Mr. Congressman, Why Won’t You End the War?
“When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
It was a festive Florida winter night at NAS Jax, Jacksonville’s Naval Base. I was invited to an Army Ball where the soldiers and their guests participated in both tradition and camaraderie rituals. Such as the ceremonial greeting line where every guest shook hands with the command staff, followed by the traditional color guard where the U.S. flag was marched in. And then the ceremonial grog where soldiers mixed a large vat of various liquor, wine, a Monster energy drink, and some “pixie dust” which we all drank out of. Surprisingly it didn’t taste bad, and I didn’t have an intense hangover the following morning. Before the ceremony finished, a nervous soldier was given the floor and proposed to his surprised girlfriend. Her tear-filled yes was followed by a loud applause which added levity to an already fun event.
The night was going well until the special guest, Congressman John Rutherford, was asked to give a speech. Congressman Rutherford represents the 4th District of Florida, has over 30 years of Law Enforcement experience, and was instrumental as Sheriff for reducing crime in Jacksonville. His reputation speaks for himself, and I voted for him when he first ran for Congress.
But, a fun festivity turned into a political campaign speech from a man who already won the election. I listened to the Congressman turned a sweet event and made it his soapbox. He addressed his stance on immigration as he stated that the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in 2016 was due to failed immigration. Which didn’t make sense because 60 out of 106 shooters were white American Citizens, with the deadliest being the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 (Statista.com). And he failed to mention the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in 2018, which was committed by a native Floridian.
His speech continued and bordered on the hawkish, but he stated his passion for lowering training deaths in the military. Stating that there have been 89 causalities in the military between 2015 and 2016 which was due to lack of funding and in proper training. He proudly said he supported the increased budget for the military in the hopes that this will keep our military safe.
I looked around at the respectful soldiers who intently listened and wondered if they had the same thought I had, “What about ending the war?” He ended his speech quoting General Colin Powell’s answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury on empire building, in addition to quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson but he never mentioned ending the Long War. Applause filled the room, but he left my heart and mind filled with doubt.
Congressman Rutherford took pictures with the soldiers and their guest and was cordial and polite to everyone he met. I waited to he left the hall and approached him before he exited the building. Face to face with him; he had an earnest and trustworthy face which treated me politely as I asked about the efforts in Congress to end the war. I asked him not as a blogger but as a voter and someone who has loved ones affected by this endless war.
His answer was disappointing, and it only fortified my mistrust and cynicism to our elected officials. Congressman Rutherford stated that this wasn’t a war but an ongoing military operation, which I reminded him that was semantics for war, especially with the “operation” spreading into Africa. I mentioned that the war has been going on for half my generations life and it’s looking to become longer than the Vietnam War. The Congressman was caught off guard by this and only restated his stance on proper training to minimize casualties. I bluntly reminded him about our servicemen coming home severely disabled, with PTSD, with some never coming home again. “House of Cards” has better acting as he politely thanked me for the questions. We politely shook hands, and he left for the night.
I found Congressman Rutherford to be sincere, but sincere only up to the truth. Is it fair to demand one Congressman to end a war? Yes, we should all demand better from our politicians because they work for the People and not their political parties nor the special interest who finance them. Is it pragmatic to ask our elected officials to end a war costing trillions of dollars, lives from both sides and affecting our future in the global theatre? Absolutely. To summarize John F. Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” where he states that a good statesman must know when to play the end game for a longer term so to create effective change or risk it all for doing what’s morally right for the country. Ending the war is morally right, but the political courage to do so lacks on both sides of the aisle.
I walked back into the ball and watched as the soldiers drank, laughed and danced to a DJ playing a string of Latin music. The nervous soldier and his new fiancé danced happily together. A Colonel had too much to drink, and he was caringly carried out by his men. And a Major wearing a sexy black dress gave me a wink and a smile (I thanked her for her service later that night). These are all good people, every one of our service members, but they are the ones paying the high cost of continually fighting a war which is not for protecting freedom but for an ambiguous, nefarious motive which is continuously being changed to justify its funding. I wonder how much death, destruction, and debt is enough to end the war?