I am an angry American. I have never been this angry about my country’s leadership. When will this madness stop? When will we all come to our senses? Have we lost all direction; have we given up on what is right and what is wrong? I have never used my blog for this strong a statement and I hope I do not regret it.
When I was a little boy times were a lot different from today. World War II ended as I began. I was too young, by months, to be an official Baby Boomer and born too late to qualify for Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. So I was designated a member of the Silent Generation. It was a throw-in label to which no one, including history, paid much mind let alone any tribute. We were the cold war kids; the ones in first grade who hid safely under our desks (what comedian Lewis Black refers to as kindling) in the event the Ruskies sent a nuclear-armed missile into our schoolyard.
The war was still very much on the minds of people as I toddled through the late 1940s and youngster’d the 1950’s. Back then, Memorial Day was not crassly designated for picnics and car sales. Not at all. Too many of our nation’s best had been killed in the war and grief was still very fresh. In fact, as I remember it, Memorial Day was a pretty solemn flag-drapped day to memorialize those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure presidents and prime ministers prevailed over dictators and tyrants.
One vision I strongly remember was the front-page photographs of my Weekly Reader during the first week of May every year. Pictured was the military parade in Moscow on May Day. There were the same poses every year. One of the wall above Lenin’s Grave from where Nikita Khrushchev and his buddies viewed their big parade. The other shots always featured goose-stepping soldiers, lots of statuesque missiles and long-snouted tanks. It was a huge display of military might.
No event like the Soviet Union’s May Day parade was ever held in America, at least to the vast extent the Russians would display their deadly power. No, instead we followed the Teddy Roosevelt’s decorum. We spoke softly and kept our big sticks back behind the silo doors. Besides, we didn’t need to prove anything to anybody…we already had.
Marching goose-steppers and rows of rolling artillery were always perceived as the toys played with by the bad guys—the bullies who needed to feed their ego and show off their highly pressed olive-drab linen and polished gunmetal so the rest of the world would be fearfully forewarned of their military superiority.
I was just a kid. I didn’t give it much thought other than it was always the countries America didn’t like that chose to have such parades. America, on the contrary, hung flags and lots of them. If we marched, it was with high-stepping drum majors leading peppy bands that played songs by John Phillip Sousa while enthusiastic young ladies kept time with pulsating pompoms. Indeed, our parades were always fun, entertaining …celebratory of good times and good things. If anything were “mighty” it was the feeling of pride of living in the greatest county on earth. If we needed to show off our strength and fortitude we had John Wayne. What else would you possibly want!
But to hold a military parade with brigade after brigade of marching gun-toting soldiers and miles of rolling tanks and missiles and caissons, all with the intent of showing off to the world how big and strong, how impenetrable and massive, how formidable and deadly…how arrogant one’s country can be…well, that is for what Thomas Paine called the “summer soldier and sunshine patriot,” the would-be warriors and dim-witted demagogues. It is not for America. We honor our military, past and present, with more sophistication and dignity. We do not need them to be used as propaganda to bolster the braggadocio of our leaders. That’s belittling and beneath their great honor. Americans should be outraged. I for once will abandon my silent generation and stand up and shout: Mr. President, if you need to embellish your ego or prove your misguided machismo to the world, please, please do not commit the injustice of using one of our nation’s greatest assets to claim your narcissistic worth.