Social media went into freak-out mode on Monday after reports surfaced that President Donald Trump had declared the day of his inauguration a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion.” Outraged reaction on Twitter and other platforms accused the new president of channeling North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and other leaders obsessed with their own personality cults.
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The stilted language in the federal register notice, set to be published January 24, contributed to the impression that the release might have been crafted in some office in Pyongyang.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2017, as National Day of Patriotic Devotion, in order to strengthen our bonds to each other and to our country -- and to renew the duties of Government to the people.
But before we declare the end of the republic, it should probably be noted that this is not the introduction of a new national holiday marking Dear Leader Trump’s inauguration. It’s also not new or even all that interesting. In fact, presidential proclamations giving symbolic weight to inauguration day are commonplace.
And they all appear to share almost the exact same ponderous language. Note the following proclamation from then-President Barack Obama in January of 2008:
Now, Therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.
Or this one, from then-President George W. Bush in 2001:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 21, 2001, a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving and call upon the citizens of our Nation to gather together in homes and places of worship to pray alone and together and offer thanksgiving to God for all the blessings of this great and good land.
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To be sure, the phrase “National Day of Patriotic Devotion” does arguably have echoes of authoritarian nationalism. But given the tenor of Trump’s inaugural address, that’s hardly a shock. What it wasn’t was a declaration of a self-aggrandizing new national holiday.