Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Did Obama forget to salute a Marine? Nope.

Thursday, September 25, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - So, I've endured a lot of social media uproar about President Obama's "failure" to properly salute a Marine. See the video here.

Listen, I don't agree with a lot of what the President does, or how he does it. But I am really tired of people engaging in behaviors that are destructive to our democracy:

1. Picking apart every single gesture made by a politician with whom you disagree, and using your analysis of it to disrespect him/her, his/her family, the office he or she holds, the entire political party to which he or she belongs, and everyone who voted for him/her. It's fine to disagree with someone. It's fine to disagree with the President. It's not fine to engage in the kind of behavior that closely resembles an overgrown child throwing a social media tantrum. Things aren't going exactly the way you think they should? What's new? That's life. That's politics. That's democracy. Dial yourself back and deal with it. Elections occur every four years. Get involved. "Decisions are made by those who show up."

2. Engaging angrily in relatively minor distractions, as opposed to being active in solving larger crises such as student loan debt, the decline of the middle class, and the looming destruction of the republic by inevitable decline into oligarchy.

You know why these stupid little 10 second videos get passed around social media so often? You know why they're debated hotly on the nightly news? BECAUSE THEY'RE FACILE. Tackle something meaningful with your angry political awakening. Go solve world hunger, or something. Stop being lead around by the nose every time Koch Industries buys online advertising about these stupid, petty little things, because it wants to distract you from one of their bills in committee.

3. Angry stalking/nit-picking/contriving controversy. Do I disagree with some things people in positions of power do? Heck, yes. Do I follow in their social media footprint until I find something I can wave around like a big, pointy, delusional foam finger at a Baltimore Ravens game? No. Because following someone around like the Instagram paparazzi until they do something stupid is forgetting the one basic human characteristic that ties us all together on this big ball of dirt: We're ALL stupid. We're all just hairless apes running around every day, trying to figure out how to avoid having to scavenge food with our bare hands. Although we have the right and responsibility to expect the best of human behavior from our elected representatives, we have to remember that it's still just that: human behavior.

Please, pick a real issue and fight for it. Don't just armchair quarterback every outfit the president's wife wears, or call her fat and ugly and then somehow try to tie that tenuously back to politics. Yes, people-who-call-Michelle-Obama-a-hypocrite-for-promoting-a-healthy-lifestyle-while-carrying-what-you-determine-to-be-a-few-pounds-too-many... I'm talking to you. Directly. Hi, there. Your behavior is what is ugly. (Spoiler, Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist, not a nutritionist or bariatric physician; he's not even an internist or nurse practitioner. He resigned from the American Psychiatric Association, and is best known for writing a book on Scott Peterson. He also "doesn't believe" in transgender persons, thinks that allowing your son to wear pink confuses his gender identity, and thinks Newt Gingrich's three marriages make him more qualified to be president.)


Oh, my god, people. I am so flipping tired of watching the ignorance play out. I have actually begun de-friending people - people who I am certain are perfectly nice, lovely, moral persons - just because I am afraid that their willful disregard for indisputable facts will infect me through my monitor.

Let's take the saluting "controversy," for example. Because this is the second time that someone has called into question the President's so-called "failure to salute," and it has never been a valid criticism, even though the below video was uploaded by the formerly reputable CNN.

First, the president is a civilian. Although he is almost always saluted by the military, because he is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, he is not considered an actual member of the armed forces. And a salute is military protocol. I don't salute my civilian boss, and if I did, she wouldn't salute me, back. Because it would be ridiculous.

A civilian president is a time-honored necessity, a part of the checks and balances that keep no one branch of this nation from becoming too powerful (new citizen Big Business notwithstanding).

Some folks argue that the protocol changes in a time of war. But this is wrong on two counts. Point one: we're not actually at war. Congress has the power to declare war, and if that happened, I missed it. Anyway, despite our post-9-11 unquenchable blood-lust, we actually don't want Congress to declare war. That would invoke such a domino-effect of treaties and political loyalties as to shake up the entire world. Point two: Even if we were at war, the president doesn't magically become a member of any branch of the U.S. military. We don't draft the president. He doesn't enlist. Because the president must be a civilian.

Second, military code allows that it is unnecessary to render or to return a salute if one or both parties has their hands full, or is in civilian clothing. The president was not in uniform. The president is never in uniform. Because, again, the president is a civilian.

None of these are uniforms. No matter how much Reagan wanted them to be.

Third, the so-called "respect" and "tradition" of the president returning a salute is only about 30 years old. Former president Dwight Eisenhower was a five-star general, and he did not return military salutes while president. Truman didn't return the salute. Roosevelt didn't return the salute. But presidential cowboy Ronald Reagan lived by his own rules, and decided to do it essentially because he felt like it. From his book: "I know it's customary for the president to receive these salutes, but I was once an officer and realize that you're not supposed to salute when you're in civilian clothes. I think there ought to be a regulation that the president could return a salute inasmuch as he is commander in chief and civilian clothes are his uniform." Let me put that into plain language. Reagan, that conservative darling, knew what he was doing was not required and, in fact, not encouraged. But he did it anyway, because he felt like it.

At the time, it was considered a breach of etiquette. Reagan, a consummate actor, engaged in a kind of role-playing to his own delight, and to the chagrin of military leaders, who would never publicly reprimand a sitting president. Even some years later, the new behavior was criticized as egotistical and childish in a New York Times Op-Ed in 2003, by none other than John Lukacs. And in 2009, former Marine and then-editor of "Smithsonian Magazine" Carey Winfrey wrote against it in another Op-Ed.

So, let's summarize. The president is not required or expected by the military to salute those who salute him, because the president is a civilian wearing civilian clothing. What's more, members of the military didn't actually want the president to start saluting them, because it represented a breakdown of military protocol.

Now, I didn't write this post to defend Barack Obama. I am as disappointed in him as any die-hard conservative (I'm a moderate).

I wrote this post as an example of behavior that I find reprehensible: jumping into a self-congratulatory discussion premised on deception and malarky, the whole point of which is to brutally criticize someone in order to contrive enough controversy as to cause him or her political or personal damage.

People, in middle school, we called that "bullying." It doesn't change just because you're old enough to sip a beer while clacking at your keyboard.