I can’t even…

There have been so many distressing articles about Donald Trump that you think nothing could possibly break through to elucidate something worse.

Yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, one of the oldest and most venerable magazines in the United States, published this article on Trump’s disparagement of members of the military across generations. Trump has publicly and privately called people who served “losers” and “suckers”, including those who were wounded, captured, or killed in action.

Some of the people interviewed for the story think that Trump can’t understand anyone being motivated by anything other than personal gain, especially monetary gain.

This inability to understand the fundamental nature of public service would be shocking enough coming from a president of the United States who is elected to serve the country and its people, but one particular incident in the report saddened me on an even deeper level.

On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

from Jeffrey Goldberg’s article, Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’, The Atlantic, Sept. 3, 2020

How could anyone, standing with a father at his son’s gravesite, not have the decency to either offer sympathy or maintain respectful silence?

Trump’s lack of compassion and humanity frighten me even more than his inability to govern and to protect the health and safety of our country. He and the press team at the White House are denying the reporting, but Goldberg’s reporting is well-sourced and has been corroborated by other reporters using their own sources. Sadly, it is also entirely believable because Trump has often publicly disparaged those who have served in the military, including the late senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain. For the White House to claim that Trump never said things that are archived in recordings, tweets, etc. only compounds the problem. Denying your lies is just another lie and another reason not to believe anything you say.

I have always believed that character matters and have used it as one of my top criteria in voting. I have made my plan to vote in the November third election and urge all US citizens to make sure they are registered and have a plan in place to safely and securely cast their ballot so that we can unequivocally elect Joe Biden so our country can begin the healing process and restore respect and human decency within and beyond our borders.

federal force

Here in the United States, we are facing such a crush of problems that it is hard to give each the attention it deserves.

I do want to highlight one especially dangerous and disturbing action by the president. He is deploying federal employees into US cities to act as law enforcement without the permission of the mayors and governors who have legal jurisdiction. By law, policing is a matter for local and state governments. The National Guard, which is a branch of the US Military though its roots go all the way back to 1660’s Massachusetts militias, is sometimes mobilized to deal with a disaster or civil unrest, but it is the governor of the state who usually orders it, not the president. As I have discussed before, the president can use the Insurrection Act to use federal forces over the objections of governors, but there is no basis to declare that an insurrection is underway.

Federal forces have been deployed to Portland, Oregon, ostensibly to protect federal buildings. Disturbingly, these federal officers have been on the streets without wearing insignia identifying them and have detained people who are not causing harm. They have also teargassed peaceful protestors. According to local officials, the presence of these federal forces has worsened the situation, not calmed it. The president is also sending or planning to send federal agents to other US cities.

While the president says he needs to establish “law and order” in these Democrat-led cities, the real motivation may be to project a “tough guy” image to shore up his base of supporters. His poll numbers have been dropping, even in states where he won by large margins in 2016.

I think it is possible that some of the president’s supporters are disturbed that he is using federal forces within US cities. The tenth amendment to the Constitution recognizes policing as a state function; many Trump supporters are not fans of the federal government and prefer state/local control as much as possible. Some would rather not have government involved in their lives at all.

There are already inspectors general investigations into the use of federal forces in Washington, DC and Portland. If there are deployments in other cities, there will surely be court cases brought, as well.

Meanwhile, voters need to remember that unidentified, armed federal personnel do not belong on the streets in US cities and towns. It’s the kind of authoritarian tactic that the United States has often decried in other countries.

Where am I?

Yesterday, June 1, 2020, was one of the darkest and most frightening days of my almost sixty years as a citizen of the United States.

President Trump is pressuring governors to use the US military against protesters in their states and is threatening to use the military, beyond the National Guard which is under the jurisdiction of each governor, within the states if the governors refuse. To do this, he would have to invoke the Insurrection Act, which, in the rare instances in which it has been used, has only been applied to a small, specific area for particular isolated incident. If the president tries to invoke this act across different states and regions, is he surmising that a widespread insurrection is underway? The Cambridge Dictionary defines insurrection as “an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence.” This is not at all what is happening. Even if you add civil unrest as a possible cause, the vast majority of the country is seeing non-violent protests, which are within our rights to free speech and assembly. The limited amount of violence and destruction/theft of property are matters for local law enforcement, sometimes aided by the state’s National Guard, if the governor sees fit to use them.

The president seems to think that his bravado makes him look strong, but the opposite is true. His resorting to such threats shows how weak he is as a leader that he cannot talk to the nation to calm the situation and take effective action to address the injustices that have so many millions across the country taking to the streets.

The most horrifying part of yesterday was that the area near the White House was cleared of protesters so that the president could go to a nearby church for a photo op. These protesters were non-violent and the curfew had not yet taken effect when they were attacked with teargas, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and physical violence. Clergy and volunteers who had been offering water, snacks, and assistance to the protesters throughout the day were also driven from the area.

These actions ordered by the president violated the free speech and freedom of assembly rights from our Constitution, as well as interfering with the religious expression of those who were there to serve others to fulfill the calling of their faith. The president also did not inform the clergy of St. John’s or the Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde that he would be clearing the church grounds and using their sacred space for a photo op. Rev. Budde and other Christian faith leaders have objected to the president’s actions and rhetoric, pointing out that he is espousing views antithetically opposed to the tenets of Christianity.

Donald Trump has no moral authority whatsoever. He says that he wants “law and order” while himself violating the Constitution that he has sworn to uphold.

I am afraid of what will come next. I don’t have a vivid enough imagination to envision what will happen beyond the pandemic, injustice, and widespread suffering we have all around us.

We need competent and compassionate national leadership as soon as possible. There are millions of us all over the country ready to embark on the gargantuan task of building back a country worthy of our highest ideals of equality, unity, peace, and community.

Armistice Day

Today is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended what was known then as the Great War. The carnage had been so great with several countries losing the majority of their young men that it was thought that this war would be “the war to end all wars.”

Sadly, that armistice did not end wars. The ensuing decades have seen an even larger world war, the development of more types of weapons, many regional wars that have been ideological proxy wars, genocides of various groups, and, increasingly, the torture, starvation, bombing, wounding, and death of non-combatants.

If we truly wish to honor those who have served in the military, we should reflect on what armistice means, what it means to cease hostilities, and what it means to be at peace. Instead of spending so much on expensive weaponry, we could spend more on fighting poverty, disease, and environmental degradation.

This afternoon at my parents’ senior community, there will be a gathering of veterans who live there. A few, like my dad, are veterans of World War II. Others, also like my dad, served in Korea. There are Vietnam War era veterans and those who served during peacetime. They will share coffee and cake and conversation.

I doubt any of them want more war.

They want their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in peace.

indictment of Russian military officers

I am appalled at DT siding with Putin against the very real evidence of crimes against the American people around the 2016 election by members of the Russian military.

The indictment is detailed and, of course, the grand jury, ordinary United States citizens doing their civic duty, saw the evidence behind the counts listed.

Russia will not extradite the officers to stand trial, so the trial will need to be held in absentia.

All members of Congress should speak up and support the Justice Department and courts as this process moves forward. They should also pass legislation to secure the 2018 and future elections.

They must also denounce the president for taking the side of Putin and Russia against the United States. I can barely believe the depths to which DT has sunk, as he denigrates our long-time allies while praising authoritarian leaders.

The Congressional oath of office begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” I call on all members of Congress to fulfill their oath and protect our democracy.

Veterans’ Day with Dad

Today, the United States and many other countries honor their military veterans. What began as a commemoration of the end of the Great War became a time to honor all veterans when it turned out that “the war to end all wars” sadly was not.

When I was growing up, it seemed that most of the men I knew were veterans. My dad served as a SeaBee ( US Navy Construction Battalion) in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. Because WWII involved so many people, most of my friends’ fathers and uncles had served, too. There were a few women who had served as well, but there were not many opportunities for them in the military at that time. Perhaps because so many had served, these veterans did not tend to talk much about their service, choosing instead to just about building their peacetime lives.

I also knew some Vietnam vets. In my rural area, the Vietnam vets were treated respectfully, but sadly we saw on the news that in other places they were unjustly vilified for an unpopular war. When I was a child, the draft was still ongoing, which led some men to become teachers solely to escape being drafted, as teaching was a protected profession. While some went on to become fine teachers, some of these men should never have become teachers and did a poor job of it for thirty years until they could retire. I have experienced this legacy as both a student and a parent.

The US military has been all-volunteer for the last several decades. In contrast to my dad’s generation when a large percentage of young adult males served in the military, now only a tiny percentage of eligible men and women serve. I can count on my fingers the number of people I know from our circle of friends, neighbors, and my spouse’s co-workers who are currently serving, including a high-school classmate of my daughter’s – and daughter of one of my husband’s co-workers – who was a top-ranked cadet at West Point. Meanwhile, the strains of thirteen years of war have fallen on a small number of military personnel, including National Guard troops, and their families. I don’t have an answer for this problem, but it does – or should – weigh heavily on the national consciousness and conscience.

Today, I’ll be celebrating at a lunch with my dad at a local restaurant that is honoring vets with a free meal to thank them for their service. It’s ironic that after decades of not making a big deal about their military service that so much recognition has more recently come to the veterans of World War II. My dad often wears a SeaBee cap when he goes out and receives thanks from passersby or fellow store customers. Once his cap even led to a pay it forward situation.

The ranks of World War II veterans have thinned considerably with time. With so few people currently serving in the military, in seventy years there will be hardly any veterans my dad’s age.

He will turn ninety in March.

I wish peace, security, respect, and good health to all veterans, in the US and around the world. Thank you for your service.

Thanks, Dad.

Paying it forward

On Monday mornings, my parents usually head to their favorite grocery store. Because my dad is bald and needs to protect his head from the sun, he usually wears a cap when he goes out, often his SeaBee cap.

It’s not unusual for people to comment on his SeaBee cap, thanking him for his service or mentioning a family member who was also in the US Navy or another branch of the military.

While they were checking out, the man behind my father was asking him about his service; Dad served in the Pacific in World War II and was called back into active service during the Korean Conflict. When it was time to pay the bill, a woman who was third in line, having heard the conversation, came forward to pay for my parents’ order. Her husband, now in his 50s, had been career military and she wanted to express gratitude to the prior generation of veterans.

My parents were so surprised! My mom said that she had heard stories about paying it forward, but had never seen it in action. I told my mother that it is good for people who are used to giving, as she and my dad have been for decades, to be able to accept a gift so others experience the joy of giving, too.

Mom is already planning to give extra food/money this month to Mother Teresa’s Cupboard, which aids local folks who are hungry, to pay it forward again.