Jeff Mullin

As we prepare to celebrate the country’s 243rd birthday this week, we stand as a nation divided.

Red is red, blue is blue and never the color palate shall mingle.

We can’t seem to agree on much of anything, including how to celebrate Independence Day in our nation’s capital.

For the past 39 years “A Capitol Fourth” has been presented on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building and has been televised by PBS.

Over the years it has featured performers ranging from Ray Charles to John Williams, from Reba McEntire to Barry Manilow, and has been hosted by everyone from Tony Danza to John Stamos, who will perform the duties again this year.

The concert, annually the highest rated program on PBS, features music both patriotic and popular, beginning with the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and ending with Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with cannons and the opening salvos of Washington, D.C.’s annual fireworks display.

But this year there will be competition for “A Capitol Fourth,” in the form of President Trump’s “Salute to America.”

“Salute to America,” is scheduled to feature military displays and flyovers, as well as music honoring all of the branches of America’s armed forces. upposed to be a flyover by one of the Boeing 747s that serve as “Air Force One,” whenever the president is aboard.

President Trump was inspired to create a July Fourth celebration of his own when he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in 2017, an event that includes a military parade through the streets of Paris.

Instead of “Salute to America, some critics have labeled the event “Salute to Trump,” and have expressed concern the president will turn the event into a partisan campaign rally, since he plans to make a speech at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the festivities.

Those concerns were no doubt inflamed by a Facebook page touting the event and calling it “the MAGA event of a lifetime,” referring to the president’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

The president announced the event in February in a tweet predicting it will be “one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C.,” and touting “an address by your favorite president, me!”

You can never celebrate July Fourth too much, as far as I am concerned, and I admit to being a sucker for flyovers and fireworks, but is this event really necessary?

There is absolutely no place for political partisanship when it comes to celebrating the Fourth of July.

Giving the president the benefit of the doubt, maybe his “Salute to America,” will be just that, a bi-partisan patriotic celebration, and he’ll leave politics out of it. But he is going to give a speech, and one wonders whether he will be able to resist tooting his own horn or leveling blasts at his political opponents.

Fourth of July is a day we should avoid partisanship, except to demonstrate the fact we are clearly partial to the United States of America.

They were not concerned about political parties in the summer of 1776, they were worried only about thrusting off the yoke of British rule.

Oh, they had their differences, did the Founding Fathers, to be sure. John Adams knew war with Britain was inevitable, while John Dickinson, whose wife was a Quaker, lobbied for a peaceful split from the mother country.

War came, of course, and the outmanned colonists prevailed in the end, but we celebrate the day the Continental Congress issued a document declaring independence from Britain and featuring words that ring loud and true more than two centuries later: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Of course it said “all men,” and not “all people,” but we can forgive them their oversight. And they didn’t mean all people, because they gave in to those favoring slavery — folly that would result in a disastrous Civil War less than a century later.

But the idea remains, a country in which all people have equal rights, in which all people are free to live as they see fit within the constraints of civil law.

Not that securing and maintaining those rights and that freedom hasn’t come without long, bloody struggles in the streets of our nation’s cities and towns and in the fields and forests of foreign lands. But we are still here, a work in progress, certainly not a nation in lockstep, in fact it seems we can’t seem to agree on much of anything.

On July Fourth, however, we all come together to swim, fish, burn meat and set off firecrackers, not red, not blue, but red, white and blue.

Jeff Mullin is a columnist for CNHI.

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