Carefully Resist the “Parade” Nonsense — Confidence speaks louder than symbolism

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Nothing expresses lack of inner confidence like bluster. Sure, we all know — and even supporters avow — that our president blusters, like no one else. So the latest imperative from the Commander-in-Chief should come as no surprise; a direct order to the Pentagon. To march.

Of course, showy military displays go back millennia, to ancient Egypt and Greece and beyond. Yet, the U.S. has no consistent tradition of big military parades, especially since the Second World War. Why is that?

Ask any senior officer. She or he will explain that it’s because a confident Pax Americana never felt any need. Strutting and preening is, in fact, the surest sign of an inferiority complex.

Americans saw no point in grandiose expense and display — until now. Rather than boosting pride, such a gaudy spectacle will be a sad milestone indicating our fall from leading superpower status.

May I illustrate with a very telling anecdote? During the Second World War, we were the one nation rich enough to supply each soldier with two uniforms. It wasn’t in order to show off that wealth. Rather, one uniform was for travel and office work and business — okay-looking, but not tailored for show. And even that one was stored away near the front, as each fighting man donned olive drab combat fatigues. Our adversaries — and yes, allies — mocked how ugly the ensemble was, then shut up when they saw how it allowed free, agile movement and easy maintenance. The combat uniform was purely functional and saved many hours of upkeep, as G.I.s seldom had to spit and polish or brush it for inspections.

George Marshall — who should have been Time’s Person of the 20th Century — made this decision, in part for practical reasons, but also because obsession with symbolism has always been the surest sign of second rate thinking. We had a world to remake, and we weren’t in it for show.

For contrast, do you recall the Joseph Heller novel Catch 22? How Lieutenant Scheisskopf — nemesis of all recruits at the training base — demanded that they march? And later in the book, General Scheisskopf made the whole European Air Force waste time in parades? Heller’s satiric tale bitterly contrasted Marshall’s spirit of pragmatic competence with a symbolism-mania that — alas — has become rife in the Republican Party. (See how this obsession went overboard in the naming of aircraft carriers.)

Still, at another level, this parade nonsense is damned clever! Indeed, it’s a canny political trap. Picture a half million liberals gathered along the route, protesting and jeering, a rabid few even spitting on Vets and Soldiers and Marines. Can you imagine anything more counterproductive for the “Resistance”? Anything more perfectly guaranteed to push our wavering service members, their families and supporters back into Republican arms?

Right now,the mad-right is losing people of skill — every single fact-centered profession — in an arterial gusher that now includes scientists, teachers, journalists, doctors… name an exception! And now, members of the reviled “Deep State” — the FBI, the Intelligence communities, and the U.S. Military Officer Corps. The lords of the Confederacy know this is a recipe for long term disaster… unless they can find a way to keep the “crewcut” fact users grudgingly loyal to the GOP. And sure enough, if anything could push them rightward again, it’s getting spit upon while on parade.

Yep, that’d do it. Spread the word — this… is… a… trap. One we could evade if protesters wave signs saying: “We love our skilled defenders!” And “We’ll defend YOU against fact-hating loonies!” And “You look great! Now back to work keeping Democracy sane and safe.”

No. We should resist this nonsense for better reasons. Because an America that’s still confident leader of the world — or ‘great’ — doesn’t need to show off. Our overwhelming ability, professionalism, science, technical skill and calm assurance speak for themselves.

In fact, nothing will more profoundly advertise our plummet from paramount confidence than this silly, silly dive into wasteful symbolism/obsession.

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