That’s what every soldier, marine, sailor and airman experiences at some point in their basic training, and often throughout their military career. It comes from sleeping in some remote field, forest or hooch, often in a sleeping bag on the bare ground, in a tent or a hooch and eating cold rations. Then, the next morning, packing up everything you own and need for five or seven or 15 days in the field – often a hundred pounds or more – to march two or five or twenty miles to the next mission.
I’ll bet Donald Trump has never been cold, tired or hungry.
Only a pampered, pompous, unempathetic and unpatriotic American like Trump could declare that “John McCain is not a war hero” as he did in Iowa on Friday.
Every American who puts on a uniform is a war hero, simply because they endure hardships most of us never dream of experiencing. Even after basic training, when you are along on a mostly deserted military base on a weekend, or you need to stand guard for 12 hours overnight in the freezing rain, or you need to work a 20 hour shift in a military hospital because there are too few nurses on staff, you are a war hero. Every soldier puts their life on the line every day, as we learned horrifically in Chattanooga last week when recruiters – Marines who went home to their families every night – were killed simply because they wore the uniform.
Trump spends too much of his time learning about the military and soldiering from war movies like “The Green Berets” or “Battle of the Bulge” or “Forrest Gump”. He obviously thinks “war heroes” fall on grenades (and don’t die, of course), or one-handedly mow down ranks of the enemy while dragging their comrades to safety. Certainly many soldiers perform such acts of bravery and rightly deserve to be recognized and honored. John McCain’s achievements as a hero are singular having endured over 5 years as prisoner-of-war and torture which left him partially crippled.
But, as John Milton wrote “they also serve who only stand and wait”. Every soldier, sailor, marine and airman contributes to the military mission, even if not on the front line. Many soldiers endure hardships unimaginable to most civilians, as shown by the high suicide rate and rate of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
In truth, Donald Trump has the worst case of a disease suffered by most politicians: lack of empathy. Many politicians cannot believe in a cause or a need for change until it personally touches their lives. Many Republican politicians, for example, adamantly oppose gay marriage, agreeing with Presidential candidate Rick Santorum that it is an assault on religious liberty and is “potentially disrupting the foundation of the world.” But amazingly enough, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and former Vice President Dick Cheney support it, probably because members of their immediate family are openly gay. All of a sudden the issue became personal to them and they understood and support gay marriage.
Similarly, the U. S. House voted to cut $40 billion from the federal food stamp program, somehow reasoning it would encourage recipients to find jobs. These representatives need to go hungry without income for a while. And other politicians adamantly oppose raising the minimum wage to $15 or higher – such elected officials have obviously never tried to support a family on minimum wage jobs.
Other politicians are quick to criticize entire police departments and their officers for use of force. Few of those politicians have ridden in a patrol car and almost none of them have ever faced a situation where they must make a split-second, life-or-death decision. Others criticize teachers and educators in general, but have never stood in front of a classroom of unruly teen-agers and tried to teach. The list of elected officials and candidates who are quick-to-criticize and dispense advice, but have never endured hardship themselves, is long.
But there are also good Presidents, and knowledgeable elected officials, who despite their lack of personal experience, can take leadership on difficult issues affecting real people.
Franklin Roosevelt and Social Security, Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights, Ronald Reagan granting amnesty to immigrants and expanding Medicaid, are just a few examples of such renowned empathy.
Donald Trump, with his remarks about Senator John McCain, moves the level of politician ignorance, inexperience and lack of empathy to a new height.
And this man wants to be Commander in Chief.
Perhaps he needs just one week of Marine boot camp.