The annual July 4th Independence Day celebrations with fireworks, cook-outs, and family gatherings are all moments of light-heartedness and fun. Reflecting on the holiday and the birth of a nation provides a broad spectrum of things to consider regarding the continuing experiment in this democracy.
Since last year’s Independence Day, so much has occurred in the United States that there is no shortage of issues that the country and its citizenry should consider and address.
In late June, General Mark Milley, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the U.S. military became the focus of the news media. Speaking before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, he stated that he, personally, wants to understand white rage. He admitted to reading books about communism and Marxism. He seemed to emphasize the importance of having a well-read and educated military force. He was so bold as to point out to members of Congress that West Point (the U.S. Military Academy) is a university, a place of learning.
General Milley raised interesting and relevant issues. Today, the U.S. military is a diverse organization with approximately 30% of the overall military self-reporting as other than white. He rightly pointed out that his force is made up of people who come from the general population and, therefore, it is important to understand the issues that plague society as a whole. The fact that this commander and others who oversee the daily effectiveness of our fighting force seek to improve their understanding of complex social issues and prevent those issues from being a distraction to the fighting force should be supported.
We should remind ourselves that those who are serving, regardless of rank, race or ethnicity, take an oath to protect and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. That oath that they take means they serve to ensure everyone’s constitutional rights.
General Milley and other retired officers know that despite all the efforts undertaken, the U.S. military has far to go to be better when it comes to understanding some of these divisive issues. The General’s comments are encouraging and exhibit a desire to understand in order to ensure a unified fighting force that protects the foundations of the United States.
It is surely a sad development when the General’s stated determination to understand the issues that divide the country are met with derogatory name-calling.
While the derision and name-calling are hard to understand, one thing is clear. Americans have the right to insult the General. They have the right to deny facts and reality. They have the right to ignore science and believe in lies. And, as a result of having a society where millions can exercise deliberate ignorance, the only question that remains unanswered is how long it will take until the denial of facts and reality bring down this democratic experiment.
The views expressed are those solely of the author. Timothy Trainer is an attorney and veteran.