Photo: Mary Altaffer, Associated Press
I have a rhetorical question for you, Mr. Romney:
What do these two things together say about you and your worldview?
1) Your life goal is to be President of the United States, a large part of which is being Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.
2) You think of the rank and file men and women of the military as one unimportant item on a laundry list, and even said so on national television.
"When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important."Ouch. You let something inhumane, offensive and strategically damaging slip from your mouth. From the look on your face it seems that you knew it, too, but you pressed on, saying,
"I described in my speech my commitment to a strong military unlike the president’s decision to cut our military. I didn't use the word 'troops'. I used the word 'military'. I think they refer to the same thing."
"Military" and "troops" refer to the same thing, Mr. Romney? Are you really that callous? Or clueless? Let me give you a lesson on regular Americans, our values and our vernacular, since these things seem to be so unfamiliar to you.
When Americans use the word "military" we are referring to the United States Armed Forces. This is a collection of five military branches (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy) coordinated and supervised by the United States Department of Defense, an executive department of the federal government headed by the Secretary of Defense and ultimately under the orders of the President. It is a massive, impersonal, bureaucratic institution responsible for national defense and "protecting America's interests abroad."
When Americans use the word "troops" (e.g. "Support Our Troops") we are referring to the actual human beings who do the literal, physical fighting of armed conflict. This includes but is not limited to our parents and grandparents who fought WWII, our brothers and uncles who fought in Vietnam and our mothers, wives and friends who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In reciting the word "troops" we collectivize every fighter we know with those we don't know in a communal, reverent, proud and mournful expression of American solidarity. The blood, sweat and tears these soldiers shed in combat form a sacred totem in American society, representing the strength, sacrifice and valor we believe is at the core of our national identity. Even when we hate the war we love the troops.
Did you get that, Mr. Romney? If we can hate a war and the leaders of the institution who started it while simultaneously loving and supporting those called upon to fight in it then THEY CANNOT BE THE SAME THING.
I understand it must be difficult for you to empathize with the American soldier. After all, your great-great-grandfather emigrated here from England in his 30s and was one of the early architects of Mormonism. He didn't serve in the US military. Your great-grandfather was literally a Mormon architect (he built Brigham Young's house) who at 42 moved his family to Mexico to avoid anti-polygamy laws. He didn't serve in the US military. Your grandfather returned to the US as an American citizen after the Mexican Revolution in 1912. He didn't serve in the US military. Your father returned with him at five-years-old and became a wealthy American businessman and politician. He didn't serve in the US military.
You never served in the US military. Your brother never served. From what I can tell none of your Romney uncles before you ever served. You have five children (all sons) and none of them have ever served. That is approximately 175 consecutive years encompassing eight major wars in which six generations of the male-heavy Romney family did not have a single member serve in the United States military. Considering that, Mitt, it's no wonder you think how you do.
And you know what? I don't necessarily fault you for that ignorance. I fault you for your tremendous displays of avarice and arrogance. For example, the avarice it takes to make billions of dollars for you and your friends from eliminating American jobs, and then the arrogance to tell us that as president you would jumpstart the economy. Or the avarice it takes to talk about a "strong military", proposing spending on defense contractors (your business friends) that the military never asked for, and then the arrogance to say that the people at the lowest levels of the military structure are indistinguishable from the structure itself. Or more bluntly, the avarice to steal from us and ignore us, then the arrogance to tell us that you're good for us. No thanks.
In the event that you do become our chief executive and commander-in-chief, though, let me offer you a piece of advice from John Prine, who said this when introducing his canonical song about a drug addicted veteran:
"We went over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I'd never been there before. I'd seen pictures of it. So I looked, both Al and me looked up guys in the telephone book there. That's what it looks like. They've got these little phone books and you look up the person's name you want to see. It tells you which part of the wall to go to.
So we looked up our friends in there and went and found their names on the wall. And when you stand there looking at their names, it's black marble. You can see your reflection in the wall.
So if you ever get the chance to go there I suggest you go to the place. It's a pretty fitting memorial."
If you've been to the memorial, Mitt, did you see your reflection in the wall? I suggest you look a little deeper.