Originally hailing from the planet Mars, many things about Earth life and Earthlings struck me as being quite odd, if not totally absurd. One of the totally absurd things about Earthlings, and one of the things I have never gotten used to, is their insatiable desire to march.
As a boy watching black-and-white war moves on television I thought it was funny and stupid whenever they showed soldiers at basic training or anywhere else marching in straight lines. That was before I realized that men joined the army because they couldn't get along with other people and that basic training was more or less a place for them to work out these interpersonal issues. Somewhere along the way they’d also learn to shoot a rifle and obey orders from a higher-up.
But nobody beat the German army for stupid marching. The “goose-step” looked not only ridiculous and unmilitary, it looked downright uncomfortable. But, then, Hitler loved his boys and he liked to see them do what they were told, even if they looked more like a chorus line than a bunch of trained soldiers.
The Russians loved to march even more than the Germans and they did it a lot longer than the Germans did. The Russians even took stupid marching to the level of art when they did the German goose-step in super slow motion while guarding a sacred military statue. Then they even looked more ridiculous than the Palace Guards at Buckingham Palace in London, who look more like over-dressed snobs who don’t give a damn about anyone or anything than trained sentinels guarding the royal bloodline. But at least they don’t march.
I tell a lie. Actually, the Palace Guards do march, but only in festive parades, not while they're working. Which makes them look almost as odd as a pack of Shriners to a former Martian like me, who wouldn't march in a straight line anywhere, even if I had to. Just when I thought that nobody could top the Shriners for insane marching, here came the Mummers Parade from Philadelphia one day and my kid world was never the same. A Mummer looked like a human peacock with nowhere to go so I figured they decided to march in straight lines together to wherever it was they thought they had to go. Like lemmings rushing in droves toward the cliffs. But at least they didn't play bagpipes.
Just when I thought marching couldn’t get any more ridiculous I happened to see a St. Patrick’s Day parade on TV one day. Now there was some weird marching. Men in plaid skirts playing bagpipes, marching in straight lines behind a single man wearing a plaid skirt and a hat that looked like road kill. But he wasn’t playing a bagpipe. He carried a big metal baton and strutted like he owned the world. And, let’s face it, the bagpipe might have been OK to make “music” with before mankind invented brass and wood instruments, but now they look and sound like something that should be hunted instead of played.
And later I discovered that you didn’t have to be in the military to march around. If you liked to just wear jeans and a T-shirt and didn’t mind standing elbow-to-elbow with other people, and you had no problem using Job Johnnies for a couple of days instead of a regular bathroom, and you didn’t care that all your marching might get you is a day in the slammer, you could always grab a picket sign and march on Washington, DC. After you got arrested you'd get a free baloney sandwich. And you didn’t have to be anyone in particular and you didn’t have to march in a straight line or any kind of line at all. You could just stand there and holler if you wanted to.
But maybe civilian marching is the stupidest marching of all. At least the soldiers get snappy uniforms and three squares a day and money at the end of the month. And free vehicles to drive with free gasoline in them. And that’s enough to make just about anyone go marching off to war these days.