Rain, flags, flyovers and fireworks: the fourth of July in Washington

For the first time since Richard Nixon’s “Honor America Day” (which was unceremoniously and prematurely ended by nude protesters and widespread violence), a president inserted himself into what has traditionally been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s birthday.

Rain, Flags, Flyovers and Fireworks: The Fourth of July in Washington

This year’s “Salute to America” wasn’t met with violence or nudity. It was well attended, with visitors from across red America traveling to see President Donald Trump, flanked by armored vehicles, extol the virtues of the American military branches past, present and future (including the “Space Force”) as he summoned machines of war from the sky.

But what those visitors saw were fences, lots and lots of fences. The throngs of the MAGA-hatted not lucky enough to have VIP tickets were met with a wall, cutting right through the middle of the Reflecting Pool and separating the Very Important People from the somewhat less important people.

I met families from Jackson, Mississippi, and Orlando, Florida, to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who braved the hot and soggy conditions for upward of six hours, waited in long lines with their young children and with other families pressed against this border for a glimpse of their president on giant television screens obscuring the solemn grandeur of the Lincoln Memorial.

During the president’s speech, children played, people snacked and attentions drifted as his voice echoed indistinctly across the expanse. It wasn’t his usual rally speech; there was no finger-pointing or blame-assigning. Without the usual playbook, it was harder for him to pump up his audience.

But the visitors were in awe of the flyovers that punctuated the speech every few minutes, and almost everyone made it through to the end to watch the fireworks. After the rain cleared and night fell, the air was damp and still. The first few barrages of fireworks filled the sky with thick gray smoke, obscuring the view. From where I stood, with the families from Florida, Mississippi, Wisconsin and elsewhere, the sky throbbed with indistinct pulses of color, casting a glow over the nation’s most enduring symbol of unity.


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