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Hypocrisy in Action

I’ve often noted that conservatives can be incredible hypocrites.  For years they said no divorcee would be elected to the presidency.  Then they got Ronald Reagan, the nation’s first divorced Chief Executive, whose wife was the nation’s first divorced First Lady.  They dubbed Bill Clinton a draft dodger and condemned him for protesting against the Vietnam War while he was in college.  Then they elected George W. Bush who earned a comfortable spot in the Texas National Guard in 1968 and failed to complete his tenure.  They also elected Dick Cheney who claimed he had “other priorities” during the 1960s.

Conservative hypocrisy has reared its bigoted head once again – this time in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.  Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Rick Scott and Tommy Tuberville submitted the correspondence to Garland complaining about what they perceive to be a double standard in punishment by the U.S. Department of Justice against the January 6 Capitol Hill rioters.  In contrast, they declare, many of the various protestors to the George Floyd killing who became violent haven’t met the same degree of discipline.

In part, the letter states:

“DOJ’s (U.S. Department of Justice) apparent unwillingness to punish these individuals who allegedly committed crimes during the spring and summer 2020 protests stands in stark contrast to the harsher treatment of the individuals charged in connection with the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. To date, DOJ has charged 510 individuals stemming from Capitol breach.  DOJ maintains and updates a webpage that lists the defendants charged with crimes committed at the Capitol. This database includes information such as the defendant’s name, charge(s), case number, case documents, location of arrest, case status, and informs readers when the entry was last updated.  No such database exists for alleged perpetrators of crimes associated with the spring and summer 2020 protests.  It is unclear whether any defendants charged with crimes in connection with the Capitol breach have received deferred resolution agreements.”

Please.  Spare me the anxiety.

The five angry White male senators don’t seem to understand the difference in the two events.  While some of the Floyd protestors devolved into rioting and vandalism, the original intent was to demonstrate against police violence; a recurring dilemma in the U.S.  The intent of the Capitol Hill rioters, however, was to disrupt congressional business and kill someone – most notably Vice-President Mike Pence.

Conservatives have warned about threats to national security posed by Islamic vigilantes and illegal immigrants for as long as I can remember.  But, these weren’t the people who stormed Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, as Pence oversaw certification of the 2020 presidential election.  The rioters were mostly White people – many of them former military and/or law enforcement – from across the country who felt their dear leader, Donald Trump, had been cheated out of a second term by a corrupt electoral system.  I can almost hear Al Gore and Hillary Clinton laughing.

But I don’t recall bands of angry liberals storming Capitol Hill in January 2001, demanding Al Gore be lynched.  I also don’t remember seeing similar renegades bursting into Capitol Hill in January 2017, calling for Joe Biden’s head.  And it’s obvious to most of us with more than half a brain that the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections were fraudulent.  Yet conservatives denounced anyone voicing their disdain to those two events as whiners and sore losers.  We were justified, though, in protesting.  But we never got violent.  No one smashed windows, kicked in doors and hollered for blood to be spilled.  Neither Al Gore nor Hillary Clinton stood before angry supporters, urging for violent retribution against Congress.

It’s ironic, however, that Merrick Garland is in a leadership position.  Five years ago President Obama nominated him to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Republicans – who held a majority in the Senate – refused to grant Garland the decency of a fair hearing.  Yet, they rushed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett last year, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Again – hypocrisy in action.

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Sacred Burn

“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.

Image: Spreadsheet

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Wait? We have.

I looked at Tom* with what he later described as a scowl.  “Are you serious?” I asked.

“Um…yeah,” was his only reply.  He then looked embarrassed – almost as if he realized he’d just said the wrong thing.  Or, in this case, just pissed me off.

It was the fall of 2002, and we’d known each other for a few years and been roommates since May.  Things weren’t turning out as well as I’d hoped.  Pooling resources is supposed to help people get through tough time.  So far, the only thing that had turned out well was the new puppy he got in August, after the death of his last dog.

I like Tom – for the most part.  You never really know someone unless you either spend the night with or move in with them.  Tom and I had never spent the night.  I do have standards!  But Tom was smart and highly-educated; something of a wild man with few bounds.

He was a little like me: a native Texan of mixed ethnicity (in his case, German and Indian) who graduated high school in 1982 and attended the University of North Texas (although I didn’t arrive there until 1984).  But he was more conservative, and our political discussions on race and gender often went sideways with his right-wing logic.

This evening’s conversation was a perfect example.  I can’t remember what set it off, but I had mentioned that the modern civil rights movement “had to occur”; that it had to take place.  He refuted that claim; calmly stating that it had been completely unnecessary; that eventually society would “come around” and realize it was only fair to give all people a chance; that folks just “needed to wait”.

Thus, my…scowl.

“Wait?”  People had already waited – more than 400 years, from the arrival of the first Europeans to the 1950s, when Martin Luther Kind launched his quiet revolution.

People had waited through the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.  People had waited through every major political and social event since the Salem Witch Trials for an equal place in American society.  People had waited through the name-calling, beatings, shootings, stabbings, lynchings and relocations.

People had waited.  Long enough.  And that’s why everything finally exploded in the 1960s.  I believe the catalyst was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Just a few years into the decade, the first U.S. president born in the 20th century was cut down by a delusional madman (or a cavalcade of them, depending on who you ask); thus squelching a promising future to an American that was moving irreversibly forward.  But the centennial of the Civil War – a conflict about one group of humans owning another group, not property – helped fuel the embers of dissatisfaction.  People had finally said, ‘I’ve had it.  This is it.  We’ve done everything possible to make ourselves valuable and worthy of a seat at that great American banquet table.’

And, in the midst of the mayhem, old White fools like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan stood around saying, ‘I don’t know why they’re so upset.  They live in a free country.’

Define free.

A high school English teacher once said all that happened in the 1960s was boiling in the 1950s.  The Korean War – the sadly “forgotten war” – was a blight in an otherwise great decade.  It was marked by the creation of the grandest economy at the time and included the seminal Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

Tom didn’t know what to say to me after my rant.  It was more of a lecture.  I can get emotional with those sensitive issues, but I’d maintained my decorum – each of us standing there in boxer shorts chugging beers.  He was truly speechless – a rarity for him.  But alas… he had to concede I was right.  Or more, that he could see my point.

Wait…no longer.

*Name changed

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