Monday, November 10, 2008

Something has been bothering me

I said in my first post that I would occasionally post as a military officer. I will reiterate that these thoughts, words, and reflections are not those of the military nor of the Air Force specifically, but of me, myself, and I - I just think it's important to point out that I have served my country proudly for almost three years and plan to continue doing so, just for perspective on this post.

To start, I beg of my fellow military members to please explain to me what the heck they are so afraid of. I have many friends claiming that they will jump ship and get out of the Air Force at their first opportunity because the country dared to elect Barack Obama. The best explanation anyone can give me is that Obama is "socialist" (which is ridiculous) or that he plans on "cutting the military." I have yet to see documentation or anything better than the hateful rhetoric they have heard spouted on Fox News. As a matter of fact, Obama plans to increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, meaning fewer "in-lieu-of" assignments for the Air Force (assignments in which an Airman or Sailor deploys with the army to perform a function such as guard duty, convoy duty, or checkpoint duty, for which he or she is not trained as his or her primary job in his or her own branch of service). Also, did you not notice the force shaping and Reduction in Forces (RIF) that we've experienced under George W. Bush? The size of the military ebbs and flows with the needs of the nation, we know that and it's something we accept as the way of things. No particular party has cut or increased the size of the military more than another.

I don't even know where to start. Maybe with the fact that this armageddon attitude is melodramatic and distasteful to start with - remember 2004 when many Democrats claimed they'd be moving to Canada when Bush won? I don't have stats on this, but I doubt a whole lot actually moved, and despite the economic situation we're in now and the deadly war we're still fighting in Iraq, we're all still Americans and pretty much okay. I beg you doomsdayers to please remember that what happens in Washington generally has a pretty slim effect on your day-to-day life. It's how you treat others that matters. No one is taking away your guns, raising your taxes, or taking away your birthday. Stop whining, please, and get on with your life.

Next, I want to point out how upset I was during the campaign every time John McCain or Sarah Palin tried to speak for me as a veteran or military member. McCain said something during the first debate that really got under my skin:

"I know the veterans, I know them well, and I know that they know that I'll take care of them, and I have been proud of their support and their recognition of my service to the veterans, and I love them, and I'll take care of them, and they know that I'll take care of them."

How dare you sir? These are the words of someone with an absolutely abysmal record in relation to support and care of veterans. How on earth can he claim to speak for me? Somehow, however, there is almost a blind allegiance to the Republican party among military members - or at least a perceived allegiance. Turns out that among active duty military, McCain held 55% of the vote while Obama held 45%. Hardly a mandate for McCain or the Republicans among military. And while there is no exit poll for veterans that I have been able to find, I am willing to bet that close to a majority, if not an actual majority, of retired or separated military voted for Senator Obama (If anyone can find a poll that proves or disproves this, either way, I would be very interested. I can only find opinion polls from months before the election).

Brandon Friedman at put together an unbelievably well researched, fact-checked compilation of McCain's terrible record in regards to the military and retired/separated veterans. Among the points noted are that McCain is given an abysmal 20% rating by the non-partisan group Disabled American Veterans, he voted over and over (and over) again against funding for veterans (and somehow it's Obama that gives Cindy McCain a shiver down her spine?) and he strongly and vocally opposed the 21st century GI Bill, which did pass, thank goodness, but certainly not with his help - he skipped the vote to be at a fundraiser. (This bill, for my civilian friends, is one of the very good things our government has done for us lately. It has provided tangible benefits to my Airmen in the form of education funding and opportunities, expanding more military benefits (including tuition assistance) to spouses and families, and many other very positive changes to military benefits. Need I mention that Obama fought for and voted for this bill?) So my dear military friends, next time a Republican claims to speak for you and you blindly follow his or her lead, I beg you to actually look at his or her record first.

I want to point out how ridiculous it is that there is even a perception out there that Republicans are somehow more patriotic or more apt to serve their country. Al Gore served in Vietnam. John Kerry did, too. Joe Biden's son is currently serving in Iraq. George McGovern was a war hero. Peter Kaufmann at Politico, a former Naval officer, discusses this phenomenon of the Republican stranglehold on military voters. I urge you to go read this article. He discusses how that hold was never more than surface-deep:

"Prior to Vietnam, military service was seen as an obligation of all Americans – regardless of political affiliation or wealth. George H.W. Bush and John F. Kennedy were both sons of privileged, politically-connected families who served heroically in the military during World War II. Back then, this was seen as your duty as an American – and no political party could lay an exclusive claim to the flag."

I want to see this era return. As Kaufmann points out, there are now more Democrats in Congress who are veterans than there are Republican veterans. Look at these facts and understand that we are all American. We all love our country. It is curious to me that you might turn your back on serving your country because you disagree politically with your Commander-in-Chief. One might be tempted to call you unpatriotic. I wouldn't, but I might seriously question your motives for entering the military in the first place. I just served 3 years under a Commander-in-Chief with whom I fundamentally disagree on many, many issues, but he was my Commander-in-Chief and I took an oath to serve my country. When you took that same oath, did it have the precondition that you would leave the service if we voted a Democrat into office? I might get out of the military in a couple of years because it's not the best fit for me as a career, but I know I'll be able to look back and say that I served honorably and did what my country asked of me. Good luck to those of you who will not be able to say that.

Comments are strongly, strongly encouraged - I have many, many friends in the military who I would like to hear from on this issue. And as for my civilian buddies, what say you? Do you perceive the military as strongly Republican or as non-partisan, with only duty, honor, and country on our minds? What does it say about the military if you do associate it with a particular party?


Anonymous said...

I'm not in the military and actually haven't even known very many people who have served so I'm coming from a very uneducated place. I'll admit a certain prejudice when I hear that someone is in the military. I immediately start thinking "there's someone who is probably a Republican and who is ok blindly following orders without question". I realize this is probably unfair. Something about the military has always turned me off because of the sense of having to follow orders one may not understand or agree with. I also understand the need for a military (unlike a lot of people from this area) and am profoundly greatful for the people that do serve because I don't think that I could do it. To be able to commit to be willing to give ones life for ones country before actually being in that situation amazes me and I'm thankful there are people out there who can do it. I have trouble committing to a year long cell phone contract! As I learn more I don't necessarily thing that the military is composed of mostly super conservative Republicans. My guess is that liberalism in the military might be similar to gays in the miltary; everyone knows they're there but its not necessarily safe to be "out". (Just to clarify, I don't mean to say its unsafe in the "A Few Good Men" beat up in your sleep kind of way...more just having to face ridicule and isolation) Like I said, this is not an area that I know much about so I welcome disagreements and hopefully education.

Emily said...

I didn't vote for McCain because of a "military allegiance"- I voted against Obama because he didn't support BAIPA not only once, but twice. I cannot morally justify supporting someone who can live with the deaths of abandoned infants on his conscience.

AND- there are plenty of Democrats in the military. But being a Democrat doesn't mean blindly voting for the Democratic candidate regardless of his/her policies and voting record. In short- I know plenty of more liberal-leaning military peeps who voted in the Democratic primaries but ended up voting for McCain.

A Most Ingenious Paradox said...

Em - I completely respect your reasons for not voting for Obama - I don't count abortion as one of my criteria for who I will vote for (as I pretty firmly believe that it's too divisive an issue for anything to really be done about it, especially in the legislature as opposed to the courts. That said, I am pro-choice) but I think that my issue here is with the people who think our country will somehow go to hell in a handbasket after the inauguration. Mostly I want people to acknowledge that we serve our Commander-in-Chief, not a political party.

Now with all that said, I will do more research into the Born Alive Act and post on it later. Thanks for the heads up.

Destination Delicious said...

Oh where do I even begin and how do I say anything at all without it turning into a "they are all morons" rant. First of all, I consider myself neither Republican or Democratic anymore. At one point or another I have been some of both and argued on both sides of the table.

Second, I completely agree with your thoughts on serving a commitment to the country, no matter who the CinC may be.

Third, those people are just idiots. Seriously, they are hateful hard-headed Republicans because they heard somewhere that it's patriotic to be so. They are the same people who, like my cousin that lives below the definition of poverty, will vote Republican because "the Democrats will just take their money". Maybe your Intel bunch is slightly above the average G.I. Joe. But from my experience political views of military members are 80% based on religion, 19% based on what their fathers who also served thought and 1% based on thorough research.

I know, I sound pretty bitter, but I lived through 3 years having better political discussions with Turkish taxi drivers and random foreigners than I could ever hold with my fellow officers. I think the reason they post the portraits of the chain of command on the wall is so we know who those people are.

On a more happy note, I have never seen such excitement for American politics as I am seeing now. This band was performing in the streets the other night and between songs the lead singer would raise her hands triumphantly and say "Yes, and we now have Obama!" This was, by the way, in Stuttgart, Germany. I also talked to a Canadian who was having an election party. When asked why he would have an election party in Canada when he is not American, he said "Because your president has more power than our Prime Minister. We are very excited about this election" So even if most Americans cannot even appreciate the opportunity before them, the rest of the world does. And for once in a long time, I am not ashamed to admit that I am an American.

Anyways, I finally took the time to check out your blog (while downloading the new Office) and I must say it is a very good read.

Kyle said...

I have also heard a lot of military people say that Obama will ruin the military, but I also have heard that Obama will improve the military. My belief for why the military leans more to the republicans is because of what the Republican Party stands for. I know a lot of military people who are pro-second amendment, church goers, and fiscally conservative, and against apportion. Also, as you mention, a lot will say that the republicans will take care of the military. Here are my reasons why they think this. A lot of Democrats talk about nationalizing health care and social security. If the democrats do that then there would be less money for military. I have heard talk and read a few articles saying that Obama will cut funding for the F-35, F-22, and improvements to our navy to fund, as some would say, his socialist agenda. The reality is that Bush also wanted to cut the number of F-22 but has also increase the budget for the military as a whole since he has been president. Another reason why the military supports the Republican Party is because we see/hear liberals on TV bashing Bush and the military. Since a lot of people view liberals as being democrats, therefore, democrats must hate the military. We have heard of the liberal group ladies in pink that protested outside a marine recruiting center in CA. The Berkley city council, lead by democrats and a former Army officer, tried to have the recruiting center move out of the city. This caught so much public outrage that they eventually repealed the zone ordnance that the council passed for the ladies in pink. The only people I heard speaking out against were republicans. So it is pretty easy to say that liberals and democrats hate the military when some liberals go out do stuff like that.
As for all the naysayers, I remember when Bush won the 2000 and 2004 election, many liberals/democrats said that he stole the election and he wasn’t their president. They said America had failed them and the world. Many claim that America was going to be destroyed and we would be under a Nazi like regime. All of this was said before he took office in January. Now we have the opposite effect. Before Obama has announced his tax plan or anything, we hear that he will make the US socialist and that he is a Marxist. So this is pretty much the same thing that happens after every election. For those who think Obama is being picked on and this isn’t fair, I have one question to ask you; did you ever defend Bush when people bashed him or did you ever bash Bush yourself? There are about 50 million people in America who didn’t vote for Obama and they won’t be warming up to him anytime soon.
I believe no party should claim control of the military because we follow the orders of the president no matter party affiliation he has. If we look back at the last few presidents, many have served in the military. The only who hasn’t in the last 30 years was Clinton. After this election, I feel that both parties used the military to get elected. Each one said they were looking out for us and protecting us from the evil other party. Both sides try to demonize about the war in Iraq. What drove me nuts was Biden blaming Bush for the war when he voted for it in the first place. He is equally responsible for the war as is Bush. Prior to WWII, it was taboo for military officers to vote in presidential election because of the fear the bias it would create. I know that some people will find it hard to overcome the fact that he has never served in the military; but I hope my fellow military members support President-elect Obama when he takes over the military on January 20.
These are my personal views and do not reflect the Air Force or the US military as a whole.

Anonymous said...

I just arrived in France, and I have to say, I come here now with a little more ease in my mind than I did two years ago. Before I was in a constant state of defense and felt as though I had to prove that I wasn't the American that comes to most French people's mind. Not that I was mistreated, but I did have to fight a stereotype everytime I mentioned my nationality. In a way,I feel as though this predjudice that French and American people have towards each other is similar to that of liberals and conservatives, which all too often the military get lumped into. I'll admit I've been in a group of military men and women and been a bit uneasy mentioning my political affiliations, even though my best friend is in the military and holds strong political ideals similar to my own. It reminded me of how I felt being asked where I was from while living in France while America entered its seventh year under George W. I think the issue is just as simple, and just as complicated, as stereotypes. They exist for a reason, there are those that fit it, but in the long run that can't be everyone, or even the majority of people that belong to a group. Though most everyone knows this, it doesn't seem possible to forget those preconceived notions. I do remember hearing people say things like, "I'll move to Canada if George Bush is re-elected" and even more recently I remember thinking that it might be a good time for me to make my move to Australia if we elect McCain. I'm no economist, but in reviewing these ideas when we've been given a president we don't trust, it seems possible to me that we, the American people, have put ourselves in this state of near depression by way of these kinds of thoughts and in some cases actions. I think we all just need to stop griping about who won and who lost and just take a hint from the extremely gracious speech given by McCain himself stating that we all need to now support the man who's been elected. It's quite possible that McCain could have done just as good a job as Obama in this presidency, however, I chose Obama because I find him more encouraging and able to unite all fronts, no matter which quarrels are being given too much fuel, among other reasons. I agree that this constant idea of "the other guy" winning, and not wanting to support him or serve under him because he's not from your team is juvenile and we need to get over it. This is not football, it's not for your entertainment, this is OUR government. We should try to accept that we are not going to agree on everything, that's why our democracy works and we keep each other in balance, but that essentially we all want to work toward the same better quality of life, the pursuit of happiness, and that the person we choose to represent us is not going to run that into the ground. Talking about abandoning a post because you want to throw a political tantrum is juvenile. Heres to this culture of complaint setting aside the whining and truly communicating with each other to work together toward what we all want.