True story…when I was in junior high school, my mother mentally prepared me to serve in the Vietnam War by playing Barry Sadler’s “Ballad of the Green Beret” each morning to wake me up for school. She made a point of regularly telling me how proud she would be if I became a Green Beret. That always struck me as an odd wish given the first two lines of the song are: “Fighting soldiers from the sky; Fearless men who jump and die.”
Where I grew up the two best career options were go to college or go to the military, unless you wanted to stay on the farm or take your chance at getting a good local factory job in nearby cities. Few people had the privilege of college, unless serving in the military first and then going to school on the GI Bill later. However, military service in the 1960’s and very early 1970’s carried the possibility of serving in the Vietnam War. My two cousins served in Vietnam. Dave was a Marine and Steve was an Army sniper. My brothers-in-law had all served – Air Force, Navy, and Army. In my small town there were many veterans, some even having served in World War I. Iowa farm boys were prime recruits.
However, when it was time for me to register for the draft, I attempted to do so as a Conscientious Objector. I was politely informed by the registrar that Louisa County, Iowa had a long, proud record of registering young men who were only 1-A, fit and fully ready for service. So I was not presented with another option. I was not unwilling to serve, only unwilling to take a life, even in war.
It turns out my worry was for naught. My draft lottery number came up as 364, which meant I would never be called up.
Today I am what I was only beginning to understand as an 18-year-old: a pacifist. I am a Quaker, in part, because I am a pacifist and it is a faith that practices pacifism. However, pacifism is a philosophy I embraced in my mid-20’s…after the Vietnam War.
Pacifism is a philosophical position, sometimes rooted in religious belief as mine is, that violence is never justified. As a general rule, pacifists do not buy into “just war” theory. Frankly, it is not an easy position to hold because there are times when an actual kick in the seat of the pants would be good for some people.
How I understand and practice pacifism is this: while nations may be quickly and strongly condemned for going to war, the individual soldiers are not, unless they commit war crimes. For this reason, I do not believe I have ever consciously condemned any person for having served in the military.
In record time Trump has labeled The Atlantic story “fake” but he has a problem. The story has been confirmed by multiple sources, including Trump’s favorite network, Fox News Channel, and about 325 million Americans, give or take a couple million. As CNN points out, we have seen and heard – with our own eyes and ears – Trump disparage American soldiers for their service. According to Military Times, Trump is already polling 4% points behind Biden with U.S. soldiers. This probably explains Trump’s immediate, strong reaction to the article.
Like a lot of folks, I have run out of words to describe the incomprehensible behavior of Trump. He might be crazy, but it does seem he might just be the lunatic some people are looking for. (My apologies, Billy Joel, it was irresistible). Increasingly, though, it appears fewer and fewer people are looking to him for leadership in the future. We can only hope that is true when we go to the polls.
One thing is a bit puzzling to me though. We watched and listened as Trump did and said many of these things while tightly wrapped in an American flag to look and sound patriotic and supportive of the U.S. military, its veterans, and its leadership. We knew then and we know now how he felt. Nothing in the article was a surprise.
Why is that we are only now outraged by it? For the same reason we do not always notice the rain until it accumulates as a puddle. When we finally have to put boots on to wade through it, we realize just how much it has been raining. I know. It seems awfully mild to compare Trump’s constant barrages of profanity, name-calling, and rants to the life-giving beauty of rain water. In Trump’s case, though, we do not have to wear boots only for the rain but for the constant flow of BS he produces. However, the comparison does work if we consider that it might not actually be water that is raining – just Trump delivering the ultimate insult of “taking a leak” on those who serve (even while they have heel spurs, too), We the People, and all of America.
Trevor Noah and the Shooting of Jacob Blake
When I tune into The Daily Show with Trevor Noah it is usually just for his opening monologue which almost always makes me chuckle if not laugh aloud. Recently, though, I hung out a little longer and saw a piece Noah did on the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It is one of the most powerful commentaries on race and violence I have seen in a while. It takes about nine minutes to watch and it is nine minutes well spent.
The View from Jeff
Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.