This year marks the second year that I’ve been abroad for the 4th of July, with last year being on vacation in Peru. This year’s in France, as I’m taking full advantage of my time here before I leave. As I’m writing this, I’m on a train through the south of France, where temperatures have been raging (think 35C/100F and more), but gorgeous all the same.
Being on the road means that I haven’t had the time to read the news. So it really surprised me when my parents messaged me saying that Trump has decided to bring out military tanks to celebrate Independence Day back home (news here). I’m told it was inspired by France’s own military marches for the 14 juillet, and it’s to demonstrate the U.S. military’s power on a global scale. After all, it’s true that we invest billions of dollars in our military, whether we like it or not.
That said, this decision from Trump has caused a lot of controversy (something that’s been happening since 2016, honestly). People have criticized the move by saying that it invokes nationalism, and not necessarily patriotism. Some think that it’s idiotic, since it’s causing road blocks in D.C. and unnecessary money spent by pulling out tanks from their military use and instead used as entertainment. The complaints go on and on.
Hearing about this event, along with everything that’s been happening over the past nearly four years, has given me mixed feelings. Part of me says that it’s grandiose and unnecessary, a waste of money. Another part is indifferent, considering that I’ve been quite physically removed from everything going on since I live abroad. Personally, I don’t find the decision problematic (aside from the money), since there have been worse decisions made before, e.g. the current migrant camps, which are absolutely horrifying.
I’m not a fan of Trump, but I don’t exactly oppose right-wing politics. The two must be separated in order to reflect on what’s been happening in the U.S. these past few years. I think those who are protesting the tanks are protesting for the wrong reasons, or using them as a way to protest other issues going on in the country (rather than just addressing the problem directly). I’m all about free speech, especially when the U.S. press is quite restrictive nowadays (again, shocking), but it’s necessary to get to the root of the problem, for both left and right-winged individuals. That’s why I have a problem with identity politics being a thing among our generation, i.e. Millennials and Gen Z, because we aren’t focused. We all have different agendas, many based on our own selfish purposes, and with that mindset, we can’t progress.
Based on the news and the fact that it’s Independence Day, they have somehow unwoken the political commentator in me. I’m usually highly reluctant to discuss politics, partly because this is primarily a travel/expat blog and also I don’t think I have the authority to say certain things, especially if I’m removed from the situation. Especially with my generation, many whom I grew up with identifying as left-leaning or Democrat, I’m hesitant to admit that I don’t always agree with certain issues they’re for (e.g. social welfare, feminism, etc). But after spending a notable chunk of my early twenties experiencing, researching, and listening, I’ve come to solidify where I stand with such issues and values to feel comfortable to articulate my political views.
This post has turned into a kind of rant that might not make sense to the reader, especially if it’s their first time reading my blog. But I had to get these thoughts off of my chest, as a way to clarify myself, i.e. reflect on my home country and my patriotism (if I have any, that is). I’d like to hear any thoughts you have about the military tanks or anything you’d like to add about U.S. politics…be honest!
Thanks for reading, and I wish you a pleasant day (and celebrations)!
4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Independence Day (as an American expat)”
As a Washingtonian, I find the military parade and the president’s plan to give a speech at the Lincoln memorial absolutely ridiculous, and I hope it is cancelled due to the storms set to blow over DC throughout the day. What is maybe difficult to understand about the 4th of July (everywhere I think, but particularly in DC) is that, despite the city being absolutely consumed by politics the other 364 days of the year, this is one day that has always been, at least in my lifetime, blissfully apolitical. It’s a day to celebrate with your neighbors, for the school band to parade down the street, to host a barbecue in your backyard. And then to trek to the national mall to see a spectacular fireworks show surrounded by some of the most iconic monuments in our country. Inserting such an ostentatious display of political and military might into an otherwise familial holiday is shocking for many people, myself included. Keep in mind that the last time tanks rolled through the city was on September 12, 2001… so the optics are not great.
I also don’t appreciate the president who has instigated perhaps the cruelest and most inhumane policies in my lifetime inserting himself into the legacy of the Lincoln Memorial alongside legendary pacifists like Martin Luther King, especially given the fact that the speech he is set to give will probably insult or invalidate the lives thousands of American citizens.
It may seem inconsequential next to the real atrocities being committed by this administration, but symbols and images are powerful, and trump’s opaque attempts to make the national holiday into a celebration with himself at the center only goes to show how narcissistic and unrepresentative his entire administration is.
For the past two years, I’ve bikes down to the Lincoln memorial to watch the fireworks, but this year I would be unable to do that, as trump has blockaded the area and allowed only invitees with tickets to have to best seats instead of families and their kids. Hardly a democratic affair and a far cry from his so-called opposition to the political elites…
Bref, it may not seem like something worth complaining about, but when you consider the occasion, the imagery, the symbols, and what it’s all replacing, the entire affair is like a huge metaphor for this disaster of a presidency.
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I appreciate your commentary on the 4th of July military tanks. It’s evident that, since Trump was sworn into office, many of his policies have been more and more restrictive, let alone against immigrants and minorities; I doubt they’ve even served those who even voted for him.
It’s interesting you mentioned the 4th of July celebrations in your hometown as “apolitical,” because I associate the day as being politically-rooted, and very much so. Considering that it came from our history of declaring independence from Britain…then again, like with any other national independence holiday, it has taken on a festive affair since then.
Observing how the political climate has changed in the last few years, it appears that the U.S. (and many other countries) have been going towards nationalistic tendencies, which is problematic in the face of issues with immigration, even travel. Some people even liken this period to that of Hitler’s reign. Hard as it’s to stomach, perhaps we need to experience this period in order to admit it’s problematic and find ways to change it.
Thanks again for your comment; I found it very insightful and well-articulated!
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I suppose I meant non-partisan rather than apolitical. But the point being that Trump seemed to want to overtly politicize an event that is usually one of the few occasions for nonpartisanship, especially in Washington. Luckily, it sounds like his speech remained relatively benign, and there was enough pushback from civilians and military alike that the “military parade” was just a couple of tanks that remained stationary on flatbed trucks and a few flyovers… so ultimately not much as much harm as many feared, but still a ridiculous attempt to make a national holiday all about the president, which, in my opinion, is a very dictatorial move…
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I’m don’t believe Trump was intentionally being dictatorial, but rather merely egocentric. I see it as not politicizing an event, but rather doing so for his personal gains of showing just how powerful his personality is, and not necessarily representing the U.S. I agree it’s ridiculous, but I don’t think it reflects the right-wing at large– it’s very much just Trump itself, and I do hope he doesn’t continue to do anything narcissistic afterwards.