Today I was thinking of a man with whom I conversed years ago. He had served in WWI and mentioned the mud. It was not till years later that I realized just how bad the mud was then for those who served in the First World War. There were boarded walkways in a number of areas. The people or animals of burden who fell from them sank and drowned in the mud; that is how deep it went.
He realized that I could not truly comprehend. I think that he felt both isolated by that but grateful for it. I think that each generation affected so deeply by a war wants the younger generations to have a better enough experience to not understand many aspects of the pain.
Yet there seems to be a risk for our nation that is inherent in people not having skin in the “game”. Compare how people affected by the draft wanted to learn not only about the history and reasoning behind the wars in our lifetimes, but also why they were being fought including what was being protected at home. Now compare that to many of the younger generations — at least the ones who have not served. There too often is a lack of understanding, lack of sympathy, and lack of respect both for those who serve and for what they protect. An excellent example is how few younger people can explain why the First Amendment is the very foundation for every other freedom we have in the United States, and how few of them can name what the First Amendment covers. Perhaps having a draft, despite how much we of my own generation wanted it done away with, helps protect our nation by forcing us to learn and appreciate. It forces us onto a walkway.
So, we find ourselves in a time when there are people those who do only lip service (a cheap out) to the military instead of actually trying to find ways to help at any point in their lives, a time when others actually are worse than that, and a time when there is downright attacking of the First Amendment, of the Balance of Powers, and of other essential components of our democratic republic.
For those who do not know: The First Amendment provides protection for Free Speech (and, yes, that includes taking a knee to call attention to issues). It permits Assembly (yet there are those who want to run down demonstrators). It contains Freedom of Religion (and despite that we have religious bigots). It protects a Free Press (and the Founders considered the press and the discussions on educated viewpoints to be part of the absolutely essential support our nation needs for its survival rather than attacking news sources who disagreed with them), and it permits the Petitioning of Congress (which you may not appreciate but they sure understood what it was like to not have representation or response to communications, so try to appreciate that this is one of those instances when a previous generation protected us and do not underestimate the importance).
So, thank you, especially today, to those who served, and for the foundations of our freedoms which your serving helps to preserve. You and they also provide depth as well as protection for our country. May that depth educate us and support our foundation. May we learn to not muddy it with hatred, with intellectual laziness and lack of responsibility, or with a tendency to treat elections as if they were a team sport instead of learning the issues and demanding candidates who respect the Constitution and other people, and may we and the younger generations no longer stray into so much avoidance of learning and responsibility that it causes us to fall from the walkway and drown our nation, our freedoms, our respect for others, and ourselves in the mud of that lazy, hateful ignorance.
Let’s begin with the premise that the Trump presidency and Trumpism more broadly have degenerated (if it was anything more substantial) into a cult of personality and a spasm of tribalism, white resentment and authoritarianism. Trump calls a free press the enemy of the people; Fox News leads the cheers. President Trump repeals the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and starts removing protections for Nicaraguans and Hondurans; the anti-immigrant crowd hoots and hollers. He’s for big business but also for trade protectionism; he’s against Islamist terror states but for their Russian patrons; he’s for religious liberty but also for a Muslim travel ban. This is incoherence on steroids.
If there is a single idea animating Trump’s GOP, it is that “blood and soil” (or race and religion, if you prefer) — not the American creed (“All men are created equal…”) — is the defining feature of the United States. Whatever else that is not white and Christian is foreign, alien and a threat to “real America.” Whether in day-to-day politics, foreign affairs or domestic policies, there is no right and wrong, only them and us. That’s Trumpism in a nutshell. The Republican Party’s inability to immediately and completely separate itself from and denounce Moore is the predictable result of this thinking.