WASHINGTON: The United States of America stood divided on its 244th Independence Day, according to analysts, and the division showed in the messages that its president and his presumptive challenger shared with their nation.
“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” declared President Donald Trump.
“We remain locked in a battle for the soul of this nation. But believe me — truly — it is a battle we can and will win if we act together,” said Joe Biden, the expected Democratic candidate for the November 2020 presidential election.
Moments after President Trump finished his Saturday evening speech at the ‘Salute to America’ celebration in Washington, far-left protesters burned American flags near the White House, chanting, “America was never great.”
“We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children, or trample on our freedoms. We will safeguard our values, traditions, customs, and beliefs,” said Trump.
During recent protests against police brutality, crowds in Washington and some other cities toppled the statues of Confederate leaders who opposed President Abraham Lincoln’s move to end slavery.
Biden, who served as vice president under the country’s first African-American president Barack Obama, also eulogised American heroes. But he chose a different set of heroes.
The ideas of equality and freedom, he said, had survived “the assassination of Martin Luther King, and more than 200 years of systemic racism. And just weeks ago, the murder of George Floyd,” he said. “Through it all, these words have gnawed at our conscience and pulled us toward justice.”
Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis last month caused nationwide protests that still continue.
President Trump also talked about “the American dream”, but he insisted that the leaders whose statues were brought down were also part of this dream.
“Together we will fight for the American dream, and we will defend, protect, and preserve American way of life, which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America,” said Trump.
Trump, who faces a tough re-election battle in November, stirred the current controversy when he accused those protesting Floyd’s death of waging “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes and erase our values”.
Apparently, it was a calculated move aimed at strengthening his support-base in rural America where Confederate leaders are still popular. In doing so, he ignored a long-held tradition that American presidents use their Independence Day speeches to emphasise patriotism and national unity.
Such contradictory messages led to clashes between protesters and Trump supporters in Washington, but they were separated by US Park Police. Some protesters returned to Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House where members of the Revolutionist Communist Party attempted to burn a large American flag but were prevented by other protesters. They did, however, burn some small flags.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020