The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Donald Trump loves a parade

Pundits and lawmakers weighed in on President Trump’s plans for a military parade in Washington. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)
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“We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by,” as Will Rogers once said.

So. President Trump wants a parade. He went to France and saw a parade, and he wants one like they had, but bigger and creepier (which, incidentally, is similar to what France said after seeing the American Revolution).

What should this parade contain? Tanks, that much is certain. Jets, probably. A show of military might. “Military might” is much less terrifying than “military definitely will.”

And then some horses, and some people to walk behind the horses and retrieve what they leave behind.

Then there will be some men and women in fine clean uniforms with gleaming brass buttons, and some men and women in camouflage for a terrain they are not in. Then will come some drones flying in a neat formation, finally receiving some sort of grudging acknowledgment for their role in all this.

The drones will be followed by heroes of war (those who did not get captured).

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We had better have some cannons, too, I think. And if the Navy is there, which of course it will have to be, we had better include some battleships.

We had better have some elephants as well, and if a parade has elephants it had better include also a long line of captives paying tribute to Rome as they march toward the gladiatorial arena, so those had better be found. Trump will enjoy those, I think.

Trump will be presented with a medal, honoring his service that time he rescued a Marine’s hat from blowing off.

There will be flags, thousands of them. They will fly so thickly that it will be impossible to say where they begin and where they end, or to even begin to number them. Everyone will stand to honor them. A marching band will play the national anthem continuously in case anyone is tempted to sit down.

Everyone will clap. Those who do not clap will be marked as traitors, and the drones will hover over them. It will be a joke and everyone will laugh.

This desire for parades is a quirk, nothing more, and there is nothing particularly bizarre about it. Trump loves a military parade; that is simply a fact about Trump that is known. What is the point of a military if no one gets to see how big and impressive it is and watch you wielding it? In life, there is the joy of possessing and the joy of being seen to possess. Has Trump ever known the first joy? Has he ever entirely severed it from the second? If no one sees you having something, is it even worth having?

Theoretically we have a military not because we want to parade it around, but so we can protect the actual things we really like (freedom, oil, in some order). But never mind. Trump wants a parade.

The parade will not end when the jets fly over, for the void a parade is ordered to fill will never be filled by a simple military parade, lasting no more than two hours.

It will continue. It must continue. All the most beautiful women in the world will march by in sashes and be ranked. All the self-proclaimed experts in their white coats will march with lowered eyes and accept chastening. And anyone who has marched elsewhere for any reason will doff their pink hat and accept discommendation.

Congress will march with enormous flags swallowing their lapels. People who marched in the past and can only be seen in gray scale on grainy old footage will march. This march will be very long and very silent, and it will start to resemble a funeral.

A great black and white film will be made of this wonderful spectacle (no, never mind, that has been done).

And when this parade too has passed, more will follow. It will go on long into the night, and children watching along the route will yawn and fall asleep on their fathers’ shoulders, the flags drooping in their tiny hands. But the parade will continue.

Televisions with human legs and reflective faces. Television personalities with the same. Magazine covers bearing Trump’s face. Magazine covers baring everything. The queen, via hologram.

Monsters of the air and deep. Two survivalists riding polar bears. Mount Rushmore. Every president, with an enormous papier-mache head.

Wait, Trump will say, in a whisper, as Melania moves to rise. Do you not see it is still going?

Everyone will freeze where they are, for nothing coming down the parade route will be visible to their eyes. But Trump will see it. Names will form on his lips that have not alighted there in decades. A teacher who never recognized his genius. Someone at Wharton who had said something just out of earshot and everyone around him had laughed, and then Trump had approached and the laughter had stopped. Roy. The pope, not this one or the last one, but the one before. Frederick Douglass. Women, nameless and faceless and apologetic. People of all kinds, begging forgiveness. And he will give it (what is the point in forgiving if you cannot be seen doing it?) — he will forgive them all.

The parade will go on for days. Maybe it will go on for weeks. Maybe it will go on for years. Maybe you will march too. But at the end, when it stops, it will be enough. It will finally be enough.

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