3 ways Independence Day became politicized this week
The Fourth of July holiday is typically thought of as a time Americans put partisan politics aside to celebrate the ideals of the American founding that unite us. A few events this week remind us that partisanship sometimes intertwines with patriotic remembrances.
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is when we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one of three main founding documents, along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
One question undergirds some of the debate over celebrating Independence Day: Is it appropriate to celebrate a nation founded with slavery and racism, or can we celebrate the positive ideals set forth by founders who carried that sin?
1. Nike and the Betsy Ross flag
Nike canceled plans to make a patriotic-themed shoe with the Betsy Ross flag after former NFL player and anti-National Anthem activist Colin Kaepernick claimed the flag was a racist symbol.
The Betsy Ross flag was one of the early designs for the American flag. It's often featured during July 4 celebrations and other patriotic occasions.
Kaepernick reportedly reached out to Nike after hearing about the design and told executives that the flag is a racist symbol due to its origins in the American founding and its use by white supremacist groups.
In response, Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he would cancel plans to provide financial incentives for Nike to build a plant in that state.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom then weighed in, arguing that Nike did the right thing and encouraged the company to build in California, though he didn't specify whether he would support financial incentives for the company.
Daily Mail political editor David Martosko posted a photo of President Barack Obama's second inaugural showing Betsy Ross flags prominently featured.
"That Betsy Ross flag sure fell out of fashion quickly," he wrote.
2. Charlottesville removes Thomas Jefferson holiday
The Charlottesville City Council voted this week to remove Thomas Jefferson's birthday, April 13, as a holiday.
Jefferson, our third president, wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, and is credited for the phrase, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights ..."
Charlottesville, Virginia, is Jefferson's hometown. His estate, Monticello, is a major tourist attraction near there. And Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
The Council replaced the Jefferson birthday holiday with "Freedom and Liberation Day" on March 3, the day slaves were officially emancipated after the Civil War.
3. President Donald Trump's July 4 extravaganza
Washington, D.C., celebrates Independence Day every year. This year, President Donald Trump decided to ramp up the festivities with additional tanks and aircraft from the U.S. military and $2.5 million diverted from National Park Service funds.
The climax of the event will be a presidential speech at the Lincoln Monument.
"Our July 4th Salute to America at the Lincoln Memorial is looking to be really big. It will be the show of a lifetime!" Trump tweeted Wednesday.
Some critics have balked at the cost, which is more than double the usual amount.
In a Wednesday tweet, Trump countered: "The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!"
Other critics argue taxpayers are footing the bill for a partisan event to promote Trump.
VIP tickets to the July 4 celebration are being provided to Republican big-donors by the Republican National Committee and Trump's re-election campaign.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said in a Tuesday press release: “The Fourth of July festivities in our nation’s Capital are intended to be patriotic and welcoming to all Americans. Instead, Mr. Trump is hijacking the celebration and twisting it into a taxpayer-funded, partisan political rally that’s more about promoting a Trumpian cult of personality than the spirit of American independence and freedom. The fact that the Republican National Committee is selling VIP tickets to the event only proves that in the Trump era, nothing is sacred and everything is available for sale. But most shameful of all is that our military is being co-opted for a gratuitous display of strength by a Commander-in-Chief who relishes the attention of dictators and despots. The American people should never allow any President of the United States to behave this way.”