The last military parades in the United States came at the end of the Gulf War and the conclusion of “Operation Desert Storm.” This parade followed in the tradition of the great victory parades from the World Wars, and the inaugurations of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Both men had served with distinction in the military, the latter a decorated Naval officer, and the former was the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II.
I’m fairly incredulous, however, about the prospects of reviving this spectacle. It would unnecessarily cost millions of dollars, money that could be better spent on veteran services. If a country truly wishes to “celebrate” its military, then maybe helping those who have given life, limb, blood, comrades, and parts of their very souls to recover – physically and emotionally – would be a healthier place to start.
And if one just has to have a parade, there are plenty of Korean and Vietnam War veterans who were never properly welcomed home. Celebrate them, and while at it, put arms around all the young men and women who have served multiple tours of duty in the last decade, an excruciatingly small percentage of our society that has borne the full weight of military demands. They more than deserve the embrace of “a grateful nation.”
There is another reason for my dissent. All these bombastic plans come on the eve of Palm Sunday. On that fateful day, all those years ago, Jesus of Nazareth led his own celebratory parade, an intentional act of not-so-subtle, yet humble, subversion.
It was customary in Jesus’ day for a conqueror to ride into the capital city on a white, armor-clad stallion; flanked by his generals; followed by his glinting, goose-stepping soldiers; and cheered by the manic throngs whose thirst had been quenched by the blood of their enemies (This military parade is no new concept). But not Jesus.
He paraded into the city of Jerusalem to the shouts of, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” not the one who comes by the might of an advancing army. He arrived, “lowly, and riding on a donkey,” not prancing on a war horse, flanked by a few shaky peasants, not faithful legions. He came in a rabbi’s prayer shawl, not draped with the ribbons and medals of conquest.
He came weeping for his people who could not stop destroying themselves. He arrived, not to conquer, but to be conquered, to willingly lay down his life. His aim was not to shed blood, but to bleed. His parade was an inside-out, upside-down procession of humility, because that’s the only thing that can turn the world upright again.
No, I’m not against parades. Come Sunday I will be shouting “Hosanna!” as I join a parade celebrated by the faithful for the last two millennia. But it will be a celebration of the Prince of Peace whose only weapon is sacrificial love, for love will one day conquer all.
Photo by Milivoj Kuhor