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Washington DC may feel like an authoritarian military parade this July 4, drawing millions from Parks Department and military budgets. Meanwhile, demonstrators plan to float the “Baby Trump” balloon

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MARC STEINER Welcome to The Real News Network. Good to have you all with us. As we approach this July 4th holiday, we’re on the verge of Trump’s “Salute to America,” but it has been for 200 years or so, a day full of family, parades, fireworks and barbecues to celebrate the United States of America’s birth. It is being turned into a parade of military might one might see in an authoritarian regime around the world. And that’s being coupled with Trump’s seizing the moment for a gigantic Trump rally on the mall, costing the parks and military budgets to spend millions with tanks and flyovers and more. Celebrating our nation is important, but this goes to the very heart of what dangers we might be sliding into, as I talked with Larry Wilkerson about the other day. We are joined by David Swanson today. He’s Co-founder of War is a Crime. And, David, welcome. Good to have you with us here on The Real News.

DAVID SWANSON Good to be here.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP We’re going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too. And we’re going to have some tanks stationed outside. You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas. But we have the brand new Sherman tanks, so we have the brand new Abrams tanks—

MARC STEINER So one of the things, David, when you see this—I mean, other than his quips about tanks cracking pavements and what the dangers are, this is something that I remember earlier in his presidency he wanted to have a giant military parade and that was stopped, if you remember that. And now we’re seeing it again, using this as this an excuse to have it. So talk a bit about, I mean, what you see, what you may see or not see, as the contradictions in all this given what we’ve done with the 4th of July for the hundreds of years before this.

DAVID SWANSON Well, you know, the peace groups, to their great credit, put up a huge organized effort to protest that military weapons parade planned for Armistice Day, or what’s generally called Veterans Day. But a lot of the opposition was around the idea that it cost money and so forth. And it’s really disappointing and really disgraceful that we haven’t put up a better organized effort this time when he’s brought the idea back in a smaller form. I do think it’s a step in a dangerous fascist direction, but it’s not a transformation of the 4th of July. It’s certainly not in opposition to the founding values of the United States, which was founded on war and imperialism and slavery. And it’s not in contrast to recent values. It’s just more open, more honest.

If you’re going to be waging more wars than you can keep track of, if you’re going to be shamelessly promoting profiteering from weapons, you know, why not have paid product placements in a fascist parade in Washington, DC? So, you know, spending the money is a problem, but it’s not significant money in comparison with the military’s budget. The fact that they’re taking it from national parks is disgraceful, but spending money— it’s not just that it’s a gross embarrassment, it’s an endangerment. It’s a threat to the world that promotes blowback. It normalizes war. It normalizes hatred and bigotry of the rest of the world, which is being threatened. And these weapons by the way, are not defensive, you know. We’re talking about stealth planes, nuclear and non-nuclear bombers meant to go in and start World War III, so nobody ought to call this, you know, a Defense Department show.

MARC STEINER So let’s just explore this a bit together and talk a bit about what the protests are going to be and what may be happening with Code Pink. We’ll talk about that before we conclude today. But I mean, you know, when you look at the 4th of July, it is a complex thing. I mean, when you look at the founders of the nation and that this is, as we talked about the other day, this is a nation founded as a republic, not a democracy, by people who feared the masses of people having a democracy. At the same time, the fight for that democracy has been part of a 200-year internal struggle in this country. And if you looked at the speech that Frederick Douglass gave, his famous 4th of July speech, it wasn’t an anti-Fourth of July speech he gave so much as what this speech means for someone who’s enslaved and someone who’s black in America, but it was full of the hope of what we could be.

And, you know, and I think that sometimes—Let me just throw this out at you. I’m curious as we, kind of, go back to Trump. But sometimes in the progressive world and the left, people forget that the founding of this country was always complex and a battle in itself over who we are, and that is the battle we’re fighting. And so, the 4th of July is part of that, right? I mean, so it’s a rallying cry not just for people who want to go to war. It can be a rallying cry for what this country, the principles it stood for when it was founded, even if they weren’t for everybody, and what that movement meant to fight for that.

DAVID SWANSON I just think that Trump pretends to be for almost the same principles that the founding fathers pretended to be for, and isn’t any less for them than they were. You know, the hypocrisy has been glaring from day one. Obviously, there is good and bad in everything, and to aspire to fulfill the good even if it’s never been quite sincere or real is admirable, but at some point, we have to aspire to a better world not just a better country. And as we move beyond all sorts of bigotry, racism, sexism, etc., etc., we shouldn’t keep xenophobia and a second-class status for the other 96% of humanity and celebrate patriotism and nationalism. That’s too small for me, too small for my family. My family is humanity and I think it’s part and parcel— nationalism, bigotry, concentration camps, drone murders, police murders, the erosion of our rights, glorifying these weapons that are the top destroyers of our climate on this planet. It’s all a dangerous package that I think is increasingly being rightly labeled, fascistic.

MARC STEINER So I mean, to me, what stands out the most about what Trump is doing on this July 4th is the military aspect of it. I mean, as I said in the opening, I mean, this is usually a day people do celebrate the 4th of July as the founding of the country, but people also celebrate it as a family day—the parades and fireworks and people gathering together and this has kind of been that sense of low-key of who we are across the board. But adding this military component to it, these flyovers and tanks that apparently are now going to be stationed on the mall. I mean, that to me is anting up the danger that we face, just that alone.

DAVID SWANSON Yeah. It’s a dangerous further step. It’s not out of nowhere. I mean, the Star-Spangled Banner has always been a war song, and the fireworks have always symbolized the bombs bursting in air, but this is a glorification not just of war and not just of the troops, but as with the Space Force, of the weapons. You know, the members of the Space Force are not troops, they’re weapons companies. These weapons are being glorified and marched and paraded before the public, not troops which is bad enough. But this is shameless profiteering off blood, which normalizes it in a very, very dangerous way.

MARC STEINER So, I mean. So what do you think the counter response should be and what will be the kind of response on this day?

DAVID SWANSON I think it should be absolute outrage and protest and mass mobilization and demonstration of the peaceful world we want, what we organized and planned for our Armistice Day back in November when this was threatened. And to their great credit, one peace group, Code Pink, is taking the lead in organizing protests. And I encourage anyone who can get to Washington, DC on July 4th or who can do something in solidarity locally for peace— for brotherhood and sisterhood around the world, and not for weaponry and militarism and Trumpism— to do that. So check out Code Pink’s website for how to get involved in DC and be there with the baby Trump balloon.

MARC STEINER I heard, I read that they got the baby Trump balloon from Britain. [laughs]

DAVID SWANSON Well, there are lots of them around. They’ve been in this country. They’re not allowed helium. They’re only allowed air, you know, but sadly, it’s fitting. And I hate to, you know, mock individuals and create this sort of antagonism with an individual, but he is behaving like a baby and he ought to be removed from office. And the notion—I think, there is nothing short of withholding a so-called campaign contribution from the Democratic Party that Nancy Pelosi will find impeachable. I mean, if concentration camps and endless wars and weapons parades and this, sort of, attack on decency, not just the rule of law, isn’t impeachable, what is?

MARC STEINER Well, I mean, there are two things real quick before we have to end. I was thinking about that this 4th of July, his military parade and the demonstrations he’s having in Washington and it’ll be flooded with hundreds of thousands perhaps of his supporters from around the country coming in from what I’ve read, but the day itself and when I think about what’s happening on the border, when I think about the issues of immigration, opening up our parklands to oil exploration, what’s happening in the poor communities around this country, there are things we have to address and kind of raise up as what America should be. The question of impeachment, you know, people can talk about it on July 4th, as well. I mean, the House can impeach, but there is no way the Senate’s going to convict.

DAVID SWANSON Well, I don’t predict the future. I don’t have magical powers. People made that same prediction about Nixon until it very rapidly reversed and everybody made the opposite prediction. If the leaders in the House— we call them leaders— were to educate the public and take up the cry of the glaring and blatant and documented impeachable offenses that have nothing to do with Russia and need no further proof, and put those before the public in a public hearing, you would have the followers of that party and much of the public swayed. And who knows what would happen? But we have seen justice set right in the past by numerous impeachment investigations and processes that never got to impeachment, much less conviction, much less removal from office. When someone like Harry Truman was abusing powers and seizing factories under his presidential war powers, an impeachment effort put a stop to that without getting to impeachment. You have to try. You are legally and morally bound to try and cease predicting failure. We got predictions of failure for a Green New Deal, predictions of failure for a decent health coverage system—Cut it out! Get down to business, do everything you can, and if somebody else fails, let it be on them.

MARC STEINER Well, David Swanson, Co-founder of War is a Crime. Really good to talk to you. I wish we had more time today and I appreciate your time for joining us here at The Real News. Hopefully, we can get Medea Benjamin on before the day is out and have another conversation with her about what they’re going to be doing in DC. But go to Code Pink’s website. Check out what’s going to be happening if you’re in the DC area. Join them and just look for the baby Trump balloon. [laughs] And, David Swanson, thanks so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

DAVID SWANSON My pleasure. Thank you.

MARC STEINER Thank you. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Take care.

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Host, The Marc Steiner Show
Marc Steiner is the host of "The Marc Steiner Show" on TRNN. He is a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has spent his life working on social justice issues. He walked his first picket line at age 13, and at age 16 became the youngest person in Maryland arrested at a civil rights protest during the Freedom Rides through Cambridge. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, Marc helped organize poor white communities with the Young Patriots, the white Appalachian counterpart to the Black Panthers. Early in his career he counseled at-risk youth in therapeutic settings and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system. He also taught theater for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 1993-2018 Marc's signature “Marc Steiner Show” aired on Baltimore’s public radio airwaves, both WYPR—which Marc co-founded—and Morgan State University’s WEAA.