“Only our individual faith in freedom can keep us free.”
Image: Carol Cavalaris
“You want to do what?”
I knew my father wouldn’t like the idea of me joining the military, but the look in his eyes shivered my soul. That was easy for many people to do to me in the late 1980s, when I had little self-esteem and little self-respect. I had hoped joining the U.S. Marine Corps could cure me of that. Along with my alcoholic and same-sex tendencies. Besides, life was not going well for me at the age of 24. I had changed majors in college three years earlier and was nowhere near graduating. Both my parents were upset that I’d decided to study filmmaking instead of computer science. But, after 3 ½ years of pretending both to know what I was doing and enjoying it, I had cracked in the spring of 1985 and made the bold switch. As high school-only graduates, my parents had imbued me – their only child – with grand ambitions. Their ambitions. Their dreams. They thought my writing was just a hobby to pass the time. They never realized I’d considered it seriously in my private cogitations. But filmmaking? I might as well have said I wanted to be a professional gambler.
Then came the military idea. By 1988, I was truly at a loss of where I was going. Still, my father insisted I finish college and earn a degree – any degree. Especially one he and my mother found acceptable. They had reluctantly come to accept my detour into film studies.
But the military?
After the debacle of Vietnam, the concept of military service fell out of favor with many young Americans. It was fine if dad and granddad had done it. But not the new generation. Things had changed considerably by the 1980s. It was not socially fashionable. The thing to do was to get a good job – establish a career, rather – and make lots of money and live in a nice house with plenty of beautiful clothes and a new vehicle every year or two. That’s what my parents had wanted when they began pushing me to study computer science as I neared high school graduation. I felt I had no choice then. And, even by 1988, I still felt I had no real choice. I gave into my father’s wishes (demands) and decided to continue college.
Sadly, though, I dropped out and entered the corporate world in 1990 – always with the thought that I’d return to compete that higher education. Which I did. In 2008.
I loved my father, but I wished I’d actually rebelled against his insistence and joined the military anyway. I feel now that my life would have gone much more smoothly overall.
All of that began coming back to me nearly 20 years ago, as the U.S. plunged itself into two new conflicts: Afghanistan and Iraq. The scorn I once felt for the military had metamorphosed into respect and awe.
And it’s become even more apparent since the election (via Russia) of Donald Trump. This week Trump has found himself embroiled in more controversy regarding the U.S. military. Most of us remember that moment in 2015, when then-candidate Trump disparaged U.S. Senator John McCain by stating, “I like people who weren’t captured.” It was a direct smack-down of McCain’s brutal tenure as a war prisoner during Vietnam. Under normal political circumstances, that would have ended most political campaigns. But Trump persevered and, despite that comment and the fact he garnered a medical deferment during the same period because of some mysterious bone spurs, he went on to win the Republican Party’s nomination and eventually the presidency. Could the nation have picked a more disrespectful dumbass to be our leader?
Now come reports that Trump disparaged the U.S. war dead during a visit to France in November of 2018 to mark the end of World War I. Allegedly, he denounced the long-dead servicemen as “losers” and “suckers”. Of course, these are just accusations. But, while some high-ranking officials have come forward to state they don’t recall Trump ever making those statements, others have declared our Commander-in-Chief did say those things.
And that’s the irony of this entire debate, isn’t it? The President of the United States is the literal head of all branches of the U.S. military. Any national leader holds that role. Thus, for the President of the United States to denigrate war dead as “losers” and “suckers” just sort of undermines his credibility – presuming, of course, that he had any in the first place.
But Trump doesn’t. He’s already been proven a draft dodger (something conservatives so easily lobbed at Bill Clinton nearly 30 years ago), a tax cheat, a womanizer (another conservative slam against Clinton) and a failed businessman.
It was obvious to me more than five years ago Trump wasn’t fit to be the leader of the proverbial free world. His actions and his verbiage have proven that to many others since. While it amazes me that so many go into orgasmic-like frenzies at the mere mention of his name, I find him beyond appalling. He’s just downright disgusting.
Our people in uniform can’t legally criticize their Commander-in-Chief in a public setting, but I certainly have no problems with it. Trump’s words fail to surprise me anymore. It’s just more proof of his mental instability and blatant incompetence. All of that is bad enough. But blatant disrespect for the millions of Americans who have served in uniform – including my father, other relatives and friends – is one of the most despicable things anyone can do. Whether or not they are President of the United States.