Another Veteran’s Day has come and gone, as well as another Election Day. Last Veteran’s Day we were beginning to adjust to the results of last year’s elections. I started watching YouTube clips of Lenny Bruce, a 1960’s comedian and renowned political satirist.
In November 2016, America elected a president that said of former POW John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
I can’t remember one public figure in my lifetime publicly bashing any former POW, regardless of their political or personal differences. It used to be that, even if you were a crappy soldier, sailor or airman, you could reasonably expect five years as a POW wouldn’t be bashed.
In October our commander-in-chief consoled Gold Star widow Myesha Johnson by fumbling her husband’s name and reminding that her dead husband “knew what he signed up for.” Even worse, the commander-in-chief had to ask General Kelly what to say to the widow of a fallen soldier. After 70 years of living life and experiencing deaths, nearly a year as president, and more than one American military casualty during his reign, the fact our POTUS asked anyone else for advice about how to console a grieving widow speaks volumes about his character and our judgement.
Did America know what we signed up for last November? If the president were subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he could be court-martialed under Article 133, “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman,” at least three times a week. Yet, he is who we chose to be the face and spokesperson of America.
Perhaps if our POTUS’s feet were in as good a shape 50 years ago as they are today, he would have had the opportunity to tour Southeast Asia with the Big Red One in 1967. Or if he managed to survive boot camp at Parris Island, he might have traveled through scenic Vietnam with the 1st of the 9th Marines, “The Walking Dead,” in 1968. Had those darn bone spurs not cropped up, a couple of 1960s Vietnam tours might have been his apprenticeship, and he would not have been forced into the seedy shallow worlds of real estate and celebrity. He would have had ample opportunity to learn how to cope with combat deaths, and cultivate the honor, courage and commitment actual leadership demands. He might have caught a touch of empathy.
I don’t hold it against our POTUS he found a way out of going to Vietnam. After watching Ken Burns’ recent PBS Vietnam documentary, particularly the political deceptions that kept the war going for over 15 years and multiple administrations, I wonder why there aren’t more 65-to-70-year-old American men living in Toronto. What’s troubling is the POTUS’s track record of dishonoring others from an era who did serve (see John McCain); his bellicose banter with North Korea; his nonchalantly putting our current military in harm’s way; and his having no clue of the sacrifice or potential sacrifice of the service persons he technically commands. More so, he doesn’t see the heartbreak his flippant decisions could unleash on their families.
For goodness’ sake, America, did we really know what we signed up for last November?
My nephew serves. Two of my former Veterans Park little league kids are currently deployed. Sons of lifelong friends have been deployed and are training to take the place of my former second baseman and right fielder, behind some Hesco barrier at some desert or mountain outpost far from Jersey and Carolina. I hope they are thoughtfully sent to wherever they are going to defend the Constitution, not impulsively thrown about to promote the corporation. And I hope no service person’s loved one ever gets a phone call from our POTUS.
Maybe 51 years after his death it’s time America start listening to Lenny Bruce again. After a particularly virulent and funny rant against the corruption of Lyndon Johnson’s administration, he ended with optimism, and reminded his audience the strength of America doesn’t reside in any one person but in a piece of paper: the Constitution.