Rosa Brooks writes: A strange thing happened when I married a soldier. Whenever I mentioned my husband’s occupation, my subsequent words, whether controversial or trite, would be greeted with the wide eyes and reverential nods Americans now reflexively offer members of the military community. Sometimes I’d even get an awkward, earnest “Thank you for your service,” or “That must be so hard.”
Our worshipful national attitude toward the military has been on full display during this presidential campaign season, and both major parties have been eager to exploit it. The Republicans trotted out retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn to tell Americans they should vote for Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton. The Democrats countered with retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who urged Americans to do the opposite.
Then came the Gold Star family episode. Trump has spent the entire campaign season insulting one group after another – Women! Immigrants! Democrats! Muslims! African Americans! – without apparent consequence. But when he spoke slightingly about the parents of a Muslim American Army officer killed in Iraq, he instantly found himself on the receiving end of bipartisan public condemnation.
To GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, Trump’s comments were “beyond the pale”; to former Republican contender Jeb Bush, they were “so incredibly disrespectful of a family that endured the ultimate sacrifice for our country.” A coalition of military support and advocacy groups signed an open letter calling on Trump to apologize, declaring, “Nothing is more sacred or honored than our Gold Star parents.” “We work in a sacred space,” explained one of the signatories. A Gold Star family is “a sacred family,” added another.
This is the language of theology, not civics. And while only someone with a heart of stone could belittle the grief of parents who have lost a child, our national sanctification of the military makes me deeply uneasy. [Continue reading…]