Trump’s desire for a military parade reveals him as a would-be despot

The genius of Donald Trump, it has long been observed, is to turn subtext into text. What was hinted at or hidden is, with him, brought shamelessly to the surface.

So it is with his latest scheme, his instruction to the top brass of the US armed forces to lay on a military parade in the nation’s capital, perhaps on 4 July. He’d been nagging the generals about this for a while but, according to the Washington Post, he gave the order at a meeting at the Pentagon last month.

No need for us to deconstruct the motive behind this instruction. It came after Trump was the guest at France’s Bastille Day parade, where he stood at Emmanuel Macron’s side and watched tanks, gun trucks and column after column of starchly uniformed soldiers. “We’re going to have to try and top it,” Trump said afterwards. (The actual order to military chiefs was phrased in the language of a spoiled child: “I want a parade like the one in France.”)

By his own admission, then, Trump is engaged in a familiar, mine’s-bigger-than-yours, macho competition, with military hardware his chosen measure. Recall the equally uncoded tweet directed at Kim Jong-un last month, when the US president urged someone to tell the North Korean dictator that Trump’s “nuclear button” is a “much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

No need for us to deconstruct the motive behind this instruction. It came after Trump was the guest at France’s Bastille Day parade, where he stood at Emmanuel Macron’s side and watched tanks, gun trucks and column after column of starchly uniformed soldiers. “We’re going to have to try and top it,” Trump said afterwards. (The actual order to military chiefs was phrased in the language of a spoiled child: “I want a parade like the one in France.”)

By his own admission, then, Trump is engaged in a familiar, mine’s-bigger-than-yours, macho competition, with military hardware his chosen measure. Recall the equally uncoded tweet directed at Kim Jong-un last month, when the US president urged someone to tell the North Korean dictator that Trump’s “nuclear button” is a “much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Fox News, the Republicans and the conservative media-industrial complex will waste no time in saying the parade is a celebration of the troops – and therefore any critic is really criticising “the young men and women who heroically defend America’s freedom and put themselves in harm’s way”, or words to that effect.

It means opponents will have to be canny. A counter-demonstration could easily be cast as unpatriotic, hostile to those in uniform, rather than to the commander-in-chief (who, of course, dodged military service himself, later claiming his battle to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease despite intense promiscuity was his “personal Vietnam”). But there is an opening here nonetheless.

If Trump wants to show his strength on the streets, the opposition can do the same. Perhaps it could organise an alternative parade, whose theme is mockery of the would-be despot.

(Excerpted from The Guardian 2/7/18)