Late Tuesday, the Washington Post released a story on how President Trump has ordered leaders at the Pentagon to help plan a military parade sometime in the future.
President Trump, who deeply cares about image, central casting, and public relations, was inspired by the idea of a parade after he attended France's annual Bastille Day with French President Emmanuel Macron. President Trump later called the French military parade he witnessed "one of the greatest parades" he had ever seen. He said last September in a conversation with Macron that after he came back from France he wanted a military parade on the Fourth of July in Washington.
Military parades and patriotic celebrations are nothing new in America. After the passage of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, writing to his wife Abigail on July 3rd, 1776, famously penned, "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
We have always been a country to publicly celebrate our patriotism. Our last major event like President Trump is hoping for happened under President George H.W. Bush after the end of the Gulf War. Additionally, every year in large cities and small towns, we host 4th of July parades. We shoot fireworks, wave flags, have BBQs, and listen to bands play songs written by John Philip Sousa.
On the surface, a military parade celebrating our proud men and women in the Armed Forces is tempting. We undoubting have the greatest, most powerful military in the history of the world. No other group is more deserving of such an honor. Celebrating this country and recognizing those outstanding individuals that have served it is something we all should do.
However, with an ego-driven President, one can wonder if Trump wants the military parade more for himself or for those in uniform. This is the unfortunate reality we face when a leader does not appeal to our better angels and leans toward narcissism. I do not personally know the President, so you can make up your own mind on his intentions.
If the President does move forward with such an event, I hope he does so tastefully. Traditionally, the US has not embraced ostentatious displays of raw military power common in authoritarian states. North Korea, China, or the former Soviet Union had to put on such displays because they were and are weak; we are not. One of the greatest and rarely spoken virtues America has shown is how our military has done so much for the world without ever spiking the football. After World War II, we could have taken all that we won, but we didn't. Instead, we helped build back and restore Western Europe. Our military has traditionally displayed modesty and walked softy because we knew we carried the biggest stick.
Instead of an autocratic style parade showing the military's might, maybe the President instead could use the millions of dollars that would be spent on such an event and put those funds toward helping our veterans with PTSD and other wounds of war. I heard a suggestion this morning about what if the President instead of a parade did a solemn event at Arlington National Cemetery. An event outside of the annual Memorial Day gathering that honored those who gave their last full measure of devotion.
If the President - who is the Commander-in-Chief - is set on a parade to recognize our soldiers, maybe the White House could do an event for all veterans instead just active military personnel and equipment. I am sure tanks and missile system are impressive, but it would be nice to see those who served in Korea and Vietnam get their day of recognition alongside those who fought in the Middle East.
The last President to serve our country that was not a politician was General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The man who helped save western civilization, and our 34th President. President Eisenhower famously wrote, “humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends.”
We can never pay back the entire sacrifice that so few have given for the good of so many. In our exceptionalism, we should honor our generation of heroes. Whatever direction President Trump decides to move toward, my hope is that it reflects a grateful nation and a humble heart.