Fourth of July: US Independence, and a ‘show of a lifetime’

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On July 4, Americans celebrate United States independence from Britain. 

July 4 is a unique holiday in that it is superpatriotic but usually free from partisan fighting [Getty Images]

Carnivals, fireworks, picnics and concerts are common in the US, in addition to various other public events celebrating the history and traditions of the country.

But this year there will be a change. Here is a closer look at the holiday and its origin:

1) Why the 4th of July?

  • On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, two days after a vote on whether to separate from the United Kingdom.
  • The declaration drafted by Thomas Jefferson declared that the US was no longer subjected to the British Monarch and that the existing 13 colonies were united, free and independent states.
  • For Americans, this date marks the birth of the United States of America.

‘Show of a lifetime’

  • This year, with tanks in the heart of Washington, fighter jets screaming overhead, and a speech by President Donald Trump at the Lincoln Memorial, the president is promising the “show of a lifetime”.
  • For decades, US presidents have kept a low profile during Washington’s annual celebration which typically draws hundreds of thousands of people to Washington’s monument-lined National Mall for a nonpartisan concert and fireworks.
  • But this year, at around 6:30pm (22:30 GMT), Trump will take to the hallowed steps of the Lincoln Memorial for an unprecedented “Salute to America” event that will include a televised address, military hardware and a giant fireworks display. The nation’s top military brass will have a front row seat.
  • After his speech, there will be a 21-gun salute and a flyover by the plane that is known as Air Force One, according to CNN.

 A display of power and money? 

  • Republican political groups confirmed that they had been given prime tickets for Trump’s speech.
  • Trump’s “ego is so large that he’s holding this Fourth of July campaign rally in a desperate cry for attention, and everyone knows it,” Senator Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter.
  • Many are up in arms about what all this is going to cost. The White House has so far refused to put a number on it.

Possible inspiration in France 

The statue honouring civil war President Abraham Lincoln is famous as the location for Martin Luther King Jr’s epic 1963 “I have a dream” speech.

But Trump’s inspiration appears to be taken less from that civil rights cry than a Bastille Day military parade he attended in 2017 as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron.

So impressed was Trump that he came up with the idea of putting on a major extravaganza for Veteran’s Day, which is marked on November 11. But an outcry over the almost $100m price tag meant it had to be scrapped.

Now he will get a scaled-back version. As he prepared for the big day, Trump downplayed the issue of cost.

“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth,” Trump wrote.

“We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door [Andrews] , all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”

Responses 

  • Counterprotesters plan to bring their own kind of political fireworks to the National Mall, the grassy park running three kilometeres from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.
  • Leftist organisation Code Pink is deploying its “Baby Trump” blimp, a large inflated doll depicting the president in nappies.
  • But the National Park Service denied permission to fill the inflatable with helium, so the depiction of a cranky, infantile Trump will stay on the ground.

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