As Washington's hard-working company town plunged enthusiastically and patriotically into its annual Fourth of July festivities, we need to look at this celebration of America's Independence Week from two vastly different perspectives.
Viewed from the perspective of President Donald Trump's White House and the acting-elites who are running his agencies, Team Trump did an absolutely awesome job this week.
Trump's insiders found the extra millions of dollars their maximum leader suddenly demanded so he could fulfill his dream of creating the best and biggest Fourth of July celebration of America's military power anyone ever saw.
Mainly because Washington never celebrated its independence that way before. For decades, these Washington Mall festivities were merely celebrations of patriotism, picnicking, music and Fourth of July fun shared by families, friends and strangers of all political persuasions. No more.
Team Trump instantly found at least $2.5 million more than anyone had planned to spend on Washington's Fourth of July – because Trump wanted to accessorize his Independence Day with military hardware. Our commander-in-chief wanted to show us the hard power he commands – military tanks parked on the mall, military jets soaring overhead. A costly but powerful setup for his Fourth of July speech. (Never mind that all modern presidents have restrained themselves from exploiting that captive national audience.)
But that brings us to another perspective we now must also consider for this very unusual commemoration of our national independence.
Viewed from the perspective of what we just learned from a report by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, we now have a very troubling sense of how Trump's government has chosen not to spend that $2.5 million of our money.
The DHS inspector general has inspected five detention facilities in the Rio Grande Valley – and discovered conditions that should trouble any American patriots as they celebrate the spirit that marked the beginning of the enduring American dream.
"Management Alert – DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley." The title of the report released by DHS Acting Inspector General Jennifer L. Costello is stark and disconcerting.
Yet it is just a gentle preamble for the shameful disclosures in the 16 pages that follow. For Trump's administration has shamefully failed to spend money to assure basic human necessities that official policy says are required.
"Children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers, despite the (federal) standards requiring that 'reasonable efforts' be made to provide showers to children approaching 48 hours in detention. ... We observed that two facilities had not provided children with access to hot meals (as required by standards) until the week we arrived."
"Most single adults had not had a shower in CBP custody despite being held for as long as a month. At some facilities, Border Patrol was giving detainees wet wipes to maintain personal hygiene. ... Many single adults had been receiving only bologna sandwiches. Some detainees on this diet were becoming constipated and required medical attention."
The IG's report said DHS responded to its list of abhorrent conditions by saying it was going to add a third tent for its Rio Grande Valley facility, capable of housing another 500 persons, by July 29. Why not add a third tent – not by the end of July but by close of business today? Plus a couple of hundred judges to quickly reduce its asylum application backlog? And hot meals for all, each day?
"Senior managers at several facilities raised security concerns for their agents and the detainees," the IG report said. "For example, one called the situation 'a ticking time bomb.'"
That $2.5 million that Trump's team found instantly to please their boss would have made a heck of a down payment on providing basic human necessities of those who, like many of our ancestors, dreamed of living the American dream.