“Your national greatness, swelling vanity”

3 July 2019

As Donald Trump prepares, at the last minute, an over-the-top military parade for the Fourth of July—and as I prepare to take a few days off for the holiday—I thought I’d share a brief snapshot from my reporting with Charlie Hebdo a few years back. One Fourth of July, Charlie cartoonist Riss and I found ourselves at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia (not far from where I’m spending the summer now), where a left-wing group was organizing a reading of Frederick Douglass’s famous speech, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” From what we’ve heard of the festivities Trump has in mind, it seems Douglass’s words, which have always cut deep, are particularly apt: “To [the slave], your celebration is a sham … your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless … your sermons and thanksgivings … mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy, a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”


And with that, I wish you a happy holiday!

Art credit: Riss, via Charlie Hebdo

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