People who trust the president will join the military. See the problem?
When I was 16 or 17, I went to the armed forces recruiting station in my town. Took the tests. Scored well. The jerk of a recruiter gave me a joke business card he had obviously made on the sly designed to impress me. It was full of dopey male-bro-BS. I smiled politely. I was trying to decide whether to lay my life on the line while we were on the verge of war with Iraq and this guy was telling me I could drink and screw and act like a Harvey Weinstein and my buddies would keep me out of trouble because we were all some sort of bromantic sexual assault force.
I left unimpressed. His suggestion I work on a nuclear submarine, which at the time was a male-only environment, underwater for months at a time, did not make me feel welcome or interested either, but I knew there were other options.
I still felt a duty to my country. At that point I wasn’t really well-versed in our country’s sins, original or current. I was only aware of a few of the many criminal acts perpetrated in our country’s name, but I did question the wisdom of our president, Bush (The Original Series, not the Next Generation, which lasted longer, but wasn’t as good).
I simply did not trust him. He believed in voodoo economics, which never made sense to me for keeping our country healthy. He sent people to war in the Middle East, rekindling the fight we continue to fight today. It was about oil and money then as now. That much was clearly visible to me.
I decided not to join up. My decision wasn’t made for me by that recruiter, as much as I despised the type of man he had chosen to be. My decision was based on two things I knew for a fact.
First, I didn’t trust the president to point me in the right direction. And second, whatever direction he pointed me in, I would probably willingly, maybe even happily, begin killing or supporting killings that might be ethically appropriate, or might not. I did not trust myself to know the difference.
I was afraid I would become a casual killer. That I would be good at it. I always followed instructions. I told myself I wasn’t a rule follower, but I knew the truth. I followed the rules well enough to get me wherever I wanted to go in the service.
So, I decided to move on, and get a civilian job.
When the president said that Sgt. La David T. Johnson “knew what he signed up for” recently, it triggered this memory for me.
I have no doubt Sergeant Johnson did know what his service meant, just as I did. Military service means giving your life to your country, but it also means possibly losing it, leaving your family behind, and maybe even becoming a monster your younger self wouldn’t recognize. It is all possible.
This is why we citizens demand our president to be respectful of sacrifice and to tread lightly when comforting people she or he cannot possibly know.
This is why trust is so important when you choose to serve. If you cannot trust the commander in chief of your service, you cannot ethically serve, in my opinion.
Was what the president said true? Sure. Should he have said it? Who cares? It’s a distraction he created.
The real question is, what are we going to do about protecting our armed services members from him?
A constitutional amendment to make the presidency chosen by a vote of citizens of the full country where every vote has identical weight would be a good start. At least then, we would be serving someone most of us agreed was the best choice.
Other ideas are welcome.