Fighting For Freedom

I grew up in a military family.  My father served in the Army for 32 years, fought in the Pacific during World War II and retired as a Lt. Colonel.  My brother graduated from West Point and is a highly decorated Viet Nam veteran.  I am deeply proud of both of them and the sacrifices they made serving in the military.

I often wonder what my father would think of all that is going on now in our country and around the world.  Daddy did not attend college but he was probably one of the most intelligent and well-informed people I have ever known.  He read voraciously and was always up to date on all current events.  Our dinner table conversations usually centered on the news of the day and the historical implications and connections to those events.  My siblings and I have joked that our education came more from those dinner conversations with our father than anything we learned in school.   Interestingly, he didn’t spend much time on his own opinions but focused on the facts.

He was proud of his career in the military and was extremely patriotic. I share his patriotism. But the United States military can only do so much.

We Americans are taught to believe that our military is there to fight for our freedoms.  And we have gotten to a place where we have elevated the military to a point of idolization.  I think even my father would agree that that level of hero worship can be dangerous.

At its most basic, the military is there to protect our sovereignty and to protect us in the case of invasion of a hostile power.  Over our history, the military sometimes works preemptively on foreign land to stem those threats.  On occasions, our military has been used in situations that didn’t quite fit into the traditional context of their purpose.

When we talk about the military fighting for our freedom, what does that mean exactly?

I assume we mean all of the freedoms laid out in the Constitution, right?  They are supposed to be protecting our freedom of speech, freedom of religion and our right to pursue life, liberty and happiness.  And we should probably throw in the freedom to vote in open elections too.  I could go on but these basic freedoms will cover it for now.

In my lifetime, the military has been deployed mostly in the Middle East and Asia.  After two World Wars the United States joined with our allies in NATO and the UN to form coalitions to fight as a multi-national group against threats to democracy around the world.  So, while our military wasn’t fighting battles on our soil, they were deployed around the world to promote and protect the ideals of those democratic nations who knew it made more sense to work together than as separate entities.

That’s all well and good.  But what about the fight here at home?  How do we protect those same freedoms when they are being attacked here by our very own elected officials?

As I type there are concerted efforts to squash the freedom of the press, freedom to protest, freedom to vote, freedom to end a pregnancy and freedom to marry who you choose.  This isn’t histrionics.  Each one of these freedoms has been under increasing pressure.  There has been recent legislation in many states to curb protests, end abortion rights and so-called “religious freedom” bills that ultimately lead to discrimination against vast segments of our population.

The attack on voting was a huge issue in this past mid-term election.  Legalized gerrymandering is the go-to fix to make sure the minority gets the majority of state legislative seats.  Voter roles were purged in record numbers.  ID laws were created to make it difficult for certain segments of the population to vote.  The list goes on.

If we can’t get free and fair elections – what I would argue is one of the most basic and fundamental rights – then how do we call ourselves a democracy?  And who is supposed to fight so that we keep that basic freedom?

The United Nations?  The ACLU?  The military?

So when I hear someone say or post on social media something along the line of “Thank a veteran for your right to vote – or insert any freedom here”  I always kind of wonder what they mean by that.

How is the military helping to fight the forces right here in our own government who are attempting to curb our freedom?

They aren’t.  It wasn’t designed that way.

So, while I support our military and am proud of the military lineage in my own family, I really wish everyone would stop thanking them for protecting our freedom.

Yes, our freedom is under attack.  There are foreign leaders who want our democracy to fail.  But, technically, we aren’t militarily at war with those people.

The biggest attacks on our freedom are coming from within.  And I’m not sure the military can do very much about that.  I, for one, don’t want it to get so bad that they have to become involved in that fight.

Not all wars are fought with bombs, tanks and guns with troops on the ground and fighter jets in the air.

The war on our American freedoms is raging but the military soldiers aren’t the ones who can save us.

The fight for freedom right here in the United States of  America needs to be fought by each one of us.  Whether we wear a uniform or not.

Let’s Be Thankful

I’ve just returned from Down Under.  My spousal equivalent and I spent two wonderful weeks with friends exploring Queensland, Australia.  Thanks to a great deal from Qantas we found ourselves out of the country and 16 hours ahead of our normal time zone on Election Day.  Upside down and a different day.

As the returns began to come in, our hostess was nice enough to keep a running dialog going on what was happening via her phone and Google.  You see, they care about such things as the US elections in far flung places like Queensland.  Our host put it this way, “What happens in the United States effects all of us.”

Gee.  No pressure America.

Now we are back and the jet lag has subsided.  Mostly.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am determined to be THANKFUL, dammit!  But before I get to that we need to cover the things I am not thankful for.

Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered and the CIA has determined that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia planned it.  Trump doesn’t care.  He has put a price tag on what is acceptable.  So, this makes it ok, I guess?  That’s where we are now?  Ok, well, keep that in mind as we move forward.  Murder of journalists who speak out against totalitarian regimes is now totally acceptable according to the President of the United States.  As long as we get some money from the perpetrators it’s all ok.  So, where does that end?

Meanwhile, Jeff Sessions was asked to resign as Attorney General almost as fast as the polls closed.  Whether you like Sessions or not, he did seem to be acting as somewhat of a buffer at the Department of Justice from a President who believes the DOJ is “his”.  And now, it pretty much is.  He installed an inexperienced, political ally to oversee the department and, more importantly, the Mueller investigation.  He did so unlawfully, without confirmation by the Senate.  And you haven’t heard a peep out of McConnell on this.  Of course not.  So, I guess now that the precedent has been set we won’t need to have the Senate confirm any cabinet members anymore?  If not acting AG, then why not Secretary of State or CIA?  Just let the President pick any guy off his golf course to sit in the most powerful positions in our government.  Well, then if that is how this will now work, then judges shouldn’t have to be confirmed either.  Why did we go through that painful episode with Brett Kavanaugh if we’re just going to let the President fill positions at will with no oversight?

But wait, that isn’t all that happened while I was cuddling koala bears at the Australia Zoo.  The military was deployed to the southern border of the US to protect us from a dangerous invasion.  Yep.  A couple thousand asylum seekers, walking from Central America, nowhere near our border, was such a horrendous threat that it required our soldiers be down there to protect us all.  The caravan continues but as of this writing the troops on the border are being withdrawn.  Why is that?  Because the election is over, that’s why.  The President of the United States used the military to affect an election.  So, yet another precedent has been set.

But wait, there’s more.  It was reported this week that he attempted to get the Justice Department to “prosecute” political enemies Hillary Clinton and James Comey.  In the case of Hillary, he wants her prosecuted for using a private email server when she was Secretary of State.  You remember that, right?  “LOCK HER UP!”  They still chant it at his rallies.  But it has also been reported that First Daughter, Ivanka Trump, basically did the exact same thing in the early days of this administration.  Ok, so, we will attempt to prosecute and lock up his enemies but for the same “crime” committed by his staff/family members, it’s all good.

Donald Trump does not follow norms, rules, laws or the Constitution.  He pretty much does what ever he wants in order to get what he wants.  Don’t think for one minute that any of this is for us.  For the citizens of the United States.  America First, my ass.

Each of these events on their own are dangerous to our democracy.  Put them all together and it looks more and more like we’ve already lost our democracy.

If one person can simply throw out the rules we’ve lived by since our country’s inception, then what have we been fighting to preserve during our history?

I don’t know what we stand for anymore.  Murder?  Corruption?  Graft?  Nepotism?

Those are the negative terms we’ve always used to describe regimes that we were fighting against.  But now, that is us.  That is what the United States of America stands for now.  We are no longer that shining city on the hill.  We are right down there in the mud with every third world dictatorship we’ve spent the last 250 years condemning.  And look how fast it happened.

The examples I show above are just what happened in the last WEEK.  I can’t even remember everything I’m outraged about from the last two years of Trump.  And I don’t want to think about how much more damage he will do in the next two years if left unchecked.

And now to the optimistic, thankful part of this blog post:

The Blue Wave was kind of what I expected.  Congress went to the Democrats, as did some statewide elections.  But there were still millions of people who went out and voted for Republicans in spite of the shenanigans of Trump.  Or because of, which is even worse.

So, I am thankful that Congress will at least challenge this man.  They may not be able to stop him in his quest to tear apart our democracy for his own gain, but they can, hopefully, slow him down.

I am thankful for the brave journalists who continue to report on this administration and show Trump for what he is.  A small time, lying, con artist.  That is all he is.  And history will remember him that way.

I am thankful for every single person who went out and voted for Democrats in the mid-term elections.  I have never held any party up as the savior of the United States but as of right now, the ONLY way to save our country is to elect people who oppose Donald Trump.  It really is that simple.

I personally have much to be thankful for.  I have a nice life.  I have a job that pays well and provides health insurance.  I have money saved for retirement and enough disposable income that I can afford to go on nice vacations.  I live in a place that probably won’t be ravaged by wild fires or hurricanes.

I am thankful that I still enjoy the freedom to express myself in this blog and elsewhere.

If only Jamal Khashoggi was still alive and free to do the same.