On Tuesday, The Washington Post broke the news that President Donald Trump had ordered the military to put together a parade “like the one in France,” referring to last year's Bastille Day celebration in Paris. Trump saw the parade on a visit with then newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron, and has reportedly been enamored with it since. He told Macron at the time: “We’re going to have to try to top it.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the parade is being planned, but DC officials say they haven't been informed. Anu Rangappa, spokeperson for the DC Mayor's office, said: “In the meantime, we do know that, just like the wall, he will have to pay for it.” This type of parade could cost millions of dollars, the Post reports, and military officials don't know where the money would come from.
A little dig from @MayorBowser on @realDonaldTrump’s hopes for a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue: “Usually when you see big military parades, it’s celebrating the end of a war. And I don’t think that’s been announced.”— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) February 7, 2018
And some heat from @EleanorNorton: “Trump’s desire to spend millions on a military parade in the style of authoritarian leaders he admires would feed his ego and perhaps his base, rather than serve any legitimate purpose or keep with any long-held American traditions.” https://t.co/LRvgH4a6i6— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) February 7, 2018
The DC Council was really not having it.
The DC government will open on time today.— Council of DC (@councilofdc) February 7, 2018
DC Public Schools will open on time today.
Sadly, the Giant Tank Parade is cancelled. Permanently. pic.twitter.com/mQmElqs3Tt
It's true the Bastille Day parade contains a lot of military displays, but it's also an annual tradition dating back to 1880 that is now used to spread a message of unity with other nations. In contrast, the White House said the US parade would be a show of strength pointed at America’s adversaries. In the US, large displays like this have generally been avoided because of their connection to military dictatorships, including Russian President Vladmir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's extravagant displays. (There have been exceptions though, including the 1991 Gulf War I 'Victory' parade under then-president George H.W. Bush, which cost $8 million.)
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University cited in the Post, asks: “What are they going to do, stand there while Donald Trump waves at them? It smacks of something you see in a totalitarian country.”
The idea has been receiving a lot of ridicule on social media, not only because of the disturbing “strongman” connotations, but also because Trump evaded military service five times: four by being in college, and once by claiming he had bone spurs in his heels. Trump had otherwise had a clean bill of health.
Here's what some of our contributors had to say.
Rachel Maisler says,
If I recall the 1991 Gulf War I 'Victory' parade correctly, it was on a ridiculously hot day and tanks, helicopters, etc. were also parked on the Mall. I wonder how the Park Service is going to handle these vehicles on their newly-renovated turf.
Nick Keenan remarks:
Maybe the infrastructure plan will get a kick-start when Trump learns that our local bridges and roads are in no shape for a parade of tanks.
David Edmondson is particularly worried about the fate of the bike lanes that run down the center of the street:
I'd be curious how or whether the Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes would survive such a pounding, given the administration's distaste for such things.
Patrick Kennedy says,
I think it would be cool to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, especially since like Korea it has come to be a forgotten war. A coordinated commemoration with countries in Europe would be nice. Doing so would also render a distasteful parade of modern military hardware anachronistic, though I guess they could re-double efforts to dig up what's left of the mustard gas stockpile in Spring Valley if they're really insistent on show-and-tell.
The inclusion of the president in any type of military commemoration is unavoidable, but this could be genuinely appropriate and tasteful if it were re-oriented from the strongman optics and turned into a commemoration of a conflict's end — however flawed the resolution ended up being. It could also boost the profile of the D.C. War Memorial and Pershing Park, which have both been neglected for much of their history.
Nick Sementelli would rather not:
Someone should just counter-program another event elsewhere in the city and let there be a same-day crowd size comparison.
Marina Streznewski wants to up the ante:
We can block the tanks with a big demonstration. I'm not kidding.
And Geoffrey Hatchard agrees:
If this crackpot idea gets through all the necessary hoops and attempted blocks by DC's government, and actually is scheduled to happen, I hope that Marina's right, and that there's a giant phalanx of protesters blocking the route, literally hundreds of thousands strong.