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Alexandra Petri

Alexandra Petri

Well, America, it has been great.

On the Fourth of July, President Trump and his followers took over the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, as tanks rolled down the streets and jets flew overhead. The Park Service diverted $2.5 million to pay for the extravagance. This, apparently, was a Salute to America, some sort of combination birthday-retirement-funeral? It is unclear where America is going, but you certainly seem to be on your way out.

Since you invited us to the party, America, the girls and I wanted to get together and do something sort of special before you leave for good. We all signed a card. We put our John Hancocks on it and cried, thinking back to when we first saw you, to that big document with the enormous signature and a few dozen other, smaller signatures on it, which meant that a brand-new idea was in the world.

We've had some times, America. Who would have thought that some 18th-century men objecting to paying taxes without representation would have been responsible for so much liberty, so many milestones and such a weird cheese?

Truly what was up with that cheese? It managed to give the impression of still being wrapped in a thin layer of plastic even when removed from its thin layer of plastic. It was always partially melted. Its aftertaste clung to the roof of your mouth for hours, long after the thing itself was gone.

Sorry, I got distracted. This day is supposed to be about you. You were very protective of your flag, but you also were chill about it when people wanted to burn it as a protest. You sort of let people do their own thing, but you had values. It was a good balance, eventually.

Oh man, remember when you gave up drinking for a hot second, though? You were a mess. I'm glad that's not happening still.

Remember that time you built the Hoover Dam? Remember the Gold Rush? Man, remember that speech from William Jennings Bryan, about being crucified on a cross of gold? I remember we looked at each other like, is this guy for real? We can agree now that that was a little dramatic, can't we? Woof! Remember populism? Oh man, remember "The Wizard of Oz"? Did we ever figure out what that was a metaphor for?

Remember Daniel Webster? Didn't he make a deal with Satan, or something?

I know I complained about how you would try to get everyone to sing a song about you, and the fact that it was an unsingable drinking song! Can we all agree, now, that it was not singable? Maybe it was a metaphor.

I don't know why I'm crying. It's fine. I am sure whoever comes to fill this position next will do a good job, even if they are not represented by a confusing goateed uncle in a loud outfit drawn by Thomas Nast, as you were. It was a weird choice, but one that I gradually became fond of. And I'm sure wherever you go next, you're going to be very happy. Even if I don't like it, personally.

You know what, no. I'm going to say it. You spend all this time hanging out with creepy autocrats, and I think something is starting to rub off. What was this whole event? Why were there tanks? It wasn't like you at all. You weren't perfect as you were, but — I don't like this new you.

I just — I wish we didn't salute you like that.

You've been a mess, sometimes. That is an enormous understatement. A mess, a disappointment, a mass of divisions and contradictions. But at your best, you were really something. I'm starting to wonder if you weren't irreplaceable. Without you, who is going to welcome the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden, the masses yearning to breathe free? That was your whole thing, but if the photos I've seen from the border lately are any indication, with people crowded into unthinkable conditions for months and days, you seem to have given up on that.

It doesn't seem like you, to just not care about what happens there. Maybe that was you once, but — I really thought —

And this Donald Trump guy — what do you see in him? Is this for the long haul? Because I wish you wouldn't, America. I really wish you wouldn't change yourself so much for him. No, that is not quite right. I guess, rather, he brings out the parts of you that I always hated the most. I wish you were with someone who did not do that.

But it's not up to me. It's up to you and your Electoral College.

No, I'm sorry. This was supposed to be a salute.

We will try to remember you — not quite as you were; we have never been good at remembering exactly that. But certainly not as you are now.

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Alexandra Petri is a columnist for The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter, @petridishes.

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