Partisanship in America today seemingly has come to this: is a critic of a president, a patriot … or someone to be demeaned? BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, who has reported on past presidents, shares his Boomer Opinion about authentic patriotism.
Patriotism means love of country. That’s the definition, plain and simple.
So would you say a man who volunteered for duty with the United States Army and did tours in South Korea, in Germany, and in a war zone called Iraq is a patriot? Would you say a man who was injured by an enemy’s roadside bomb is a patriot? Would you say a man who won a Purple Heart for his sacrifice is a patriot? And forgive me for sounding snarky, but would you say a man who signed up to serve and didn’t claim he had bone spurs on his feet is a patriot?
That describes Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the National Security Council staffer who spoke out against the pathetically unprincipled but politically profitable performance of President Donald Trump in his dealings with Ukraine. A performance plainly engineered to enhance Trump’s political fate, not our national fortune.
Vindman is a patriot. An American citizen, born in Ukraine but in the U.S. since he was three when his family fled the Soviet bloc. A decorated American soldier. A veteran who then took off his uniform and served in diplomatic hardship posts. An American patriot.
But to hear Trump’s most rabid Republican crusaders tell the story, Lt. Col. Vindman is anything but a patriot. One, a Florida congressman, called him a member of the “deep state.” Another, a former congressman from Wisconsin, said, “I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy.” One Fox News commentator suggested that he might be a “double agent.” And worst of all, another said this of Lt. Col. Vindman’s testimony about the national security implications of Trump’s infamous phone call with his counterpart in Ukraine: “Some people might call that espionage.”
So this is what it’s come to. If you are deeply disturbed by the disgraceful demeanor of this president and you speak out against it, it isn’t patriotism, it is espionage. Or, as the president himself has said in setting the tone about his critics, you are “human scum.” It makes the theme song of President George W. Bush’s administration, “Either you’re with us or you’re against us,” sound like a call for unity.
These people have their nerve. No scruples, no shame, but plenty of nerve. You can bet that any time a military veteran appears before them, they’re the first to say, “Thank you for your service.” Unless he who served seems to be on the other side from their politics. Then, as they have just proved, they will pummel a patriot who has spent his entire adult life serving his country, and buttress a president born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a convenient doctor’s letter about bone spurs. A president who has done no more for his country than to make it more crass, more dishonorable, more untrustworthy, and more garish.
Credit to one card-carrying member of the Far Right though, Representative Liz Cheney, who said she’d heard enough of her colleagues’ trashing of Lt. Col. Vindman, and of others who have selflessly served but then spoken against the president, like former ambassador William Taylor, a veteran of Vietnam. “We’re talking about decorated veterans who have served this nation,” she said, “who put their lives on the line. And it is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in this process.” Several Republican colleagues in Congress said something similar, although none as strong and some did no more than step aside when confronted with questions, rather than condemn the reprehensible rhetoric of their compatriots.
It’s enough that Trump’s apologists are talking and tweeting about their disrespect for this public servant to ensure that it feeds into the Far Right’s concoction of conspiratorial conjecture. It’s even worse that the president’s henchmen— and the president himself— do everything they can to discourage his detractors from coming forward to speak truth to power, risking their livelihoods and maybe more.
But they do keep coming. Because they love their country, plain and simple. May they come forth and multiply.