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The 4th of July this year was a truly surreal experience, in the worst possible way. Every year on the 4th of July, there is a fireworks display as well as a concert on the National Mall. However, the typically relaxed and inclusive celebration of our nation’s history was warped and twisted into a partisan beast by President Trump. The Mall became a rallying point for supporters and protesters alike. My friend and I, who were walking past the area on our way back to our dorms, were dumbfounded by the spectacle. Tanks, military transports, and troops were stationed at every conceivable location. It was reminiscent of scenes from innumerable movies about the White House being attacked.

Additionally, our DukeEngage program had a scheduled reflection on the Mall to watch the fireworks that night. I, and several other students, were extremely uncomfortable sharing spaces with those who might not accept us. Eventually, the reflection was moved to the dorm and we were barred from going to the Mall for following four days.

The diversity of our country was not on display that day in our nation’s capital. Many were frightened, appalled, and disgusted at the undermining of a quintessential family holiday into a militaristic rally. What could have been a beautiful moment to bring the country together turned into an event that divided the nation even more.

Being in D.C., there is an indescribable tension in the are around politics. It is what drives the city. I was, and is, excited to tap into this political environment for the rest of my program. However, the Fourth showed me just how dangerous an aura of politics can be in a nation divided.