TRUMP is Disrespecting My MARINE Son’s Military Service

TRUMP is Disrespecting My MARINE Son’s Military Service March 5, 2016
The Trump-led Republican Party is making a mockery of my Marine son’s service and the values he fought for. Where my son was taught at boot camp to live with and fight for Americans of all colors and creeds, the Trump-led Republicans seem ready to destroy even the possibility of compromise between races and religions, let alone between political philosophies. In other words, they don’t believe in governance—not to mention selfless service.
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My son risked his life to defend Muslims against aggression in Afghanistan. He guarded a school full of Muslim girls to protect them from assault by the Taliban. Trump wants to ban those same young Muslims from even entering our country.
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In a New York Timecolumn, Paul Krugman described the echo chamber of today’s Republican establishment’s rhetoric that’s the very opposite of the values that my son was trained by the Marines to embrace. “Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century,” Krugman writes. “So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles.”
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I’m a white 63-year-old. I live in an upper middle class, privileged neighborhood on the North Shore of Boston. I write fiction and nonfiction for a living. I never served in the military. Yet in 1999, when the African-America barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my teenage son John, I did not stand in the way. John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean Marines with straight backs and flawless uniforms better than I did. But I was loyal to my son, and this was his choice, so I supported him.
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My wealthy friends were aghast. “But aren’t they all terribly Southern?” exclaimed one mom on the sidelines of John’s last high school soccer games just after he’d enlisted.
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Over the next months as my son’s boot camp letters arrived, I not only gained respect for the men and women in the USMC but realized just how selfish my life was. I ‘d inadvertently discovered a little about the “club” my son joined. With Marines stickers on my car I got a friendly wave now and again from strangers with short haircuts. My wife and I also discovered that the “illegal” Mexican immigrant waitress at the diner where we go for breakfast had two sons in the Corps. Our small talk over her open order pad cut to the heart of our lives faster than most talks with some of our oldest friends. Two years later, when our sons were at war, we shared hugs and tears.
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I also began to see our political leadership through new eyes: the eyes of a sleepless father pacing the house while my son was getting shot at because of their decisions. To put it mildly, politics became a very serious matter to me. I had skin in the game.

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While my son risked his life in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Republican Party embedded their endless culture wars at the center of their agenda.

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While my son went to war, the Republican Party became synonymous with cultivating anti-intellectualism of the very kind boasted of by the Taliban that my son was fighting in Afghanistan, hoping to keep them from burning down more schools.

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While John was being targeted by radical Islamist forces in a lonely, far-off corner of the globe, at home the Republican Party sold its soul to religious fanatics who would equate “religious liberty” with their “right” to discriminate against gays, people of other religions, and women.

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While my son took an oath to defend our democracy, the Republican Party refused to accept the legitimacy of our democratically elected president.

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While John went to war for all Americans, the Republicans used our country’s credit rating to blackmail the opposing party in the ultimate “us versus them” strategy.

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While John served honorably under both a Democrat president (Clinton) and a Republican (Bush), at the start of President Obama’s first term, Mitch McConnell explicitly stated the GOP’s “top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”

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The Republicans then obstructed President Obama for seven years, to the extent of shutting down the government and (in an ultimate sign of disrespect for the presidency) refusing to even consider anyone Obama might nominate to the Supreme Court.

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When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3,000 parents were on the parade deck stands. We  were white and Native American. We were Hispanics, Muslims and Christians, atheists and Jews, Arab and African American and Asian. We were Southern whites from West Virginia and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids from Cleveland and white bikers with hamhock forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos.
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We would not have been mistaken for the well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John’s private Boston area high school a half-year before. My son and those of us who gathered on that graduation day affirmed our sons’ and daughters’ patriotism by embracing something bigger than ourselves: the good of our shared diverse glorious country. Conversely, everyone the Republicans have sent to Congress (since Obama became president) seems to have been elected for one reason: negation.
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There’s another vision of America that I believe is better than what’s on offer these days from what I’ll call the Koch/Tea Party/Trump/McConnell incarnation of ugly “us-and-them” divisiveness and obstruction. Just before boot camp graduation, John wrote this to me in a letter we published in our book Keeping FaithA Father-Son Story about Love and the United States Marine Corps.
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On Parris Island I came to see and believe what I was told; each mission is dependent on another that came before. When it comes down to it, as any recruit could tell you by the end of his or her training, the Marine next to you is more important than you are.
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To which I’d  just add this: So too is the man or woman standing next to you “more important than you are,” no matter how they got here, whatever their skin color and irrespective of any religion they do or don’t follow. That used to be an ideal that both Democrats and Republicans at least paid lip service to. Not anymore.
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Frank Schaeffer is a writer and co-author along with John Schaeffer of Keeping FaithA Father-Son Story about Love and the United States Marine Corps.

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