President Donald Trump is holding a “Salute to America” to celebrate Independence Day. Featuring tanks, the plane that serves as Air Force One, the Navy’s Blue Angels, and various other military assets, the Salute promises to be quite the show.
Yet while Trump sees the salute as honoring troops, critics are arguing that it’s a waste of money, essentially a political rally, and perhaps even a dangerous step towards authoritarianism. Just take a look at CNN’s front-page articles on the holiday celebration:
Still, while I am often critical of the president, the uproar over the Salute strikes me as much ado about nothing. I’ll be honest: I’m not a supporter of President Trump and frequently disagree with his choices. Regardless, I can’t help but feel that the outrage leveled against Trump’s 4th of July celebration is nothing more than needless political grandstanding.
Plenty of countries regularly hold full military parades, and the parades aren’t limited to militant nations, like Russia. France, Greece, Peru, Ecuador, and various other nations also hold military parades, often on independence- and revolution-related holidays. If anything, it’s a bit odd that the United States doesn’t hold any major military parade given our military might.
And strangely enough, countries that do hold military parades don’t immediately spiral into fascism or militancy. While some critics have alleged that Trump’s parade is some aggressive shift towards authoritarianism, globally it’s a nothing-burger. Maybe Trump is authoritarian but a few tanks on display is hardly credible evidence.
Trump’s “Salute to America” is, if anything, a watered-down military parade. Trump had initially wanted to hold a full-scale parade similar to the ones in Russia. However, high costs and political infighting kept that from happening.
The United States is roughly $20 trillion in debt and deficits are rising. Trump’s “Salute to America” will cost at least $2.5 million dollars, with the funds coming from park recreation fees (which are meant for park upkeep). While it’s unfortunate that the funding is currently coming from parks, that $2.5 million is also a drop in the federal spending bucket. Quite likely, other costs will arise elsewhere but it’s unlikely to tip the scales by much.
Yet costs are what many critics are seizing onto. Complaining about $2.5 million when the federal government is blowing through nearly $5 trillion a year and giving the extreme wealthy and corporations trillions in tax cuts seems nonsensical.
Critics also allege that the multi-million-dollar Salute is little more than a Make America Great Again rally. There’s no doubt that Trump will use the Salute as a branding opportunity but that’s the nature of politics. Essentially, every major event held by a politician will be at least partially motivated by politics and branding.
You know those video clips of presidents reading to kids? Yeah, those are politically motivated. So too were all of the speeches by former President Barack Obama (and every other president). While Trump’s spending on golf is, to me, eyebrow-raising, the Salute itself doesn’t strike me as anything outside of the norm.
So perhaps instead of getting in a tizzy over an event that is, in the grand scheme of things, rather minor, we should step back and look at the most pressing challenges we face as a nation and indeed civilization.