In the November 3rd edition of The Seattle Times, I noticed a front-page story written by Nicholas Confessore of The New York Times titled “Trump’s angry rhetoric speaks to frustrated U.S. Veterans.” It cites that “… many veterans are turning to Donald Trump…” despite his obvious shortcomings.
I would like to go on the record to say that I am not one of those veterans who supports Mr. Trump. That said, I am as frustrated as any. As pointed out in the article, some of us veterans are angry and frustrated by a government and President hamstrung by a Republican Congress. Yes, there are the wars—the endless wars. In my opinion, we’ve been sent to one war after another to defend “freedom” only to find we were dying to protect business interests in the region. That was true for Vietnam, and it’s true for the Mid-East. Yes, some veterans sincerely believe that if we had more resources in Vietnam we could have won. They also believe they were betrayed when President Obama pulled out the troops. I, for one, believe neither of these is true. I feel that no amount of force could resolve the corrupt system in Vietnam propped up by the French and then the US and its allies. I know for a fact it was President Bush signed a treaty to pull out our troops to protect them from criminal prosecution by the host countries. No, I do not believe that the strongest army is the best defense and that better intelligence (in all senses of the word) and skillful diplomacy can save more lives and more resources in the long run.
I also know that during these wars, in addition to the tens of thousands of American and allied troops, countless (more than a million) innocent people were wounded, killed, their homes leveled and their livelihoods destroyed. As additional “collateral damage,” the populations of those regions have learned to hate Americans and hopelessly inflame an already volatile region.
But veteran frustration is not just about needless wars. It’s not about how we were treated when we came home in the late ‘60s and early ’70s—we’re over that—or some of us are. It’s not about how our bodies were contaminated with Agent Orange, wracked with PTSD, depression, and suicide, and how the Veterans Administration was defunded so we could not be properly cared for. It’s not about that—not entirely.
Today, some lucky vets receive better care, but still VA hospitals and facilities are underfunded and the number of homeless vets sleeping under bridges is higher than ever. Despite renewed efforts the wait time to get care is indeed rising. “Non-VA care (the Veteran’s Choice Program)” is expanding, but struggling with long wait times and a still-learning staff. Efforts to address these problems, to reduce suicides, to get vets, healed, housed and fed are still being stymied by the Republican Congress. Ask your Congressman (on either side of the aisle) if he or she voted to fund these measures. And yet, some Trump supporters blame President Obama. Yes, vets still need mental and physical healthcare, and homes, and jobs. We don’t need “privatization”—for-profit companies taking over and adding another layer of bureaucracy and expense to an already over-taxed system. We don’t need politicians who march in the annual Veteran’s Day parade and return to Washington to continue to skimp on our pay, benefits and healthcare. We don’t need the DOD telling vets they need to repay reenlistment bonuses because someone screwed up.
Basically, I, and many vets are fed up, and we demand change—and now. I don’t speak for all veterans, but of the ones I know who aren’t sold on Donald Trump are fed up with political parties who would let businesses pay their way into influence—in Congress and in the White House. We’re tired of individuals who brag about not paying taxes, or companies who move their headquarters offshore to avoid paying their fair share. We’re tired of companies who pay their employees so little the government is forced to subsidize their workers with food stamps and other relief. We’re tired of “speaker’s fees”, golf trips, junkets and favors used to buy legislation—yes, we’re tired of corruption. We’re tired of paying billions for programs (military and otherwise) we as a nation don’t need (and the military often does not ask for), while ignoring the crumbling roads, bridges, water systems, networking, and modern power plants we desperately need—and the jobs they would create to make them and the country great again. We’re tired of poorly trained police, especially those forces infiltrated by hate groups and lack of federal oversight to reign them in. We’re tired of those who would inflame these hatreds for their own political gain and incite men to shoot police officers. We’re tired of businesses who walk away with a fine that barely affects their bottom line after polluting major waterways or filling the air with greenhouse gases which threatens the entire planet. We’re tired of the lack of regulators who keep our food, water and air clean and of cities who poison hundreds of thousands of people and go unpunished—and unabated. We’re tired of the lack of regulation on banks so as to prevent the last crash from reoccurring. We’re tired of bankers who rob the economy and ordinary citizens of trillions of dollars but spend not one day in jail. We’re tired of states who disenfranchise entire classes of voters and the political parties which help make this happen—on both sides. We’re tired of corporations whose power to influence elections and the media is in direct proportion to their wealth. We’re tired of broadcast networks owned by foreign billionaires who fill our screens with countless hours of misinformation, hate speech, and propaganda. We’re tired of for-profit (but tax-free) religious groups dictating our laws, writing our textbooks, and deciding what is taught to our kids in school. We’re tired of a for-profit healthcare system and its co-conspirator, the for-profit pharmaceutical industry, whose goals have become not to cure the sick, but to treat illnesses until the patient’s financial and personal resources have been exhausted. We’re tired of a Congress who spends millions trying to defeat a healthcare law which helps so many just to make political points—but without offering a solution to the problems it fixes. We’re tired of a foreign policy which makes us believe that we as a nation can solve the world’s problems (many of which we have created) with our own money and young people. We’re tired of government or religious-dictated legislation which tells us who we can love, how we can show intimacy, and when we can choose to end a pregnancy—not to mention how we express our sexuality. We’re tired of being told how or if we choose to pray, or how we show our respect for our God, the flag or the nation, or don’t. We’re tired of people being treated differently because of the color of their skin, or whether they came here from another country or a war-torn region—a region destroyed by our own self-interest and ignorance. We’re also tired of partisan enforcement of the laws by powerful individuals in the government who overlook those issues which would derail any normal Presidential candidate, while indicting an opponent by innuendo.
I think one reason veterans give to support Donald Trump is that they don’t want a political “insider,” someone who perpetuates a system of greed and corruption. I get it. Neither do I, but I sure don’t want someone like Donald Trump with his finger poised over the button. Donald Trump is not the solution—He is the embodiment of personal lust and greed. His entire life has been spent avoiding responsibility, duty to country, his wives and family, and to those who trust him—all things honorable men, and most of the veterans I know have fought and died for—since before 1776.
But I digress. This election is about choices. I agree that our for-profit political system has laid the seeds for another civil war—this time our own. I fear it’s for reasons that have more to do with business interests than making the country “great again.” I fear the dormant sentiments of white power and the American Civil War have been rekindled to keep a for-profit-at-any-cost regime in power. Under our very noses, history has been re-written to show the American Civil War was not a conflict among those who would abolish slavery, torture, and cruelty of an entire race of people, but a fight to win back the rights of states over a central government. Any student of history (written outside of certain southern states) knows historical documents do not support that contention, but therein lies the other issue—misinformation. Never in American history has a political party spent tens of millions of dollars vilifying an individual they feel might threaten their way of doing business—but finding nothing of substance. Yes, historians also know there have been propaganda campaigns like this before. In the mid-1930’s a certain political movement in Europe chose to enflame nationalism and point the finger at a selected religion, at “intellectuals” and “communists.” They were scapegoated for every ill that faced the country. The result was the most horrific mass-murder in history and the second World War. Years later, at the Nuremburg trials, when civilians were asked why they let this happen, the same people who wore the hats and armbands, cheered at the rallies, and turned in their neighbors to the secret police would say “…we had no idea. We didn’t know.” In our own country, the rights of individuals were trampled by a similar witch-hunt as McCarthy searched out Communists.
This is all happening again. Today. This week. And after the election, it won’t stop. Congress promises to stall the nomination of anyone to the SCOTUS or other judicial benches if Trump is not elected. No doubt, the Democrats will reciprocate—assuming Trump is not indicted before the inauguration. In addition, Donald Trump continues to sow the seeds of distrust, despair and hopelessness to the eager ears of men and women who would blindly follow another authoritarian figure—regardless of his ability to solve any of the dire problems he’s described. IMHO, if we wanted someone to sort out the budget, get people working again, figure out how to manage trade deals that benefit the country and all the other complex problems the President’s leadership will face, would you hire a man who has gone through twice the number of failed companies as he has failed marriages? Why would you trust a man who does not pay his contractors, hires the same workers he says are ruining the economy, or makes his own brand of shirts in the country he says is the source of our own economic failure? I agree the Presidency is about trust. Can we trust a man who molests women under his control—even teenage girls? Would you trust him in the same room as your daughter or wife? Would you trust a man who cheats for a living and brags about it? More importantly, would you trust a man who owes countless millions to the Russians who thinks nuclear weapons should be used in the Mideast?
Yes, we veterans are frustrated. Donald Trump is not the answer, and no, IMHO, Hillary Clinton is not an ideal candidate, but she will not lead the country into another war—at least we hope not. But is there an even more sinister reason Trump has been brought this close to the Presidency. Perhaps those who put him there, those who pull the strings have made it so because they sincerely believe he can be easily manipulated. Perhaps they feel his ignorance of foreign policy, of military and political intelligence, economics on a global scale, environmental issues, and even morality make him an ideal candidate which can be made their puppet. Perhaps this is why the Russians and the evangelicals have done everything they can to get him elected—and they’ve nearly succeeded.
So no, veterans should not vote for Donald Trump. In any case, we veterans also need to make sure the Senators and Congressmen who perpetuate this for-profit-at-any-cost system from returning to Washington. Consider that when Donald Trump says he wants to “Make America Great Again,” he leaves off the last phrase: “For Donald Trump.”