If Kim Jong Un sat in our nation’s Oval Office, he’d be planning exactly the same flamboyant parade down Pennsylvania Avenue (past the Kim — now Trump -- International Hotel) that our current White House occupant wants to see rumbling down Pennsylvania Avenue this coming Veterans Day.
Like Hitler and Stalin before them, our current crop of dictators in Turkey, the Philippines, and Russia, all of whom Trump has singled out for public praise, use military parade pomp to focus admiration on themselves and to intimidate their domestic opposition. Every tin-pot autocrat needs constant reassurance to assuage the personal insecurity that drives him to demand such elevation over his subject people.
We Americans have seen this desperation on display since 2015, when Trump declared his intention to add the White House to his list of properties. All Americans are aware of this man’s pathetic neediness; it’s only his reassuring racism and ethnic hatreds that enthrall one-third of us, those exultant to have, at last, a loud fellow bigot as their President. As Senator John Kennedy, R-La., sagely observed in this context, “Confidence is silent. Insecurity is loud.”
Our President hasn’t made his public appearances in fully gold-braided and bemedaled uniform, nor has he ordered the goose-step to become required U.S. marching form (yet). But he has identified his ruling models pretty clearly. His pretense for this November military exhibitionism, this Kim-style parade, announced back in February, is to show appreciation for our military.
But such empty pageantries are expensive, ridiculed privately by their uniformed participants, and do absolutely nothing positive for the military. Real, effective alternatives to such spectacles would be improvements in GI pay or veterans’ benefits. But they wouldn’t do anything for our Commander in Chief, would they?
Trump will probably have his way and stand, in all his glory, on a dais like his paradigms, Kim, Putin, Duterte, and Erdogan, elevated conspicuously over his subjects and flexing his military muscle. And he will have “elevated” our country, in his eyes, to the status of North Korea and Russia, which have honed the art of military pomposity to levels unrivalled in history. We’ve all seen the others’ perfect goose-stepping formations, the phalanxes of huge tanks, the block-long ICBMs rolling along. Impressive. We, too, could celebrate what they celebrate.
Yes, we could join these states and their ill-famed predecessors in staging such spectacles. But is this what we want? No, not what they want, the Retrumplican 30 percent, but we majority Americans?
Most of us have learned, during the past two years, to look behind President Trump’s statements, declarations, and announcements to discover their real intent and purpose. We now know that when he says, “for the consumers,” he really means, “for the sellers”; when he says, “for the workers,” he means, “for their employers”; and when he says, “for the troops,” he means, “for the glory of the greatest leader any troops ever had! In the whole world! Me!”
Parades can be heartening, rousing, positive tributes to a number of our cherished national ideals. But when corrupted, in the hands of an ill-principled, self-aggrandizing narcissist, they can more easily debase a national character than dignify it.
(One new gambit, from a daughter who lives in Washington, is this: Trump non-fans hang a big picture of a peach in their window. Peach, get it? Haven’t seen it around here. Wonder if it’s too obscure.)
Norm Haughness used to grow and sell peaches and apples at his place in Tehachapi. The opinions expressed are his own.