Donald Trump wants a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. He went to Paris last year and watched the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Élysées with Emmanuel Macron, and now, like any toddler, he wants one of his own.
Never mind that nearly everyone with any authority on the subject thinks it’s a bad idea, including many within the Pentagon itself. Never mind that it will take away equipment and training time from a number of military units in the DC area. Never mind that it’s sure to create a traffic nightmare in a city that is already a poster child for traffic nightmares. Never mind that the image it will conjure in many minds is that of a third-rate dictator simultaneously showing off his military hardware and his deep insecurity. Never mind that the signal such an event will send, if divorced from any meaningful victory or special occasion, is one of weakness rather than strength. Never mind any of these reasonable, solid cautions—Donald Trump wants a parade, and what Donald wants, Donald gets.
The most egregious offense this demand for a parade commits, I think, is the way it rubs salt in so many still-raw wounds; the way it piles insult on top of injury for many people in this country that Trump has vowed to make great again. Estimates vary, but the cost of this particular boondoggle will likely run in the seven-to-ten million dollar range. Whatever the amount turns out to be, Senator Dick Durbin got it right when he called it a “fantastic waste of money.”
Not just a waste of money, but for all intents and purposes the theft of money that could be spent on any number of worthy projects, such as recruiting more VA doctors, or shoring up proven poverty-fighting measures such as SNAP, WIC, and school lunch programs, all of which have taken a hit in Trump’s and Paul Ryan’s budget proposals. How about kicking a little money in the direction of the infrastructure improvements the president acknowledges are long overdue? How about putting some teeth in Trump’s declaration that the opioid epidemic is a public health emergency by actually funding the programs that might do some good? How about not talking about spending millions of dollars on a parade while standing on the brink of another government shutdown—the second in the space of a month?
The answer that came from the Trump administration, this time from Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, was depressingly predictable. He said (with a smirk and a condescending tone, I’m guessing), “I’m not sure that honoring our military is a waste of money. This is not about a dictatorship. This is about the president wanting to honor the military.”
No, Mr. Short, this is about the president gratifying every impulse of his raging id. This is about a spoiled child who is used to getting the most expensive toy on the market and whining and throwing fits until he gets the latest one. This is about a guy who is so insecure about … something, whether it’s his place in history, or never getting his father’s approval, or the size of his penis, that skyscrapers, golden toilets, affairs with porn stars, even the applause of his still-deluded base, cannot make him feel whole. Tanks and missiles rolling past his viewing stand most likely won’t do it either, but Trump is going to keep on trying to fill that hole with one thing or another.
Besides, how much more “honoring our military” can we possibly take? You can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing some newscaster or pundit or advertiser adjuring us to support our troops. Support our troops. SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, DAMMIT! You can’t watch a sporting event—certainly not a football game, since the NFL functions pretty much as a propaganda and recruiting arm of the Pentagon—without getting the same message shoved down your throat. Every time you turn around you trip over some patriotic holiday or another, and in our country, “patriotic” and “militaristic” are synonymous. Even our few non-military holidays get co-opted by the war machine. Advertisers try to manipulate us with heartwarming images of soldiers returning from deployment and surprising their spouses and children at Christmas. Thanksgiving becomes an occasion to thank our “warriors” for their service. What’s next? A groundhog in camouflage gear? Jesus emerging from the tomb on Easter morning accompanied by a fife-and-drum corps and hailed by a twenty-one gun salute and a Blue Angels flyover?
I get so tired of being told that only through military action can our rights be protected and our freedoms preserved; that anyone who puts on a uniform is automatically a hero; and that if you oppose militarism and seek nonviolent solutions to problems, you are a coward or a weakling or some kind of Fifth Column operative who can’t be trusted and might very well be a traitor. I get so tired of jingoistic politicians using the basest, most manipulative methods to stir up the lowest-common-denominator masses—wrapping themselves in the flag and leading chants of U-S-A! U-S-A! whenever an uncomfortable topic comes up or complex issue is raised. And I am so unbelievably, overwhelmingly tired of our Toddler-in-Chief, with his bombast, his ignorance, his mendacity, his belligerence, and his utter lack of class or dignity or conscience, getting what he wants and getting away with everything.
So no, I am not in favor of a military parade put on, in the words of Senator Durbin, “to amuse the president.” In case you hadn’t guessed.