eleventy billion U.S. flags. Perhaps Trump will try to hug them all.

Having an understanding of history means knowing this country would probably still be part of the British empire without the intervention of France during the Revolutionary War. I never went in for the “freedom fries” thing after 9/11 (neither, in the end, did the guy who came up with it). That being said, I’m going to lay a portion of the blame for this hot military mess at France’s feet.

“Trump was clearly impressed by a Bastille Day parade he witnessed in France last July,” reported New York Magazine in February 2018. “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” an anonymous military source told The Washington Post that same month. Going forward, it would probably be best not to let Trump pal around with French President Emmanuel Macron without a chaperone present at all times.

Trump was so hot and bothered after his Bastille Day experience that he wanted a full military parade through D.C. on Veterans Day, but sullenly backed down after the price tag for such an event soared past $90 million. Predictably, neither the White House nor the Pentagon will comment on the cost of Thursday’s well-armed shindig, even as the argument over the cost of giving water and blankets to children in concentration camps grinds on. A hint of the expense was revealed by a report that the National Parks Service is diverting $2.5 million in funds to the show, funds originally intended for national parks across the country.

Because good is not yet dead, there will be protests. Code Pink has been granted permission to display a 20-foot version of the Big Baby Trump blimp at the event. Two different veterans’ groups will also be handing out “Big Bad John” t-shirts to honor the military and Senate career of the late John McCain. Trump’s loathing for the former Republican senator is the stuff of legend. If the activists could get one of those t-shirts onto the blimp, Trump may very well melt into an orange ball of volcanic fury right there on the Mall.

Speaking of protests, Trump is calling this thing “A Salute to America,” which is precisely what Richard Nixon called it in 1970, the last time an embattled president tried to change the conversation with an extravagant July Fourth celebration.

“The main event was the televised evening show at the Lincoln Memorial,” reports The Washington Post. “Police set up barricades between protesters and the audience seated to watch the show. Just as the show was about to get underway, protesters overturned a Good Humor ice cream truck, and anti-riot police moved in. The police or someone in the crowd threw a tear-gas canister, and the tear gas ‘wafted’ over the back rows of the audience. Some protesters threw bottles. As he prepared to go onstage, master of ceremonies [Bob] Hope looked out at the scene and remarked, ‘It looks like Vietnam, doesn’t it?’”

A New York Times editorial by Michael Tomasky recently asked if the Republican Party still believes in democracy. “It doesn’t have a name,” he wrote, “this thing the Republicans are trying to do. It’s not true democracy that they want.” Perhaps more than anything else except power, the Republicans want profit. That’s where the tickets come in, because nothing says “egalitarian” like roping off swaths of the people’s public property for a pack of wealthy Republican contributors.

“The Republican National Committee has been offering major donors tickets to Trump’s speech,” reports the Huffington Post, “as have political appointees at the White House and executive branch agencies. ‘He’s going to have tanks out there. It’s going to be cool,’ joked one RNC fundraiser on condition of anonymity. ‘He wants to have a parade like they have in Moscow or China or North Korea.’”

Wocka wocka, you bootlicking bandwagon clown. It’s difficult to tell from reading that quote if this anonymous RNC fundraiser really thinks modeling a July Fourth celebration after the martial demonstrations of Russia, China and North Korea is actually funny, or if they’re just obliviously excited about getting to stand next to a tank. Neither option is palatable.

I am running out of ways to say it: This is fascism, and it is staring us dead in the face. We can make fun of it as we please, because sometimes humor is the only refuge, but Thursday could be the moment future students of history point to one day and say, “It was right there, how did they miss it?”

If you seek a fireworks show that does not involve Trump or battle tanks in your face, I recommend the event put on by the Boston Pops at the Esplanade down by the Charles River. You can find it on a few TV channels or stream it online, and trust me, it is spectacular. Barring that, you can always go outside and burn a flag for your pyrotechnics fix. That’s still legal, for now.

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