Of Military Parades and Super Bowls

Trump, inspired by the French, wants his own military parade

W.J. Astore

News that President Trump favors a military parade in Washington D.C., perhaps to coincide with Veterans Day in November, has drawn criticism, and rightly so.  The president has a juvenile fascination with parades and other forms of pomp and circumstance, but more than anything I’m guessing he relishes the thought of posing as “The Leader,” reviewing and saluting “his” troops and generals as they pass in review.  If only “Cadet Bone Spurs,” the telling nickname that Tammy Duckworth has pegged him with, could don a military uniform for the occasion — his fantasy would be complete.

The idea of a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, complete with tanks and jets (and maybe some big missiles and bombs too?), sounds radical.  But is it really that different from other militarized celebrations that America has been witnessing and applauding since 9/11?

Consider this year’s Super Bowl.  It was played in a domed stadium, yet there was the obligatory military flyover (featuring A-10 attack planes, which the Air Force ironically wants to get rid of).  Fifteen Medal of Honor recipients were celebrated on the field, with one (a Marine) performing the coin toss for the game.  A video link showed U.S. troops watching from overseas.  In past years, troops featured were usually in combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.  This year the troops were in South Korea, perhaps because NBC wanted a link to the forthcoming Olympic games, hopefully not because the Trump administration is foreshadowing a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea that would turn that region into a combat zone.

Such patriotic (read: militarized) hoopla has become standard, not just at the Super Bowl and other NFL events, but at many other sporting events.  At last year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, prior to the men’s final played on 9/10, there was a ceremony to mark the 9/11 attacks, complete with the usual jumbo-sized U.S. flag, with uniformed troops joined by officer cadets from West Point, climaxed by a military flyover.  The ceremony was timed for maximum TV exposure.

As a retired military officer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve saluted the colors and sung the National Anthem.  I have no objection to military color guards and proud renditions of our anthem.  It’s all the other hoopla — the flyovers, the video links, the gigantic flags, the increasing size of military contingents on playing fields and tennis courts and elsewhere — that I find so exaggerated.  It’s as if I sat down to watch a football game or a tennis match and a military parade broke out instead.

Give President Trump his due: he knows his audience.  His supporters will revel in a military parade in Washington.  So too will Trump.  The rest of us?  Why should we complain: we’ve been watching over-the-top military celebrations for nearly two decades.  A big parade down Pennsylvania Avenue is the logical culmination of all this, especially with Trump in charge.

Like many other aspects of American culture, Trump is just bringing our love of the military into higher relief.  Don’t blame him (or only him) if you don’t like what you see.

9 thoughts on “Of Military Parades and Super Bowls

  1. From Democracy Inc., Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008), by Sheldon S. Wolin, Chapter Ten – Domestic Politics in the Era of Superpower and Empire:

    “Identification with militarism and patriotism, along with the images of American might projected by the media, serves to make the individual feel stronger, thereby compensating for the feelings of weakness visited by the economy upon an overworked, exhausted, and insecure labor force. For its antipolitics inverted totalitarianism requires believers, patriots, and nonunion ‘guest workers’.”

    I can’t wait to see what those tank treads do to the streets of Washington, D.C. If nothing else, the hothouse orchids and special snowflakes who inhabit that paradise for privileged peacocks will get to see what de-industrialization and the temporary “gig”-job economy have done to the rest of the country’s roads and highways. Why, with enough of these mighty-militarist parades in enough cities and towns, the American highway system might even begin to look like the one in Afghanistan that the United States has spent seventeen years “rebuilding.” Come to think of it, I saw a picture just yesterday of another Amtrak train pile-up somewhere in the Homeland,” a reputedly “modern” country without a single mile of high-speed rail.

    Frankly, the picture of a tank on American streets does not make me feel “stronger and compensated.” Just the opposite.


  2. Looking at the graphic illustration that accompanies this article, it just occurred to me to ask: Why does a “mighty” military force require an even larger vanguard of police on motorcycles to escort it through the streets of its own capital city?


    1. Good point M Murry, but as retired American living in France – & reading a little history – can understand why France lost 2 MAJOR wars without the help of US. I don’t know if Col/Professor Astore’s photo choice was irony or education (or cynical humor!), but it’s a great photo choice!
      It’s typical of them! The shiny motorcycles can’t save Calais, in inundated with refugees from ME. As for the “Force!” behind them; they couldn’t control a barnyard brawl at a cattle auction.
      But don’t get me wrong: the French PEOPLE have something we must develop: personal responsibility and not depending on a worthless government. When the gov’t banned Russia from importing their foods, they dumped cow dung on the “Ministrie de Agriculture’s” front door.
      They’re furious at such parade costs & waste of energy. “You want ME to lower my apartment heat?!” You know the word that follows,
      and it starts with “f”.


  3. If this soulless President wants to truly honor his Military I for one have a few suggestions 1. When I was in as a Military Policeman I never saw most honest active military try to get off base any faster than before end of day flag lowering ceremonies so they wouldn’t have to get out and Salute the Flag, or the direction the Music was coming from to save a few minutes after a long day on Base. So I strongly suggest making us/ them really happy with like the novel idea how about a Pay raise.
    2. Overseas Shipments of 12 months maximum! Plus being in the Military and even as a Public Servant/ City Firefighter I and most of us never looked forward to a Parade so nix the Parades as well. And if the President wants his Military to respect & support him more refrain from saying like Sen. John McCain was not a hero because as a POW he surrendered!


  4. Over at The Intercept, Peter Maass has an interesting article on Trump’s parade that makes similar and telling points: https://theintercept.com/2018/02/07/trumps-military-parade-is-ridiculous-but-hes-not-the-first-u-s-politician-to-use-humvees-and-f-16s-as-props/

    His conclusion: “It’s too easy to make this about Trump, whose insincerity and phoniness are legendary. The president who wants a military parade is the same guy who evaded the draft five times with bone spurs for which there is no medical evidence, just the Donald’s word. The president who wants a military parade is also the same guy who pledged to give $1 million to veterans in 2016, but failed to do so until the media pointed out that he was not honoring his promise.”

    “Trump deserves the criticism he’s getting, and let’s hope his parade never happens. But he’s not the originator of this madness. We have spent decades preparing the slippery slope he is gleefully pushing us down.”


  5. A military parade is a glorification of armed force. It isn’t just carrying a big stick, but holding it high and waving it around. And what of speaking softly? The State Department is now an agency in search of a job.

    As for the damage to the streets of DC from a military parade, I have an idea that will avoid that problem while more accurately reflecting our operations abroad. No marching, no vehicles on the road, just a series of identical drones passing overhead for an hour or so.


  6. We all know how Cadet Bone Spurs would want the biggest and best military parade.

    History provides us with some examples, i.e., the Roman Triumphal Parades. I knew the Soviet Victory Parade in June 1945 was big. So I checked Wiki – the Victory Parade involved 40,000 Red Army soldiers and 1,850 military vehicles and other military hardware. The parade lasted just over two hours on a rainy June 24, 1945. Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov (parade inspector)
    Marshal of the Soviet Union Konstantin Rokossovsky (parade commander) participated. These two individuals actually led armies to victory.
    Captured German Battle Flags were thrown on the ground.

    Closer to home we had the Victory Parades after the Civil War. Again from Wiki – Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, led the estimated 80,000 men of Army of the Potomac down the streets of Washington from Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue past crowds that numbered into the thousands. President Johnson, general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant, senior military leaders, the Cabinet, and leading government officials were on hand. On the following day at 10:00 a.m., Sherman led the 65,000 men of the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia. According Wiki – At the very end was a vast herd of cattle and other livestock that had been taken from Carolina farms.

    What would Cadet Bone Spurs parade be. Well first things first it could not be “Victory Parade” since we have not had a victory since 1945, unless you count Grenada or Panama. Any Generals or Admirals in the parade could not present themselves as victorious leaders of troops or ships. The best our own top brass could do is wave some books around they authored. I suppose in place of the livestock that ended Sherman’s Parade, we could have some goats or sheep taken from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The viewing stand would be carefully scanned to determine who is sitting closest to President Cadet Bone Spurs. There would be a razor thin fine line to walk, Democrats, CNN and MSDNC would have act disapproving of Cadet Bone Spurs Parade, but at the same time shower the military with accolades. I can just imagine it tearful tributes to our Warriors. What would go unsaid after all the military types were paraded and the fly-bys, is why after 18 years or so we are still fighting in Afghanistan.


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