Trump, I never served in the military during the Vietnam war when young
men were still drafted, forced to either find a way
to avoid service, or actually subject themselves to possible combat
with the risk
of violent death or capture by the enemy. I'm not proud of this nor
am I ashamed, yet there is no way that I would deign to criticize one
who did serve in any capacity. Making a public principled
stand against the war by refusing conscription was an act of courage
that very few undertook. While I don't condemn the young Donald for his
avoiding this war, he did something that others who realize the harm
of militaristic patriotism
did not, specifically on one Veterans Day of 1995, the fiftieth
anniversary of this nations last clear military victory against the Axis
Let me begin by saying that since Mr. Trump began his campaign for presidency, in spite of my long antipathy for him for reasons too extensive to go into in this article, I was actually starting to appreciate his over-the-top candor in his speaking of a harmful aspects of our southern immigration policies. I happen to believe that the fear of saying something that has been deemed as "wrong" is a profound danger to our country. I support freedom of expression even at the cost of making enemies; yet there are times when the individual who is performing this valuable function must be more than an iconoclast. The substance of the shouting is more important than the volume. Yelling "fire!" in a crowded auditorium, a common example of illegal speech, is not only permissible, but a moral imperative -- that is, when there actually is a fire.
Donald Trump has amassed a fortune, and like most who do, it was not by being a self effacing nice guy. If he was going to use this independence from the need for financial support to run for president by goring the sacred cows of this political culture, I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. One of these untouchable areas is our military industrial complex, which now must include those individuals who voluntarily don the uniform of our country to engage in warfare. Had Mr. Trump thought seriously about this, considered this profound issue on different levels, organized and developed his thoughts and only then spoken on how his views differed from the accepted norms of our culture; such action would have earned him my utmost respect.
If in this analysis he came to the conclusion that those who are now glorified for their service are in a way playing a part in the militarization of this country that results in everything from destabilizing the world, committing torture, targeted assassinations of citizens, to ultimately bankrupting our country -- if in this analysis, Senator John McCain was an illustration of this process, it may have been appropriate, even possibly courageous.
But that was not what occurred. Donald Trump shows no evidence of ever giving an hour of serious thought to the larger issues of war and peace, of the cost of ongoing militarization of this country, and of the world. Trump did not castigate John McCain because of his choice of career that led to his being a prisoner of an enemy of this country. He castigated him for being captured, which in his simple mind made him a "loser." What does this imply for his view of the thousands of Americans who lost even more in the field of battle. If he demeans one who is only captured, how much more most he condemn those who died, who willfully sacrificed their lives for their comrades and their country.
When I read about his castigation of Senator McCain, it brought back my own memory of being in the the crowd of what the New York Times described as . ....the largest military parade since WWII along Fifth Avenue of New York City on Veterans Day 1995.
Planes roared overhead, tanks rumbled by, cannons boomed salutes and church bells pealed across the city and the nation as huge crowds turned out and more than 33,000 marchers -- led by Medal of Honor winners and veterans of many conflicts -- joined the Nation's Parade, the official culmination of four years of celebrations marking the Second World War's 50th anniversary.
I couldn't help but to be stirred. It evoked my childhood feelings watching similar parades of the returning men of WWII along Pennsylvania Avenue, where on the reviewing stand was the Commander in Chief, President Harry Truman. On that day a half century later, we could feel the essence of American military power in the roar of the new B2 bomber as it flew low over the multitudes cheering this latest stealth technology. In spite of the stirring music, the legions of men who had served from all the way back to "The Great War," something bothered me. It was the man who was getting the headlines for this event, the person whom these veterans snapped their salutes to going past the flag-draped dignitary viewing area. The person, that Grand Marshall who received their salutes was none other than Donald Trump.
The Times article describes how this came to be:
Also in the reviewing stand was the developer Donald Trump, who provided the only note of controversy in an otherwise positive day. Many veterans were angry that organizers had agreed to name Mr. Trump, who is not a veteran, as grand marshal in exchange for his contribution of $200,000 and help in raising additional funds.
Yes, Trump's book "The Art of the Deal" applies to even negotiating receiving homage by those whom he now calls losers, those veterans who had been POWs. And then there were the ones who weren't marching that bright fall day, who had their lives violently ended in their prime -- in France, in Iwo Jima, in Korea and in Vietnam. Yes, they lost all, but Donald Trump, for what must have been a small pittance of his fortune even then, negotiated the deal that he, not one of the Medal of Honor recipients, was to be the Grand Marshal of this parade.
I still applaud
Donald Trump for being candid, for speaking that which others fear to
say in public. But my loathing for him outweighs this. We need to make
a vital distinction. He is providing a service for the nation, which
is to illustrate just how much we risk by the soft censorship, the
growing vilification of anyone who breaches the ever growing mandate of
adherence to current social norms. It is because of his breaching this
silent insidious disease, that this individual, no matter how personally
contemptible, becomes a hero - at least to some.
is not about Donald Trump, as much as the headlines belie. Before we
cart anyone off for
crying "fire" in a
crowded room, or nation, we must first be damn sure that the fire isn't
actually smoldering. The difference between the political courage to
focus difficult issues, and using these covert failures in our system
for personal aggrandizement must be crystallized. If we refuse to make
this distinction, Donald Trump is only a preview of what we face.
-----------------Commentary by author is on AlRodbell.blogspot.com