The US was rocked, nay, gobsmacked this week when rumors emerged that President Trump is requesting a full military parade in Washington D.C. for… reasons. Actually no one really knows why, except he probably is thinking the billionaire-equivalent of “Ooooh, shiny!” In any case, people are going nuts trying to link this latest weirdness to the slippery slope of authoritarianism.
Now look. I’m not a Trump fan (as I’ve demonstrated here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and several other places besides). But come on. There is no way that a person should rationally argue that “military parade” equals “dictator-in-the-making” in American politics. We’ve had military parades every few years for most of the country’s history — particularly in times of war, which, since so many people have forgotten, I feel obliged to remind the reader that we are still in. Parades are a way to show off, they’re fun, they’re generally good for the local economy, and the only reason people are pissed about this one is that Trump suggested it.
Now, I’m not saying that this is in any way a bad metric. That man has terrible, horrible, no good very bad ideas (including his hairstyle — I know, I know, it’s a cheap shot, but come on). But in this particular instance, I can’t for the life of me figure out any way in which a parade would be an inherently bad thing.
Would it cost money? Sure. But in case you missed it, Congress just passed, and Trump just signed, a federal budget that will put us another trillion or so dollars in debt. The parade will probably cost a few million, which the military will presumably pay for out of one of their billion-dollar slush funds because holy crap we spend a lot on the military. No, a few million isn’t even a drop in the bucket, it’s like spitting into the ocean. It’s negligible, will go to boost the local economy (because spent money doesn’t just vanish, it goes to gas, transport, food, and whatever else), and in the grand scheme of things it wastes time to even talk about this level of “wasteful spending.” It’s like criticizing a recent home buyer for purchasing a snickers bar.
Is it authoritarian? NO. Let’s play a quick game called “Correlation is Not Causality.” Do authoritarian regimes love military parades? Yep. Does that make military parades inherently authoritarian? Nope. Where did Trump get his idea for a military parade? From the Bastille Day celebration in France. Is France a dictatorship? No. *Mic Drop* So, believe me, I get it — I think Trump would prefer being a dictator too (if only because he thinks it would be easier), but let’s please restrict our arguments on that subject to issues that actually have a coherent logical connection. I don’t think he wanted a parade because it’s an authoritarian gesture. I think he’s bored and wants to play with his toys.
Plus, the US has a long and varied history of holding military parades. Here’s an article from Mother Jones of all places, holding their nose as they make this point. There’s nothing inherently anti-American about celebrating our military. Have you ever watched the Super Bowl?
Yeah, those are military jets. They fly overhead and people start chanting “USA! USA!” Or how about the annual air show at Andrews Air Force Base?
We’re trained to think of our military personnel as heroes. We’re indoctrinated to venerate military service. Why on Earth would holding a military parade not fit into this narrative? Whether you agree with the narrative or not, it’s about as American as Mom and apple pie to praise the military.
So this one I genuinely don’t get — especially since people are wasting valuable airtime and print space talking about this issue, instead of focusing on real problems. Look, guys, I’m not going to beat around the bush about this — Trump’s a bloody nightmare, and the Republican-controlled Congress is basically going insane. But for the love of God, talk about those things. Everybody loves a parade; stop raining on this one and go fix real problems.