Trump celebrates with tanks and fighter planes

In synch: The US navy’s Blue Angels fly over the Lincoln Memorial in Washington last night.

Is Donald Trump behaving like a tin-pot dictator? Last night, he turned the USA’s famous Independence Day celebrations into a military show of strength — with himself at the heart of them,

The US president’s unique interpretation of the declaration of independence was on full display last night, as he staged a militaristic parade at the Lincoln memorial in Washington to celebrate the Fourth of July.

He relished introducing F-22 Raptors and a B-2 stealth bomber that roared loudly over the Washington monument and the Lincoln memorial. The rain-soaked crowd whooped, clapped, waved hats in the air and chanted, “USA! USA!”

The president, speaking behind rain-streaked, bulletproof glass screens, grinned widely and declared:, “Great country!”

Although the military is a key component of American national pride, military parades are surprisingly rare. The last time there was a military parade in Washington was after the Gulf War in 1991.

The associations are not good: in the Cold War era, they reminded people of the Soviet Union’s Red Square celebrations. Now, they echo vast shows of strength in North Korea.

To Trump’s opponents, this is simply a tin-pot dictator living the dream. “It smacks of something you see in a totalitarian country,” said historian Douglas Brinkley. George Orwell wrote that: “Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army.”

Marching orders

This is terrifying, say some. Trump is following in the footsteps of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Kim Jong-un. And think of the money being wasted. Would it not be better spent on helping the poor?

What’s the problem? reply others. A “celebration of the men and women who give us freedom” is the opposite of a totalitarian government. And Trump was given the idea by France — hardly an illiberal tyranny under the jackboot of a deranged dictator.

You Decide

  1. Would you want your country to have a regular military parade?

Activities

  1. Plan a military parade which you think could be suitable for 21st century Britain.

Some People Say...

“The goose-step is one of the most horrible sights in the world. It is an affirmation of pure power.”

George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair), English author (1903-1950)

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Donald Trump has defended his celebrations in Washington amid criticism of its high price tag.
What do we not know?
What the real cost was. The public figure of $2.5m is much lower that the likely real cost of the event.

Word Watch

Fourth of July
Also known as Independence Day, has been a national holiday in the US since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On 2 July, 1776, the Continental Congress (a group of people who spoke on behalf of the 13 British American colonies that became the US) voted for independence, and two days later the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. From 1776 to the present day, 4 July has been celebrated as the birth of American independence.
F-22 Raptors
Fighter aircraft developed for the US army.
B-2 stealth bomber
The US army’s most advanced aircraft carrying bombs.
Gulf War in 1991
The first Gulf War was fought between August 1990 and February 1991. It was a conflict between Iraq and 34 other countries, led by the US. It was started when Iraq invaded its oil-rich neighbours, Kuwait.
Cold War
After World War Two, USA (and its allies, including Britain) and the Soviet Union (and its allies) became rivals. This time of tension was known as the Cold War (1947-1991).
North Korea
No country on Earth holds more military parades — often involving tens of thousands of people — than North Korea. The next one is on Thursday to try to upstage South Korea’s opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics, which takes place the day after.
Tin-pot dictator
An autocratic ruler with little political credibility, but with self-delusions of grandeur.
George Orwell
Orwell wrote this in his essay England Your England, which attempted to define the English as a group in the midst of World War Two.

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