Since news broke that President Trump wanted to throw a military parade, there’s been a lot of angry debate in social media regarding just how “American” such a parade truly is. From the Left, we see the same anti-Trump bloviation that has characterized the party since January, and from the Right, we see the same Savior-in-Chief support that remains unwilling to question the businessman turned president.

In many ways, it doesn’t matter what the topic is: the lines have already been drawn, and everyone has already chosen a team to play for.

Let’s start by breaking the unspoken rule of digital media, and acknowledging that this entire debate revolves around something that simply just isn’t a very big deal. Sure, evil tyrants have used military parades to help instill nationalistic pride in their regimes, but then, so have honest and just leaders. Sure, military parades aren’t a common facet of American patriotism, but I haven’t been around all that long and I have conscious memories of the last one. I’m fairly certain George H.W. Bush’s parade wasn’t a part of a secret-Nazi strategy to turn America into a haven for fascism, but if it was, he seems to be taking the failure in stride.

I don’t think anyone called this guy Napoleon during the military parade in 1991. (Flickr)

The fact of the matter is, a parade is just a parade. It’ll inconvenience traffic, it’ll make for some exciting photo opportunities, and it’ll give Lefties and Righties something to conduct hashtag warfare about, but ultimately, it’s still just a publicity stunt that’ll be over before you know it, and we’ll all move on to the next trending outrage.

The real issue I see with all the angry debate about a military parade in Washington D.C. has nothing to do with the cost of organizing the parade, or how it might affect the perception other nations have about our country… it’s that everyone seems to have passionate feelings about a damn parade, while the men and women actually tasked with defending our nation have been operating without a functional budget for months, and no one on the Right or Left seems the least bit concerned about that.

Like a dentist shooting a lion, the idea of a military parade gives people an easy target, a cause to feel righteous about without ever having to click past a headline. Meanwhile, continuing resolution spending like we’ve been maintaining since the start of the fiscal year in November continues to hinder military training, maintenance and modernization efforts… and in case anyone’s keeping track, two of those issues have resulted in the non-combat related deaths of dozens of American service personnel in the last year alone. The third? Ignoring that one could result in the deaths of millions more in a future conflict with a peer-level opponent like China.

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Navy ships are crashing into merchant vessels because their crews never received the necessary training to avoid it. Submarines are being pulled out of service because of maintenance delays. Marine Corps aircraft are falling out of the sky, and when they’re not, parts of them are literally breaking off and falling into Japanese school yards. America’s missile defense apparatus just experience yet another testing failure, and both Russia and China have begun testing new ICBM platforms while America is still looking for estimates on beginning to develop a new one of our own… and none of that even addresses the growing operational gap between America’s military and its opponents in orbit.

America’s military has been at war for going on two decades, with an ever shrinking budget and regular shifts in direction and policy. Defense officials have been begging for consistent funding so they can work to address the laundry list of issues facing the Defense Department, and when they found themselves, once again, working under continuing resolution funding during a time of war, the American people found a cause they could fight for in… a parade?

We need to hold our lawmakers accountable on both sides. Democrats and Republicans are both to blame for making the concept of a government shutdown a viable political strategy; one that some have the audacity to defend as though a moral stand has more value than the well being of Americans in the fight. And maybe some people even think that’s true.

But I don’t.

All the political back-patting and moral superiority in the world isn’t worth a single sailor’s life lost in a collision with a merchant ship in clear weather. All the ideological grandstanding we can muster isn’t worth another Marine lost when a C-130 goes down over Kentucky or an Osprey near Japan. While our lawmakers gamble with real human lives, we attack one another over how “American” a parade is. If you ask me, that’s not very American at all.

As I wrote this piece, Senate leaders announced that they have come to a deal that would avert a government shutdown, and I couldn’t help but notice a bit of self-congratulation going on in statements made from both the Right and Left… as though agreeing on a way to fund the government three months after it needed to happen is somehow a victory and not what it really is: a tremendous failure of our political system.

If I went to the grocery store to buy formula to feed my daughter and told the cashier I’d “come up with a way to pay for it within the next three months,” my daughter would go hungry. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing to our military.

“For too long, the United States has asked its military to carry on stoically with a success-at-any-cost attitude,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said to Congress earlier this week, “simply because Congress has not maintained regular order.”

“The fact that our volunteer military has performed so well is a credit to their dedication and professionalism. We expect the men and women of our military to be faithful in their service, even when going in harm’s way. We must also remain faithful to them.”

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Wise words from a seasoned warrior.

 

Image courtesy of the Associated Press