When President Donald Trump gives his military-themed “Salute to America” on Thursday, he’ll stand in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where the words of President Abraham Lincoln’s greatest speech, his second inaugural address, are etched in stone.
In that speech, Lincoln promised to heal the wounds of the Civil War “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” a political approach Trump hasn’t embraced.
For Trump’s speech, there will be American flags everywhere. Count on it. It’s not out of the question that he will sidle up and hug one, something he’s done before.
Most Americans (70%) said they were extremely or very proud to be Americans in an annual Gallup poll released this week. That sounds great except that the 45% who said they were extremely proud is the lowest since Gallup started asking the question on the Fourth of July — in 2001, as it happens.
It turns out there’s almost nothing more divisive to a national identity than building a presidency around nationalism.
Trump revels in putting his definition up against other people’s. That’s why he stoked his fight with kneeling NFL players for so long. And that’s why so many are frustrated that he’ll hold a rally on the National Mall — a “Salute to America” — on the Fourth of July.
He’s saluting his own version of America and he’s not very charitable to anyone else’s, which can be an offensive thing at a time when people are basically streaming to the US as refugees from Central America. It can be offensive when there is an undercurrent of racism in his acceptance of white nationalist protesters or his defense of Confederate statues.