As historian Kevin Kruse notes in his recent piece at The Washington Post, the Fourth of July has always been a battleground. Everyone with a cause to promote wants the American founding of their side.
Here is a taste of his piece “Partisans often try to claim July 4th as their own. It usually backfires.”
In the spring of 1970, revelations that President Richard Nixon had greatly expanded the Vietnam War with the invasion of Cambodia rocked America. Antiwar demonstrations shook the country, most famously with the killing of students by National Guardsmen who had been called out to end protests at Kent State and Jackson State.
Hoping to rally Nixon’s supporters, his allies announced plans for a giant “pro-America rally” on the Mall on the Fourth. “Honor America Day,” promoters announced, would be “the biggest celebration in America’s history.”
Plans called for Reverend Billy Graham to lead a religious service from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the morning, and then for Bob Hope to emcee an all-star program of music and comedy at the Washington Monument that evening. The entire extravaganza, Hope told reporters, would show the world that “Americans can put aside their differences and rally around the flag to show national unity.”
But instead, the celebration once again served to show how divided the country had become.
Read the rest here.