Cadets of the École Polytechnique parade through Paris on July 14, 2010, looking like what U.S. President Donald Trump presumably imagines he will see in Washington today (Photo: Jérémy Barande, Creative Commons.)

Today is Independence Day, the 4th of July, best known in Canada as the setting for the country gothic hit of the same name but, of course, also our cacophonous cousins’ national holiday.

The occasion nominally marks the 243rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence by the citizens of the great constitutional Republic with which we share the world’s longest undefended border, on July 4, 1776. We wish our neighbours as happy and peaceful a celebration as possible given the present fractious state of their affairs, with gunfire of only a celebratory nature.

Mr. Trump and his friend Vladimir Putin, who presided over a terrific military parade featuring almost 14,000 crisply turned out Russian troops on May 9 in Moscow (Photo:

Nevertheless, Canadians could be forgiven if some of them reached the conclusion the foundational American holiday really has been set aside to commemorate the domestic fireworks described in Martina McBride’s 1994 hit, penned by Gretchen Peters, only within an increasingly unhinged continental family of 330 million members.

If the whole affair ends up with a someone’s residence burnt to the ground, we can only hope that the flames don’t spread across the border – because, of course, the political derangement that has possessed the our neighbours has no shortage of those similarly afflicted among our compatriots as well.

Well, at least no one here is yet clamouring for a military parade on the scale of the Défilé militaire du 14 juillet, as has been the wish of America’s would-be Caligula, Tweeter-in-Chief Donald J. Trump, since he witnessed the famed Bastille Day Parade in Paris in 2017.

Mr. Trump was thwarted in this aspiration last year – presumably in roughly equal parts by American military brass who recognize that notwithstanding their renowned military prowess, the majority of their troops don’t exactly march like the Governor General’s Foot Guards, and the suitably bureaucratic administration of the District of Columbia – and vowed to try again today.

Country singer Martina McBride (Photo: Salva17, Flickr, Creative Commons).

Now that unhappy day has come and, alas for Mr. Trump, the event is certain to be a disappointment when compared with the Paris military spectacle 10 days hence, if only because the French, nauseating militarists that they are to their Gallic bones, have been practicing almost every year on this date since 1880. (There were only a few missed performances in the 1940s, thanks to their neighbours, who as a consequence no longer do military parades with much enthusiasm, as befits the citizens of a born-again democracy.)

In addition, the budget for Mr. Trump’s cobbled-together military defile is likely to be paltry compared to the French affair, which nowadays usually features about 8,000 smartly turned out troops, including the members of Paris’s fire brigade (a branch of military service), some fine singers (found right at the end of this video), not to mention numerous rumbling tanks and military aircraft above.

There’s also the problem of the United States’ neglected and crumbling infrastructure, which even in Washington D.C. is presumably not up to withstanding the weight of a 69-ton Abrams tank, not to mention one of those “brand new Sherman tanks,” Mr. Trump has promised. (Note to readers who don’t follow this sort of stuff: The last Sherman rolled off an American assembly line in July 1945. Easy mistake to make, though, if you suffer from bone spurs.)

So the infighting about who will suffer the brunt of the presidential temper tantrum, has already begun, with the New York Times reporting yesterday that “administration officials began pointing fingers at one another and assigning blame in case of disappointing attendance or any other unforeseen complications.”

It is said here that Mr. Trump would have been smarter to sub-contract the whole affair to someone with more experience organizing large military parades. While the French are otherwise occupied preparing for their own, and the Chinese are now engaged in a trade war with Mr. Trump, there are nevertheless other leaders and countries with plenty of experience in such matters.

Mr. Trump’s bromantic partners Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin both have experience presiding over impressive military parades, for example.

Indeed, Mr. Putin – who is said by some to have already helped Mr. Trump with his campaign strategy in 2016 – was host to a parade by roughly 14,000 smartly marching troops in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9, known locally as Victory Day. Surely President Putin could be persuaded to lend a hand and an Armata tank or two, at least in a consultative role!

On the other hand, if that can’t be organized on short notice, I suppose Mr. Trump can just revert to standard operating procedure and lie about the quality of the marching and the size of the crowd.

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  1. The US is swarming with marching bands in fake fairy tale costumes and high-stepping gals with batons to lead the way through towns on celebratory days like today. And they’re pretty darn good at it. John Philip Sousa was the American who wrote most of the US oom-pah-pah marches back in the 1870s, and the US Marine Band always puts on a damn fine show. All these people know how to march and actually practise their craft relentlessly. Many other groups of marchers turn out for Rose Bowl parades and the like. Yup, the US has a fine tradition in the field and we have many rather shambolicly amateur Canadian copies because it’s all rather good fun. Your average US military recruit is only in it for a job, not to march with precision – that’s a European thing it seems to me.

    But presumably if anyone in the US government had thought far enough in advance, they could have organized the gala parade to end all gala parades in Washington anyway, just with the talent extant across their union.

    But when you have lived the blinkered life of a shady real estate developer and self-promoter and generally haven’t a clue about real life other than a wily appreciation of how to stir the under-educated masses into a froth of resentment at their lot, well, who wants just a mere civilian parade when you get to be Prez and Head Cheese of a polarized country with a gigantic military that consumes half the national budget? You want a parade that exalts you as the Leader! Yes sir, only a full-blown military spectacle will do, when in his eyes mere ragamuffin countries can put on military showstoppers. Too bad they can’t tow an an aircraft carrier through the streets is probably his main regret. What a shambles!

    On another note, MAD magazine is to cease publishing to the great regret of another blogger who likes to go on tirades that may or may not make sense. Personally I thought its schtick was exhausted by 1970, but like McDonalds they’ve hung on well past their due-by-date. Still, Andrew Scheer will be delighted. He no longer will have to suffer the indignity of being confused facially with Alfred E Neuman though their personalities have always seemed polar opposites. Not sure Scheer could understand wry satire if it hit him in the face; he isn’t equipped with the necessary quick wit or imagination. But he does exhibit some actual signs of animation as a sports fan – too bad politics isn’t the Stanley Cup or NBA Finals!

    1. I always write too much, and so in a frenzy of trimming I actually cut a graph out of my first draft of this piece talking about how good American military musical ensembles can be. I told the story of how, one summer during the years I lived in Prince Rupert, B.C., the USAF sent its Elmendorf Air Base marching band and jazz ensemble for some now long forgotten reasons. The former was very good musically, but with only rudimentary marching skills, the latter was terrific, although the members looked like hippies with strangely short haircuts. As for marching with precision, the Europeans are OK, and Canada’s GGFG members are no slouches either, but the best if you ask me are either the Chinese or the North Koreans. The People’s Liberation Army in particular takes the trouble to ensure everyone in a parade is exactly the same height! They can also sing in Russian, interestingly, and probably English too if need be. You are right about Andrew Scheer’s unnerving resemblance to Alfred E. Newman. Brian Jean, as you will recall, looked like a grown up Dennis the Menace, rather like the one portrayed addressing the United Nations in MAD Magazine’s long ago feature on what cartoon kids would look like then they grew up. DJC

  2. National Public Radio reported that in order to pay for the gala affair Trump raided the already depleted coffers of the National Parks Service to the tune of $2.5 million. Simple logic, animals don’t vote and who goes to national parks anyway?

  3. They could sub-contract to Ukraine. They managed to stage a parade while fighting off those 20,000, 40,000, 80,000 or is it 150,000 Russian troops massing on the border (I guess they are still massing there since our intrepid media have not reported that they have unmassed.):

    “Whoopsie: Ukrainian Army Accidentally Tears Up Roads in Kiev Prepping for Parade”

    “Later, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s press service offered its own official reply, denying the extent of the damage and suggesting that the poor quality of the roads, not the heavy equipment’s movement through the streets, was responsible for the damage. Furthermore, the Ministry added that the indentations left by the tanks and other mechanized units’ treads would disappear over time.”

  4. One of the seeming ironies here is that Mr. Trump who seems to have gone to some effort avoiding military service himself is such a promoter of the military. Also this is the same guy who claimed he would be better at military strategy in Iraq than the Generals.

    Of course, this is all more about him than the military. Like most strong men, he hopes to transfer some of the admiration for duty and service they get and the projection of strength and power to himself.

  5. Apparently, you can make a lotta mistakes … if you suffer from bone spurs.

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