Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Abrams tanks on the Fourth of July are on the border of Washington, D.C., at 60 tons, ready to cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge that can only accommodate 10 ton vehicles.  

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! D.C. is preparing for the U.S. military to parade, hoping the city doesn’t end up a shredded, pot-holed mess like Denver after a deep freeze and melt.

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Our government’s celebration of our most precious July 4 national holiday is going to be like a Vladimir Putin and Fidel Castro May Day Communist celebration, with tanks and other armaments showing us how powerful we are, as if the Department of Defense budget isn’t proof enough.

There are two origins of mayday/may day. In the 1920’s, the British needed a way to signal distress when flying the skies or sailing the seas. Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, thought about it. He had to find words that would work in England and France, especially Le Bourget Airport in Paris. “Help me” in French is m’aidez. Voila! Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Three times, so no one gets confused.

May Day actually gets going in Chicago during worker unrest in the late 19th century.  The Haymarket riots in Chicago on May 4 were the result of workers rallying for an eight hour workday between April 25 and May 4. On May 3, police killed eight workers involved in the movement.  On May 4, an unidentified person threw a dynamite bomb at police, killing seven officers and four civilians and wounding many others.  

Eight anarchists were brought to trial; four were executed. Inspired by the workers’ movement for a shorter workday, socialists and unionists around the world decided that May Day would mark their affirmation of basic worker rights.

The Soviet Union, the larger version of today’s Russia, adopted May Day and took the day to a new level.  The May Day parade in Moscow in 1969 at the height of the Cold War showed off Moscow’s military might to put fear into the hearts of Eastern bloc countries, such as Hungary, Rumania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc., and the rest of the world.  The parade included versions of the devastating T-34 tank used to push back Nazi Germany in WWII.  Upgraded Soviet tanks, the T-54s, were showed off. They took the field from American and S. Vietnamese defenders in the VietNam war.

The May Day parade in Russia in 2019 was held on May 9. It marks the victory of the Soviet Union and its allies, including the U.S., over Nazi Germany.  The parade “inspection,” presided over by Minister of Defense General of the Army Sergey Shoygu, accompanied by the parade commander General of the Army Oleg SalyukovCommander-in-Chief of the Russian Ground Force, displayed ground and mobile columns.

Our Washington D.C. parade will apparently include M1 Abrams tanks and ancillary armored vehicles. President Donald Trump mentioned that “we have brand new World War II Sherman tanks,” but they haven’t been used since that war and they were not as good as the Soviet’s T-34’s.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, DOD will have a “small number of vehicles in a static display” at the National Mall. The Mall, at 1.9 miles, is home to the Washington Monument obelisk, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the VietNam Memorial, the National World War II Memorial (under construction), the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the District of Columbia War Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, and Smithsonian museums including the Museum of African American History and Culture.  It also includes the reflecting pool, numerous gardens, and other edifices of our heritage.

President Donald Trump will speak from the Lincoln Memorial.  President Abraham Lincoln is noted for his Gettysburg address that honored the Battle of Gettysburg fought from July 1 to July 3 and called quits on July 4, the day honoring our Declaration of Independence. 

Lincoln’s address was 272 words, memorized by school children from his time to the present.  He said, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." The military parade and the rest will be worth it if President Trump can trump President Lincoln’s words.

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.

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