Enough, America. Stop Talking About Election Day Revolution.
America's pretend soldiers are threatening to cross the line from dissent to insurrection on Tuesday. America's military is not.
Armed insurrection. Rigged elections. Revolution. The threat of violence spilling into the streets if one candidate wins and another loses. What country are we speaking about? Not the ones in which our service members are serving. Not Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria. We’re talking about ours. The divided United States of America.
Right now some Americans talk a lot about supporting the troops yet undermine those soldiers' oaths by threatening an armed insurgency against civilian rule. They ignore the generals and admirals who are publicly pledging they will do their jobs on Wednesday no matter who wins Tuesday. Why the divide, then?
We are a nation whose militarily leaders speak from hard-won experience about the limits of what force can achieve on the battlefield, but whose civilians — most of whom have never gone to war — sound off, full of bravado about what force could bring on the homefront. We are a country that barely looks up long enough to take a breath when its service members are killed in action because most citizens have no skin in the game whatsoever when it comes to its conflicts. We are a nation where too many civilians are quick to talk about taking up arms against one another if things don't go their way in the battlefield of politics.
Enough, America. If you want to honor your service members, your nation’s history of military leadership in the world, then honor the civilian-led democracy it serves. Protest, organize, speak out, voice your dissent, but stop talking about revolution. Guns down, not up. And vow to respect the most American principle of all: the peaceful transition of power.
America, if you have so much respect for your troops then follow the lead of those under whom they serve and unite the country under the rule of law and the Constitution they pledge to defend. Nation first. Party second.
“Every service member swears “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in a Medium post. ”This oath is embedded in our professional culture and underpins the values that shape and define our all-volunteer force.”
Recently I spoke at an event hosted by the head of U.S. Southern Command. When a service member asked if the 4-star commander could serve under one of the presidential candidates, he left no doubt about his view.
“I serve the United States of America’s commander in chief,” said Adm. Kurt Tidd, commander of U.S. Southern Command. His response made clear that armed defense of our country was dependent on his patriotism, not partisanship.
It is remarkable we have reached this moment in the civilian-military divide. We are a nation with service members deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and far beyond which can barely be bothered to discuss its wars, and lets its party leaders do the same. We hero-worship the military and say, “Thank you for your service,” but most of us hardly touch the reality of what we ask our service members to do and see. We cannot let Osama bin Laden’s death and “carpet-bombing” ISIS rhetorical moments be the beginning and end of how we discuss America’s wars.
What has happened to Team America? The American electorate loves to talk about how it honors the military, veterans and our men and women in uniform. Election Day will put us to the test: if America is serious about its respect for service members, how about taking the military’s lead and vowing to respect, work with, and follow the lead of the person America elects as the next commander-in-chief?
This does not mean blindly follow or quietly retreat from the public arena. Public dissent is part of America’s DNA, its very foundation is built upon expressing political differences and pushing for political change. But if we cross the line from dissent to insurrection, we will be disrespecting every American service member who perished defending the principles embodied in our Constitution.
Team America, we deserve better. And it starts with demanding more of ourselves.
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