A memorial to the man who ordered General Sherman to wage a war without mercy, Abraham Lincoln, will be the backdrop for the president’s nationally televised address on Thursday at the Independence Day observance, christened a “Salute to America.” It will be interesting to see if any Confederate battle flags are in the audience, as is common at Trump rallies.
This is all on brand for him: co-opting the honorable traditions of the armed forces for political pageantry. But the president’s political opponents would be wise to keep their powder dry.
After all, the men and women in uniform are bound to follow orders, even if that means piloting a jet over the Lincoln Memorial just to tousle the commander in chief’s coiffure.
The answer to political spectacle is to not give it too much weight.
The power of America’s national monuments is that they are shared projects that outlast temporal politics. They are the sum of many acts and the products of political disagreements. They are a common heritage that no political movement, whether honorable or noxious, holds a monopoly on forever.