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Morally bankrupt bluster and bravado 

Over the years, President Trump has repeatedly stated that Americans should “stand proudly” during the national anthem and has severely chastised individuals he considers disrespectful to the flag and American military personnel. 

Trump has been especially critical of National Football League players who kneel during the playing of the anthem as a protest against racial injustice. At a party the night before last month’s Super Bowl, a video captured Trump fidgeting, straightening his tie, adjusting his chair, greeting guests and conducting a mock band during the playing of the national anthem.

Speaking to supporters in 2017, Trump profanely presented both his contempt and remedy for take-a-knee NFL players: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son-of-a-bitch off the field right now’?” 

I’m waiting for Republican senators and representatives to follow Trump’s logic and state emphatically that when a president disrespects our national anthem, we should “get that son-of-a-bitch out of the White House right now. Out! He’s fired.”

In their book, “A Very Stable Genius,” Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig report on a meeting Trump had with senior military officers in 2017. Unhappy with their failures in Afghanistan, Trump castigated the generals, stating they were a “bunch of dopes and babies.” During his tirade, the president stated they were “losers” who “didn’t know how to win anymore,” noting he “wouldn’t go to war with you people.” The not-go-to-war line is hardly surprising as our five-time draft-dodging, cowardly-lion-in-chief wouldn’t go to war with anyone anywhere, regardless of the circumstances. 

After the January Iranian missile attack on Iraqi airbases, over 100 American military personnel suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Trump dismissed these injuries as nothing more than “headaches … not as serious” as physical combat wounds. William Schmitz, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW expects an apology from the president for his misguided remarks” about TBI. That will never happen.

When I think of the U.S. military, what comes to mind are the virtues associated with that profession: courage, honor, integrity, duty, loyalty and discipline. Trump is the antithesis of every one of these virtues — a manipulative, arrogant egomaniac who is blatantly dishonest, disloyal and deceitful. His phony patriotism, often at the expense of our military personnel (especially veterans), will only continue.

Last December, Mark Galli, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, called for Trump’s removal from office. “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.” Speaking to evangelicals who continue to support Trump in spite of his “blackened record,” Galli said stated, “Remember who you are and who you serve.” 

It didn’t take long for Trump and his hard-core evangelical supporters to lash out at Galli and Christianity Today. Trump stated the “far left” magazine (it’s a centrist publication) “was doing very poorly.” Another Trump lie, as the president offered no evidence to support his “very poorly” claim. 

In January, self-described born-again-Christian and professor of history at Messiah College (Pennsylvania) John Fea, attended an “Evangelicals for Trump”-style campaign rally in Miami. As Trump took the podium, enthusiastic supporters — many adorned in Trump shirts and wearing “MAGA” hats — began shouting, “USA, USA, USA.”

Fea states that “Trump the strong man” was on display at the rally, the self-anointed defender of evangelicals under attack from liberals and leftists who want to “destroy religion in America.” Like other autocratic leaders, “he stirred fear among his people and offered them safety under his regime.” Fea notes he was stunned to see “evangelical Christians — those who identify with the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ — raising their hands in a posture of worship as Trump talked about socialism and gun rights.” One can imagine how Trump relished the moment, viewing himself as deserving of the crowd’s adoration as much as — if not more so — than Jesus Christ.

This rally was part of Trump’s ongoing campaign for evangelical votes. During the 2016 presidential race, candidate Donald Trump continually told white evangelicals that if they helped put him in the White House, he would return the favor. They did, and he has. The president cares no more for evangelicals than he does for military personnel. Members of both groups are political pawns manipulated by Trump in his drive to perpetuate and expand his presidential power. 

After Mitt Romney voted to convict Trump of abuse of power during the Senate trial, stating his (Romney’s) “oath of office to God” required him to do so, the president and his Fox News cheerleaders ripped the Utah Republican. Speaking of Romney, Fox host Brian Kilmeade said: “For him to bring religion in — it has nothing to do with religion.” No such condemnation of the millions of people who state their religious beliefs mandate they vote for Republican, anti-abortion candidates. To the contrary, the Republican Party stokes those beliefs and counts on religiously motivated voters in large measure to elect its candidates. Playing the conservative Christian card is a hallmark of the GOP, even more so during the Trump administration. 

Journalist and Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges states the Republican Party is replicating European fascism of the 1930s, as it has been transformed into a personality cult. “Those who do not bow obsequiously before the leader and carry out his demands are banished” (Romney is the most high-profile example), and “a Christianized fascism champions Trump as an agent of God while traditional churches refuse to denounce evangelical right-wing extremists as impostors.” German social democrat Kurt Schumacher states that fascism makes a “constant appeal to the inner swine of human beings” as it mobilizes stupidity.

As the anonymous quote states, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

P.S. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, about 350,000 military personnel have suffered TBIs since 2000. Army veteran Elana Duffy had a leg amputated after a Humvee crash while serving in Iraq. Duffy stated that losing a limb does not compare to the pain and life-altering consequences she experiences daily as a result of TBI: slurred speech, migraines, facial paralysis, vertigo, memory loss and vision problems. Other common TBI symptoms include anxiety, depression and mood swings. Individuals with TBI are also at increased risk to commit suicide.

George J. Bryjak lives in Bloomingdale and is retired after 24 years of teaching sociology at the University of San Diego.

Sources:

Blaskey, S. (Feb. 3, 2020) “As others stand at attention for anthem, Trump fidgets, points, pretend-conducts the band,” Miami Herald, www.miamiherald.com

Burr, T. (Feb. 7, 2020) “President Trump questions Mitt Romney’s faith in criticizing his vote to convict him of abuse of power,” The Salt Lake Tribune, www.sltrib.com

Fea, J. (Jan. 11, 2020) “‘Evangelicals for Trump’ was an awful display by supposed citizens of the Kingdom of God,” USA Today, www.usatoday.com 

Hedges, C. (Jan. 13, 2020) “How democracies die,” TruthDig, www.truthdig.com 

Keller, B. (Feb. 14, 2020) “The unseen toll of traumatic brain injuries: One veteran asks, ‘What if they could just cut my head off?'” CNN, www.cnn.com 

Kelly, C. (Dec. 20, 2019) “Evangelical publication calls for Trump’s removal from office, CNN, www.cnn.com 

Leonnig, C. and P. Rucker (Jan. 17, 2020) “‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals,” The Washington Post, 

www.washingtonpost.com 

“More than 100 US troops suffered traumatic brain injury in Iran strike, miliary says” (Feb. 10, 2020) The Guardian, www.theguardian.com 

Nesbit, J. (Aug. 15, 2016) “Donald Trump vowed to close gap between church and state,” Time, www.time.com

Stracqualursi, V. (Jan. 25, 2020) “Veterans group demands apology after Trump said traumatic brain injury from Iranian attack are “not very serious'” CNN, www.cnn.com 

Tsuji, A. (Sept. 22, 2017) “President Trump says NFL players who protest anthem should be fired,” USA Today, www.usatoday.com