The parade we deserve

Why must it always fall to me to rise to the defense of the indefensible? It is my burden to bear I suppose.

Thus in the face of almost universal condemnation of Donald Tump’s crass appropriation of D.C.’s Fourth of July parade to simultaneously glorify himself and America’s awesome military might I must counter: In your face, America. 

Trump gets our essential ethos better than we care to understand it ourselves. 

Tanks for the memories Donald. Jets to the Chief. Rockets red glare and all that it entails. 

The only puzzling thing about Trump’s Independence Day triumph is that he is seemingly giving credence and credibility to – gasp! – another president. And a Democrat at that. Oh the humanity!

America is “the most warlike nation in the history of the world” was Jimmy Carter’s recent Sunday School message. And who can argue with that? We are, after all, the only nation in the history of human civilization to split the atom expressly to commit mass slaughter. 

Not only once, but twice. 

Yes, I know, we like to think of ourselves as always ready to march “over there” against tyranny. To fight the Kaiser. To send Hitler and Tojo packing. To wage the “good wars” in defense of freedom. 

But what if there are no good wars handy? No problem. Take Hawaii for the pineapple barons.  Or Cuba for Big Sugar. Or steal from Mexico for Manifest Destiny’s sake. Or invade the Philippines or the Dominican Republic or Vietnam or Panama. Or Grenada for a boost in the polls (one of my favorite political cartoons: Ronald Reagan musing “Fabulous, a crisis coming to save me.”).

And when there are no foreign despots or leftist regimes handy, we Americans are quite content to take our blood lusts out on each other. (Washington Post: “More Americans were shot to death by March 6 this year than died on D-Day.”)

Too self-absorbed to appropriate somebody else’s homeland? No problem. We are also Arms Merchant To The World. We will happily and simultaneously arm an ally, Israel, as well as its sworn enemies  (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) because, well, business. 

My only beef with Trump’s obsession with big hulking tanks is that it’s so last century. Trump hates to give any credit at all to his immediate predecessor, but it was Obama who normalized drone attacks so as to wage war by other means without the messy necessity of actually putting American boots on the ground.

If anything, Trump’s “In Your Face America” parade underscores his own reticence, at least thus far, to indulge in mechanized mayhem for the sake of saving his own political bacon. Bush The Younger didn’t throw a parade – he just invaded the wrong country to boost his post 9-11 poll numbers. LBJ sacrificed his Great Society on the alter of Vietnam. Nixon bombed the country next door, Cambodia, because..well why not? When Teddy said “Bully!” he wasn’t kidding. At least Jefferson had the good grace to pay cash for the Louisiana Purchase. When Polk wanted more land he just took it from Mexico.  JFK’s only unAmerican sin was not showing up for the Bay of Pigs affair. And now there is the Forever War to preoccupy us. Like Abrams tanks, the Peace Dividend was so last century. 

So happy Independence Day America. Trump is going to give you the show you deserve. 

And question my patriotism if you will. But I enlisted right out of high school. While Americans were putting boots on the Moon I was on a destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin shooting at things we couldn’t see. My taxes have paid for many many adventures abroad since then, and I’ve reached an age when it bothers me not at all to hear someone say “If you hate America why don’t you leave?” 

I paid my dues and I’m staying, thank you very much. Rather than wrap myself in the flag I prefer the comforting embrace of the First Amendment.

So happy birthday America. And tanks again for the memories Donald. 

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