To Hell With Political Boogeymen

Opinion
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Redding Municipal Airport Friday, June 3, 2016, in Redding, Calif.
AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli

What’s more American than a good ole’ Abraham Lincoln thought on a citizen’s duty and responsibility in a republic.


“Elections belong to the people,” he wrote. “It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Damn, Abe, that’s, umm, fire! And something to consider in the aftermath of Trump’s first week as president.

I read Jack Mandaville’s “The Left Made It Easy for Me To Like Trump” at the veterans site Unapologetically American with  a strange sort of awe. It takes a potent blend of cognitive dissonance, half-assed nihilism, and safety from the consequences to vote in a national election against one’s beliefs and the interests of their social class purely out of spite.

I get spite, I’m Irish. Hell, I admire spite. As for the rest of it …

What the fuck, man?

In one breath, Mandaville argues that he hates when liberals condescend. Ahh, yes, the Patronizing Liberal, a political boogeyman as timeless as the Angry Conservative. Then in the next breath, he presents an essay about spiting “libtards,” lol, for like, caring too much. Maybe if the Democrats he encountered over the past year didn’t try so hard, then perhaps he would have voted with them, goes the subtext. Alas, they insisted on browbeating him with their reasoning and passion, and our intrepid hero wasn’t about to have that.

Hot tip from a stranger on the Internet: you don’t want to be condescended to? Maybe vote your own conscience instead of as a reaction against others’. I disagree mightily with my friends who voted for Trump because they believe he’ll be good for the country, but that’s their right as citizens and I’m proud of them for fulfilling their voting duty.

(And I will honor that duty by getting into Facebook arguments with them every day for the next four years.)

The killer line in Mandaville’s essay: “They stripped us of our dignity.” Slow your roll, Snowflake Mandela. In the wake of the election, there are people fearing for their safety and for that of their families. There are people fearing their homes or places of worship being tagged with swastikas. There are people fearing deportation. Those are far more tangible fears than hurt feelings. Let’s be honest, the voters of the victor aren’t going to be stripped of anything, and besides, to quote the philosopher-king Michael J. Fox, “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”

Blaming your vote on others isn’t just passive-aggressive, it’s an abdication.

If someone can’t, or won’t, articulate why they voted for Trump in a political debate, that’s on them. No one else. Same goes for Clinton voters, be they the enraged, melancholic, or exhausted version. Even in a post-South Park world of Giant Douche v. Turd Sandwich, we make a choice to vote for Giant Douche or Turd Sandwich. Not against Giant Douche or Turd Sandwich.

(That is not an Abraham Lincoln quote.)

Take personal responsibility for your vote. Blaming your vote on others isn’t just passive-aggressive, it’s an abdication. Our nation demands better from all of us. It needs better from all of us.

Mandaville provides a list of unconnected anecdotes as the bedrock for his decision. A friend getting tossed from a bar. A man getting spit at. That awful incident in Chicago with the mentally handicapped teen. (Which happened after the election, but I digress.) Does he mean to suggest that hyper-politicization brings out the worst in people, as well as the worst people? Oh, I see. Insightful. Let me try. Ku Klux Klan marchers in North Carolina. That white supremacist idiot who got punched in the face. Any joker who honestly believes that Clinton belongs to a Satanist cult. People so convinced that a pizza restaurant in D.C. is a front for a child smuggling ring, they drive hundreds of miles with an AR-15 to investigate. How am I doing?

Should I have only voted for Clinton out of reaction to crazy people? Of course not. They are crazy.

Should I have only voted for Clinton out of reaction to those crazy people? Of course not. They are crazy. I weighed the pros and cons of both candidates, considered those pros and cons in relation to my own ideals and worldview, and cast my vote accordingly. That’s what adults do. And despite the veneer of Mandaville’s argument, I suspect that’s what he did, too. Because anyone who writes “I’m really excited about Donald J. Trump being President of the United States of America,” voted that way for reasons that transcend spite. That would’ve made for a much more interesting article, I think, especially coming from someone with some of his expressed political views.

The Patronizing Liberal has been a straw man argument for years, and a useful one at that. Same goes for the Angry Conservative. And while these fallacies will endure, their usefulness is in question in the Age of Trump. Again, Trump voters, you all won. Your guy is the president. My tribe failed. The Lord of the Heel Spur is our nation’s commander-in-chief with a Republican-controlled Congress. Now, own it.

Whether an avid supporter, Redhat, or someone who held their nose on Election Day and pulled the red lever, you all are responsible for what happens these next four years. That’s how our republic works. Anything and everything that happens, whether a wall along the Mexican border, or a withdrawal from NATO, or everlasting world peace is because enough Americans voted Donald Trump our president. Nothing that happens going forward will be because of Hillary’s emails, or the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, or Obamacare, or whatever other boogeyman the looney-tune fringe will trot out to incite panic and rage. Being in charge, being in power? That’s the hard part. Ain’t no time or space for victimhood anymore, let alone for sore winners. Embrace it before it embraces you.

Even those of us who didn’t vote for Trump are responsible, going forward, and not just because we didn’t do enough to get our preferred candidate elected. We’re responsible because we’re citizens, and we’re all in this together. Being honest with how we voted and why, rather than blaming easy caricatures from the other side for that vote, accomplishes nothing. Like Lincoln wrote back in the day, it’s all our asses on the line.

A U.S. Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) runs for cover during a live fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. (U.S. Army/Gertrud Zach)

A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.

Read More

The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Read More
Comedian and activist Jon Stewart meets with members of Toxic Exposures in the American Military (TEAM), a coalition of veteran and military service organizations, Jan. 17 on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy of TEAM)

Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.

"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."

Read More
A demonstrator stands outside a security zone before a pro-gun rally, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Thousands of pro-gun supporters are expected at the rally to oppose gun control legislation like universal background checks that are being pushed by the newly elected Democratic legislature. (Associated Press/Julio Cortez)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer

This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.

This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.

Read More
(U.S. Marine Corps)

How We Found Out explores recent reporting from Task & Purpose, answering questions about how we sourced our stories, what challenges we faced, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how we cover issues impacting the military and veterans community.

Following a string of news reports on private Facebook group called Marines United, where current and former Marines shared nude photos of their fellow service members, the Corps launched an internal investigation to determine if the incident was indicative of a larger problem facing the military's smallest branch.

In December 2019, Task & Purpose published a feature story written by our editor in chief, Paul Szoldra, which drew from the internal review. In the article, Szoldra detailed the findings of that investigation, which included first-hand accounts from male and female Marines.

Task & Purpose spoke with Szoldra to discuss how he got his hands on the investigation, how he made sense of the more than 100 pages of anecdotes and personal testimony, and asked what, if anything, the Marine Corps may do to correct the problem.

This is the fourth installment in the recurring column How We Found Out.

Read More