Saturday, October 8, 2016

....nor tolerate those who do

This Presidential campaign has been as bizarre, sad, or even sick as any that has happened in living memory, or perhaps, in the entire history of major political parties in our country.  In many ways a lot of us feel left without a really savory voting choice or feeling really being included in our national politics with elections so influenced by monied interests.  And then of course, politicians often say what's expedient and opportunistic, so it's difficult to know what they actually believe or how accurate the facts they repeat from what their advisors have told them.

In normal times, except for the legacy problem of having been First Lady and giving an aura of entitlement, Hillary Clinton would be accepted by Democrats and Republicans both as an entirely qualified candidate.  She has extensive experience and a track record.  That doesn't mean one need agree with her policies, though I generally do, but at least she's for real.  But her bona fides are being questioned in what would have been inconceivable ways not long ago.  Unfortunately for all of us, the Republican party has come off the rails, and I think it deserves a good electoral whacking for that.

It's hard to know how and where to ridicule their Trumpty Dumpty fall.  There's his history of racism, sexism, sexual abuse, and infidelity, his decision not to disavow white supremacist supporters like David Duke, his dirty business dealings, his pathological inability to adhere to truth, his bizarre and destructive adherence to unfounded conspiracy theories, his sense of entitlement and his enormous need for attention and approval.

And here's an example that strikes home particularly hard to me, as a military veteran.  It's hard to believe this, or indeed any of what passes for politics in the name of Trump, is for real.

Military honor
It's mind-boggling to imagine Trump as Commander-in-Chief.  Any organization as large as the US military will have its bad apples.  But I think I am not alone in believing that, overall, the US military is among the most highly honorable segments of our society or, perhaps, of any society.

Our military has a vital if very unpleasant task in defending us and our interest.  But beyond that, and one of our great national credits, is that those who represent us in uniform are not an unprincipled rapine rabble.  They have standards, and generally they live up to them.

When I became a US Air Force officer, back in the Viet Nam era,we had to pledge to the US military honor code.  The military still has that code. Its wording varies depending on the situation or service, but it basically goes like this:  I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.

I and my fellows took that oath, and we took it seriously, and proudly in defense of our country.  It's very important, because the military's mission can depend on the integrity of its members.  In my nearly 5 years' active duty experience, the officer corps (and the enlisted personnel as well, by the way) lived up to that high standard, to the extent humanly reasonable. My own personal faults and foibles notwithstanding, that oath represented not just what one says in a military enlistment, but as a way to live, and I've tried to do that even though my service years were long ago.  I think I am not unusual in that.

Now, as part of our current political circus, Mr Trump recently trumpeted a number of military officers who somehow found it within themselves to endorse him for the presidency--the Commander in Chief of our armed forces. That they could support someone who is among other things boastful draft-dodger who disses combat veterans who struggle with psychiatric trauma, and prisoners of war (like Republican Senator McCain), and who is proud to have wriggled out of paying the very taxes that are necessary to support the military, is itself rather remarkable--but we'll let that pass.

Obey the General: A sad misunderstanding!
I did not care to look for these officers' names, or ranks, but one of the most honorable things about our military, that cannot be said of many countries' military, is that on active duty they stay clear of politics.  They have their private ballot, of course, but they do not campaign etc.  They serve whoever we as a nation elect.  Thus, I assume these Trumpistas are retired rather than active duty (as were other former officers who endorsed Clinton).  However, in supporting Mr Trump, they revealed that they took their honor code rather lightly, perhaps as something that was job-related, but not part of their personal lifetime standard.

One could try to give these officers at least a small amount of credit and think their endorsement was due to an honorable, but sad, misunderstanding. Perhaps in their older years, these officers are hard of hearing or of understanding, and thought they were outranked and endorsed Trump because they still feel the must fall in line and obey orders--and they misunderstood what was meant when their candidate was referred to as a General Groper.

These officers are and were undoubtedly very patriotic. Even if they were closet racists, their honor was presumably more important. I don't have any reason to think, much less suggest that these officers lie, cheat, or steal.  But to me, honor codes are not something to be shuttled to the sideline for convenience. They're not cover for dishonor.  Somehow these officers have willfully and I would say shamefully, cast a question about what their own honor is or means to them, or even their own patriotism.  In endorsing someone who is widely, objectively, publicly, and daily shown to have lived a life of lying, cheating, and, in double-dealing also essentially stealing, as a way of life, these officers seem dishonorably to have forgotten that their honor code had a second phrase, that was not about their personal behavior, but the broader sense of the honor they once swore to uphold:

                                                    ". . . . nor tolerate those who do."

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