Unless you were visiting Pluto over the Fourth of July weekend, you were aware that not all the fireworks were on Macy’s barges in New York City’s East River or over cityscapes and village greens around the nation.
No, much of the rockets’ red glare and many of the bombs bursting in air came from the Twitterati reacting to President Donald J. Trump’s address at the Lincoln Memorial. Flanked by the so-called Sherman tanks, the president droned on in surprisingly (for him) presidential fashion. Until that moment, that is, when things went awry and he slipped into “I think Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who’s done an amazing job….” territory, as when he spoke in the present perfect tense about an African-American statesman, abolitionist, author and speaker who did do an amazing job — in the 19th century when he was alive.
Trump not only conflated the American Revolution with the War of 1812, but he leapt over the 19th century to bridge the Revolution and the jet age in a speech that wags are calling “The Forgettysburg Address”:
In June of 1775, the Continental Congress created a unified army out of the revolutionary forces encamped around Boston and New York and named after the great George Washington, commander-in-chief.
The Continental Army suffered the bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown.
Our army manned the air (inaudible), it rammed the ramparts. It took over the airports. It did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their Star Spangled Banner waved defiant.”
Let’s brush past the need for a great editor here, shall we? Or maybe not. The army wasn’t named after Washington. It didn’t seize victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown but Cornwallis at Yorktown. Fort McHenry belongs to the War of 1812, not the Revolution. And when dawn came, our, not their, “Star-Spangled Banner” waved defiant.
But what about the army manning the air and taking over the airports? Huh? Needless to say, Twitter went to work, having one of its finest hours — or two or three — with #revolutionarywarairports. There were memes about the Battle of LaGuardia Airport; imagined letters between George and Martha Washington and John and Abigail Adams complaining about flight delays; riffs on the “Airport” and “Airplane” movies, along with “Top Gun”; and many references to Cinnabon counters, baggage claims, onboard peanuts and economy plus, along with Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech.
I think the interweb was won, however, by the poster who managed to get the words “teleprompter,” “hors de combat,” “PTSD” and “Mekong Delta monsoon” into one paragraph, as if The Donald were something out of “The Deerhunter,” the Fourth of July rain on his parade triggering flashbacks to the monsoons in the Mekong Delta where he never served, thanks to numerous Vietnam War deferments for bone spurs.
The teleprompter was indeed hors de combat, or out of action, according to El Presidente, who blamed it for his gaffes, even though he had said that he knew the speech very well. It’s hard to choose what’s more depressing — the fact that the leader of the free world is such .a “maroon,” to borrow from Bugs Bunny, that he can mindlessly read words on a teleprompter without any regard for their connectivity, or that he lacks the character to accept responsibility for his mistakes, ever.
But there is a silver lining in all this — and yes, I am one of those who believes that while the pessimist may be right, the optimist has a better time on the trip. The brilliantly hilarious responses on Twitter prove that Americans’ have a deep connection to their history and their literature, for only someone who knows a subject in his bones can satirize it effectively. We talk a good deal of what represents the American spirit, like the women’s soccer team winning the World Cup. But this is the American character, too — wisecracking, capable of dishing it out but also taking it on the chin. It was irresistibly delicious.
As for Trump’s speech, it called to mind what one 19th century journalist said. That America was a country created by geniuses to be run by idiots.