A Divided America: Through The Eyes of a Soldier.
Written by Gregory Hutchinson for Goombay Tally | goombaytally.com
As an active duty member in the United States armed forces, I’ve had an opportunity to see America from several unique vantage points and kaleidoscopic angles. Does that make me an expert on American foreign policy, U.S. politics, international or domestic affairs? Of course not; but I think my perspective at least counts for something.
So here it is.
Like many veterans, I’ve deployed several times since the terrorist attacks in 2001, and have visited over 27 different countries over my lifetime. I’ve seen Americans in other countries playing the role of fellow military members, tourists, professional athletes, politicians, military contractors, comedians (Robin Williams was a genius…God rest his soul), media personalities, NFL cheerleaders, and the motley list continues.
Throughout my travels, I’ve found that people have varied opinions about this country. Some think America is the proverbial “land of milk and honey” and hold up our democratic system as the quintessential template for the rest of the world to follow. Others think America is the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah filled with greedy, heartless politicians and corporate CEOs, blood-thirsty lobbyists advancing an out-of-control military industrial complex, or a cesspool of half-naked models and pornography on every corner and website. These folks obviously have no aspirations of ever visiting this country, much less immigrating here.
However, I find that most foreigners I’ve conversed with over time fall somewhere in the “gooey” middle in terms of their opinions about America: “Americans are generally pretty cool, but your government is a hot mess.”
Like many of you last week, I watched the GOP debates along with a few network commentaries on some of the night’s highlights and opinions on who won and who lost the debate. I must say that I eventually turned off my television and crawled into bed feeling a little confused, angry, and even a little sad for our nation that night.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a biased, myopic indictment against the Republican Party, I felt equally disheartened and disenfranchised after watching the series of Democratic debates over the last few months. I saw painfully academic, craftily scripted speeches, all made to convince us that each candidate was the only viable solution for America’s problems.
Besides the rancor and infighting that we’ve all observed during this election season, I’m sure you’ve noticed the raging political skirmishes that are prevalent on the social media battlefield. Memes attacking Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. Let’s be honest, most of them are amusing to say the least; but I tend to view most of them for what they are: one man’s opinion, neatly packaged as the truth, and nefariously fueled by an agenda.
What’s less amusing, is the divisive battle lines that the country seems to have drawn racially, socially, in the schools, in social media, in the churches, and in the courtrooms.
On Facebook, you are invited to join in on the buffoonery. Each political party has bloggers and social engineers feverishly hammering out quirky little articles with grabby titles and humerus memes to discredit, demonize, and demoralize the other party. You’ve all seen them and most of you have probably shared them with your buddies at work.
We’re made to believe that all Trump supporters are crazy racists who want to brand, than kick all Muslims out of the country, that Bernie Sanders supporters are all communists, and Hillary Clinton drones are disloyal, untrustworthy feminists who would soon vote for a crazed circus monkey as long as he’s a Democrat.
Here’s another perspective.
In Iraq or Afghanistan, the locals didn’t necessarily make overarching, sub-categorizing distinctions about Americans based on their political affiliations, religion, race, gender, height, overweight. Were there prejudices about women in uniform. Yes, and we all know the stories but at the end of the day, love it or hate it, you were an American in their country and that’s all that really mattered.
As military members deployed to a war-zone, Trump-supporting Soldiers, Hillary-supporting Seaman or Marines, and Bernie Sanders-supporting Airmen or Coast Guard members are all part of the same team and would bravely give their very lives to save any of their fellow service members who were in trouble.
Let’s be frank: our nation’s military could not function if (for example) Liberal soldiers decided to peel off and form their own distinct divisions in west Afghanistan. Likewise, Conservative F-16 Eagle or A-10 Warthog pilots wouldn’t break from their squadrons at Bagram Airbase and determine independently what their target priorities will be. Moreover, you would never find pro-abortion special operators breaking from their teams to determine which missions they will support and which ones they’ll ignore.
In the war-fighter environment, the need for the forward progression and ultimate success of the mission transcends individual goals, objectives, or desires.
Don’t get me wrong, America should never be run like a military organization. In fact, we commit billions of dollars a year in defense spending to keep nations like that in check. However, I do suggest that there are valuable political and social lessons to be learned from the military in joint operations. Is there conflict between branches of the military in this environment? You bet your a** there is. But at the end of the day, (typically) the advancement of the mission, the well being of the fighting forces, and the nation’s primary objectives and interests are first and foremost in any course of action.
Instead, in America we see a dangerous racial divide sweeping across the country, the African-American community is at odds with law enforcement, we have a disappointing, stagnant, and unresponsive Congress that votes itself a pay raise every year or so, a nation split down party lines, and a lukewarm economy that serves as the bitter, wilted cherry on top.
So as a member of the greatest military in the history of the world, what is my hope for the future of America?
My hope is that we stop just seeing ourselves as disjointed and independently-operating teams, units, battalions, battle groups and squadrons of Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Catholics, Muslims etc.
I still get teary-eyed when I remember coming home from my last tour in Afghanistan. I recall finally landing at Baltimore-Washington International Airport after a long and grueling flight that began in below-zero temperatures on a flight line in Kyrgyzstan. I know it sounds cliché, but I literally felt like falling down and kissing the ground when the plane landing. I didn’t. But could have.
In the airport, every uniformed member on that flight probably expecting the routine walk to the baggage claim area, and the long wait for (hopefully) all of their bags on the conveyor belt (especially your weapons). Instead, what we all saw was about two-hundred patriotic Americans waving flags and clapping as we walked down the long exit-way to find a taxi and a hotel for the night. A few Boy Scouts in attendance even offered to carry some of our bags for us.
That is the American that I want to remember. That crowd of Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, whites, blacks, Liberals, and Conservatives, all showing their appreciation for those who serve on the pointy end of American diplomacy. These were good, decent citizens who knew none of us will probably ever stand and debate in the House of Representatives or the Senate as esteemed politicians, skillfully articulating the nuances of foreign policy on CNN or Meet the Press. But they knew enough to get in their cars that cold night in Baltimore and thank a few soldiers who risked their lives taking care of the government’s business in dirty, dark and dusty corners of Afghanistan. These Americans knew that democracy and freedom isn’t won by making pretty speeches and gestures in fancy suits on television; freedom is ultimately won through the humble spirits of warriors silently exiting and returning to our shores in the darkness of night.
My mother was the first to share with me the Bible verse Mark 3:35 which says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. Regardless of your religious affiliation or stance, this verse holds true in every company, corporation, organization, nation, group, circumstance or situation.
President Abraham Lincoln knew this simple but powerful precept back in the 1860s, and it is my final hope that my next Commander-in-Chief embraces it as well.
Written by Gregory Hutchinson for Goombay Tally | goombaytally.com