MAENNER: Argument against anthem-protestors lacks proper reasoning
Opinions Column: Maenner's Musings
Long after Colin Kaepernick began protesting systemic racism during last football season’s preseason, and right as millions of Americans in Puerto Rico are struggling through the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, President Donald J. Trump has decided to start a war with the NFL over the national anthem protests that have become more prevalent during the pregame ritual. Speaking at a rally in Alabama for the now defeated Senate candidate Luther Strange, Trump stated that all NFL owners should, upon seeing a player protest the anthem, say: “‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired.’” But even though Trump and his supporters claim that their issues with the anthem protests are that they show “disrespect” toward the flag and our military, their actions contradict this sentiment.
Even with the high regard, we as a nation hold our servicemen and women too, the fact of the matter is that we far too often fail to take care of them when they return home. The most prominent example of the maltreatment of America’s veterans comes from the VA scandal that was uncovered in 2014 with the help of anonymous whistleblowers who withheld their identities for fear of reprisal. Uncovered in the VA scandal was the fact that in VA hospitals across the country, wait times for veterans were manipulated in order to hide the existence of excessive wait times and poor overall care. Although this damning information was brought into the national spotlight, very little was actually done about it, with the issue of long wait times continuing and punishment for those responsible just about non-existent.
Using the despicable treatment of veterans by the VA under the Obama administration to his advantage, Trump campaigned on heavily reforming the agency so veterans in need of medical care would not be subject to lackluster treatment and long waits. In fact, Trump even promised to “fire ‘the corrupt and incompetent’ leaders” of the VA — trying to paint himself as the pro-military candidate during the presidential race, and distract from his rocky history when it comes to respecting and supporting America’s veterans.
The most notable example of Trump’s poor treatment of veterans was when he pronounced that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was “‘not a war hero’” because he was a POW during the Vietnam War. Now two years after making the disparaging remark, Trump still has not deemed it necessary to apologize to McCain, even as the senator continues to serve his term in Congress with a cancer prognosis that he describes as “‘very poor.’” Trump’s history of disrespecting veterans does not just end with the veterans themselves, but also extends to Gold Star parents whose child made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this nation. Following the speech made by Khizr Khan — the father of the deceased Captain Humayun Khan — at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, Trump answered by wondering aloud why the mother of the soldier killed trying to save the lives of others was silent during the speech made by her husband, implying that she was not allowed to speak. In actuality, the reason Ghazala Khan stayed quiet was “because she was still grieving her son.” In Trump’s mind, though, the fact that the Khan family did not agree with his politics nullified any goodwill he felt they deserved from him.
But Trump’s history of disrespecting veterans does not just end with McCain and the Khan family. He has also questioned the strength of servicemen and women who come home from battle suffering from PTSD, failed to disburse funds raised for veterans until the Washington Post wrote a story on it and instituted a ban on transgender troops from serving their country, even as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., “advised the White House to keep any troops who have served ‘with honor and value.’”
Even with claims to the contrary by Trump and his supporters, no fact speaks louder than Trump’s seeming refusal to follow through with his promise to reform the VA. Following his inauguration, Trump’s pick to run the agency he decried on the campaign trail as “‘the most corrupt agency in the United States’” was the person who served as undersecretary for that very agency under Obama. Hidden behind Trump’s public feud with the NFL is the reality that his choice for VA secretary, David Shulkin, is now the fourth cabinet official “to be found mixing personal trips and expenses with government travel.” But until Trump decides to reconcile his actions — and inactions — with his rhetoric, and until his supporters are able to hold him accountable, no amount of shallow patriotism will lead me to believe that Trump is truly on the side of America’s military.
Hunter Maenner is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in criminal justice and political science. His column, "Maenner's Musings" runs on alternate Mondays.
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