The Washington Post earlier this week revealed that Donald Trump was planning a huge military parade like those previously mounted following the victorious end of a war. In response, one of their columnists (Dana Milbank) suggests what Trump needs is a good old fashioned Roman triumph. His column opens with this refrence to Evelyn Waugh:
The Post’s scoop about President Trump’s plans for a grand military parade in Washington brings to mind Evelyn Waugh’s classic satire about England’s upper crust in the early days of World War II, “Put Out More Flags,” named after a Chinese proverb:
“A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen his spirit . . . and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out more flags in order to increase his military splendor.”
In his novel’s epigraph, Waugh followed this quotation from Lin Yutang’s Importance of Living with another quote from the same source:
“A little injustice in the heart can be drowned by wine; but a great injustice in the world can be drowned only by the sword.”
What Waugh means by this second quote is not entirely clear. This might suggest that, as in the novel, after the flags are put out and the wine has been drunk, the swords are drawn. Since Mr Trump does not consume wine (at least not in the quantities foreseen by the Chinese epigramist), this Chinese proverb could have troubling implications.
After describing in great satiric detail how Mr Trump would incorporate into his parade all the elements of the classical Roman triumph, Mr Milbank concludes:
There’s only one problem with this plan, as I see it. In the Roman triumph, a slave would ride with the general in his chariot and repeatedly whisper into his ear, “Memento mori”: Remember, you are mortal. For our parading president, this could be a dealbreaker.