Wednesday, May 29, 2024

In Memoriam

Four days ago, on Memorial Day, we heard from two presidential candidates. In separate statements, they addressed the significance of the day.

First, President Joe Biden, at Arlington Cemetery:

“Freedom has never been guaranteed – every generation has to earn it, fight for it, defend it in battle between autocracy and democracy, between the greed of a few and the rights of many. It matters, our democracy is more than just a system of government. It’s the very soul of America. 

 “We gather at this sacred place, at this solemn moment, to remember, to honor the sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of women and men who have given their lives to this nation. Each one a link in the chain of honor stretching back to our founding days, each one bound by common commitment; not to a place, not to a person, not to a president, but to an idea unlike any idea in human history: the idea of the United States of America. Today, we bear witness to the price they paid...”

Then Trump, on “Truth Spectral”:

“Happy Memorial Day to All, including the Human Scum that is working so hard to destroy our Once Great Country, & to the Radical Left, Trump Hating Federal Judge in New York that presided over, get this, TWO separate trials, that awarded a woman, who I never met before (a quick handshake at a celebrity event, 25 years ago, doesn't count!), 91 MILLION DOLLARS for 'DEFAMATION. ... 

"... The Rape charge was dropped by a jury! Or Arthur Engoron, the N.Y. State Wacko Judge who fined me almost 500 Million Dollars (UNDER APPEAL) for DOING NOTHING WRONG, used a Statute that has never been used before, gave me NO JURY, Mar-a-Lago at $18,000,000 - Now for Merchan!"

Can you spot the differences? Subtle, right? Who’d be the better leader? Who’d have the best interests of our country in mind? Toss of a coin, really.

It still galls me, recalling when Trump, draft-dodger, said “I’ve always wanted a Purple Heart,” after a sadly Foxified veteran handed him his. Seriously, who “wants” a Purple Heart? Maybe he expected those fake bone spurs would have earned him one.

Well, as it happens, I have a Purple Heart, not gifted; presented to me by my hospital commander in Vietnam, for injuries received in a rocket attack. Were I to give my Purple Heart to someone, it wouldn’t be Trump. Nor anyone who thanked me for my service and voted for him, the least respectful of veterans of any president, ever, who calls them “suckers” and “losers.” Familiar with the psychological term “projection”? It comes to mind when a person like that refers to “human scum.” Especially on Memorial Day.

My feelings about Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day are mixed. I honor and respect all those who served, those who made it back home, and, especially, those who didn’t. Those who volunteered and those who, like me, were drafted. All deserve respect and, even more, proper care at home. But, other than the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, was our democracy ever truly at stake?

In active combat zones, troops on the front lines aren’t fighting for democracy, the Constitution, or even America. They may not even know why they’re there. In the line of fire, they’re fighting for their lives and those of their team. Too much do we equate patriotism with fighting wars.

In the larger view, the daily, ongoing defenders of our democracy are teachers. Which is not to ignore the indispensable role in society of all workers. But, specifically, democracy? There can be none without an electorate having at least a rudimentary ability to tell truth from lies, fact from fiction. We’re seeing that in real-time.

And parents, of course, though not the ones demanding banning of books and an end to teaching history. Nor the subset of home-schoolers determined to protect their kids from the horrors of empathy, open-mindedness, and separation of church and state.

And journalists. Except ones employed by Rupert Murdoch or his ilk.

It’s not by happenstance that attacks on public education, science, expertise, and legitimate news are intensifying as today’s Republican Party gives itself over to a demagogic liar, one whose disdain for democracy and lust for authoritarianism is undeniable. Trump’s reelection (he’s never won the popular vote) would culminate decades of effort to confuse, misinform, and deceive enough Americans into allowing the intentional end of the democracy our soldiers have fought for – or believed they were fighting for – since the founding.

If Memorial Day is for remembrance, it’s never been more so. We need to remember those things that, until now, actually made America great. The Constitution and acceptance of it. Truth, as in there was no election fraud. Peaceful transfer of power. Country over party. Remember those ideals, because if Trump gets to implement Project 2025, this year will be the last we see them.

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