Not being aware of how callous the American public had become, I was sure that when Donald Trump maligned Senator John McCain, a former POW, that his presidential campaign would fade away. One of the ‘do not ever cross’ lines had been crossed and then doubled down on by Trump.
Much of the public did not care. In retrospect, I should have learned from that disappointing moment when the shallow end of the pool became deeper. But I am an optimist and think we will do better. Even now when our nation has allowed itself to be shoved towards illiberal democracy I still have faith that we can correct the mess voters created in 2016.
But as I watch the political news I am aware of our nation again being confronted with conservatives attacking a member of the military–and again against one who gave more than she ever could have known would befall her. Democratic Illinois Senator Duckworth is getting hit over and over on Fox News, mainly from Tucker Carlson.
I have often written on this blog that America is not so much land from this point to that point on a map, but rather an idea. We are based on ideals. What made this place most unique from the start, and still so starkly different today from many other nations, is the ability of anyone to dissent and differ with powerful words and spirited debate.
When that is done, especially from a person who had both legs blown off in an explosion in Baghdad, there is reason to give some license for the words offered. That is just the decency factor that is built into coming back to our nation with fewer limbs than one had when leaving to serve in our military. When we can not allow for that trade-off to be heard and respected than we have lost something about that idea of America.
Perhaps the shallow end of the pool is getting deeper, again.
Let it not be forgotten that Republicans and conservatives have been attacking military veterans for a long time. Recall Maxwell Cleland, a Democratic politician from the state of Georgia, a disabled Army veteran of the Vietnam War, a recipient of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valorous actions in combat? He was slammed around by Republicans in some of the most vile political attacks I had seen used against a member of the military. One would have thought he was nothing more than a traitor if only the campaign ads from his opponents were known about. But what we must not forget—ever–is that due to the severity of his wounds, doctors amputated both of Cleland’s legs above the knee and his right forearm. He was 25 years old.
“I’d never seen anything like that ad,” McCain said at the time of the spot, which was widely condemned by Democrats. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield is “worse than disgraceful,” said McCain. “It’s reprehensible.”
Now conservatives are kicking Duckworth–another soldier who gave more than any FOX News commentator ever will. It is disgusting what that network allows on the air–in the guise of news and commentary. Surely even the average FOX News viewer must have some moral fiber that allows them to find Carlson’s attempt at increasing his ratings unacceptable.
I have hope that advertisers will help flush the Fox system. But then I had hoped the public was not so devoid of patriotism when McCain was attacked. I have come to learn that even with optimism there are always some conservatives who continuously play their dark diseased deeds.
And so it goes.