Some folks are born made to wave the flag Ooh, they’re red, white and blue And when the band plays “Hail to the chief” Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord —John Fogerty
When I was just a little boy, standing to my daddy’s knee, my papa said, “Son what’s special about this country is that it’s free.” Apologies to John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but I didn’t grow up being a Fortunate Son.
Growing up, every Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day my family celebrated the sacrifices citizens of this country made to keep us free. When I studied the history of the United States, my dad talked about his deep pride of not having a large standing army in this country because we valued freedom. “The barrel of a gun can point at us too,” he once told me, cautioning about too much worship of the military.
My dad grew up as an Eisenhower Republican and a FDR Democrat. Like most people of his era, Dad didn’t put too much stock in political parties. He tended to choose from both, picking those he thought would best fulfill the dreams of the Constitution.
He sneered at the Soviet Union’s annual military parades and guffawed at Third World countries that demanded fealty to its leaders. Time after time, he’d tell me of my grandfather, who came to the United States as a child. “He came with his dad and they had nothing. They scraped together enough to buy a block of ice and some chickens and they opened a business. He made enough the first day to have a second day, and that’s how the family meat market was born.”
It is clear that a military parade isn’t about saluting the military.
My dad was adamant on the American dream. You can come from anywhere and have nothing, but here you could make something of yourself. “That’s what makes America great,” he said.
Dad knew all too well of discrimination, having been called “Towel Head,” “Camel Jockey” and a variation of the N word that included the word “sand” in the insult. Accused of being a papist (which I thought as a young kid was a guy who put up wallpaper), Dad became a Kennedy Democrat because John F. Kennedy was a Catholic boy—same as us—and because he shared Kennedy’s dreams of civil rights. Dad marched with Martin Luther King, booed Richard Nixon, sneered at McGovern and openly shouted against Ronald Reagan.
Just one week after President Donald Trump gave a State of the Union Address in which he promoted bipartisanship and a new spirit of cooperation in government, our president called Democrats who didn’t cheer for him traitors. In other words, the Donald showed us he didn’t care at all about bipartisanship.
In the White House press room, a room that the president has yet to visit since taking office, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told us those who disagree with the president are “un-American.” And according to Chief of Staff John Kelly, immigrants who didn’t register for DACA are immigrants who couldn’t get off their “lazy asses.“
Our president threatened a government shutdown if we didn’t go after multinational street gang MS-13 and suggested many immigrants in this country are a marauding band of killers, ready to destroy our way of life. If my father hadn’t died more than 20 years ago, I fear this turn of events would have killed him.
The last nail in the coffin came around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday when the president decided he wanted a “military parade” in Washington D.C. “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation,” Sanders said in a statement.
How could “disagreeing” with the president be un-American?
Retired Major General Paul Eaton, a senior adviser to VoteVets, was quick to denounce it. “Donald Trump has continually shown himself to have authoritarian tendencies, and this is just another worrisome example.” He continued, “For someone who just declared that it was treasonous to not applaud him, and for someone who has, in the past, admired the tactics of everyone from Saddam Hussein to Vladimir Putin, it is clear that a military parade isn’t about saluting the military. It is about making a display of the military saluting him.
“The military is not Donald Trump’s to use and abuse in this way. Our military is the very best in the world—they are not to be reduced to stagecraft to prop up Donald Trump’s image. Any commander in chief who respects the traditions of the military would understand that. Unfortunately, we do not have a commander in chief, right now, as much as we have a wannabe banana republic strongman.”
The very foundation of the Republic for which it stands appears to have fallen. John Adams cautioned that once we give up our precious rights, it’ll be hard—if not impossible—to get them back. But the Trump administration cares little for realities, nor has it ever. For them, it remains all about appearances. How do things look? Law and order equates "Gotta stop the immigrants.” Patriotism equates a parade. And so on.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan showed just how out of touch the administration is when he came into the press room this week to preach about the dangers of MS-13. Cronan wants to smoke them out and send them packing, but that will never happen under the current administration because no one in the immigrant community would dare testify against MS-13 gang members—partially because witnesses fear retribution, but also because immigrants fear that if they speak to the government, they’ll be deported, too. The U.S. government doesn’t realize its own policies toward immigrants is what helps gangs like MS-13 thrive. I pinned Cronan’s ears back about it, but in the end, he looked like he had no idea what was really going on. He only wanted to “appear” tough on crime.
As Sanders sat preaching to the press corps Tuesday afternoon about how un-American people are for disagreeing with the president, CBS’s Major Garrett and I began asking Sanders how she could say “disagreeing” with the president is un-American?
“How is dissent un-American, Sarah?” I added. She said nothing.
Earlier in the day, Trump had said he’d love to see another government shutdown if Congress can’t agree with him on immigration reform. To me, that seems to be more un-American than dissent. With a two-year budget bill on its way to the House and then (hopefully) to Trump’s desk, we can only now wait to see just how un-American the president is willing to be. He’d probably disagree with me on this, of course, which (if I were president) would mean he’d be guilty of treason—at least according to him.
It ain’t me. I ain’t no fortunate one, no.