Mr. Khan and Mr. Trump, Deja Vu? Thoughts of a history professor.

We’ve seen it, but we have not learned or forgotten out of convenience, out of our own insecurity, because of our own vindictive jealousy, because of our hypocrisy and denial.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”

“We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

“And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Good night, and good luck.”

We the People heard those words above spoken quietly but clearly on the CBS network on 9 March 1954.

The author and orator was Edward R. Murrow speaking about the junior US Senator from Wisconsin Joseph R. McCarthy.

Today the actors are not Murrow and McCarthy but Mr. Khizr Khan, his wife Mrs. Ghazala Khan, and their deceased son, Army Captain Humayun Khan killed in Iraq in 2004, posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and laid to rest at Arlington against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his supporters.

As most are aware Mr. Khizr Khan with his wife Ghazala by his side spoke at the Democratic convention in support of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.  Mr. Khan exercised his right to free speech, spoke of freedom of religion, the life and death of his son, and this situation of fear concerning Muslims in the United States.  Mr. Khan challenged Mr. Trump about the candidate’s statements regarding immigration.  He asked if Mr. Trump had read the Constitution of the United States of America and what had Mr. Trump sacrificed for the United States, the birth country of Mr. Trump and the country the Kahn family decided to travel, live, and of which to become a part.

The Hill provides a timeline of events.

Donald Trump responded to Mr. Khan’s words via Twitter:

“Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same – Nice!”

In a taped interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, Mr. Trump addressed the Khan’s in more detail.

As time continues on, Mr. Trump has become more critical of Mr. and Mrs. Khan while being more reserved in reference to the late Captain Kahn.  Mrs. Khan answered questions about her silence in a letter to The Washington Post and subsequent interviews where she begins to tear up in memory of her son.

Organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have penned public rebukes of Mr. Trump for his statements about the Khan family.

“Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump has a history of lashing out after being attacked, but to ridicule a Gold Star Mother is out-of-bounds, said the new national commander of the near 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary.

“Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,” said Brian Duffy, of Louisville, Ky., who was elected July 27 to lead the nation’s oldest and largest major war veterans organization.

“There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed,” he said. “Giving one’s life to nation is the greatest sacrifice, followed closely by all Gold Star families, who have a right to make their voices heard.”

Gold Star Families have requested the Donald Trump apologize for his “offensive” and “anti-American” comments.

Yet to Donald Trump, his camp, and Trump supporters, Mr. Trump is the victim.

According to them, Mr. and Mrs. Khan did not sacrifice; it was their son Humayun who volunteered and freely chose to place himself in harm’s way.  Listening to Trump supporters, no person in the military sacrifices so obviously their families who in the best of circumstances endure separation only and in the worst traumatic events and loss of life do not sacrifice.

One would think that the Trump supporters are saying damn to our military and their families, but less than a week prior at the GOP convention they extended sympathy to those lost in the tragedy at Benghazi.  Pat Smith, the mother of Sean Smith who worked for the state department, gave a heartfelt address about the death of her son and stated her belief that Hillary Clinton is responsible for his tragic death.  Security contractors Mark Geist and John Teigen also spoke to the same effect, and Mr. Geist appears in an NRA funded television spot supporting the Trump campaign.

Critics remind me that some of the lives lost at Benghazi were not members of the military, but that does not take away from the sacrifices they made, the choice they made for that type of work, and the sacrifices of their respective families?

Somehow though, according to Trump supporters, Mr. and Mrs. Khan are the aggressors and the ones filled with hatred .  According to some of this mentality, Mr. Khan is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Theodore Shoebat and Walid Shoebat detail their “proof” of these accusations.

Others assert that Hillary Clinton is to blame for the death of Humayun Khan because she cast her vote as a US Senator in favor of military action.

Some propose that the Khan family is incapable of comprehending that they are mere pawns of the Clinton campaign and Democratic party and are being used to smear a true American patriot and hero like Donald Trump.

It’s not about people like the Khan family but about “radical Islamic terrorism” according to others.

I wonder if they think that anything is necessary concerning domestic terrorism?  The individual who murdered the officers in Baton Rouge on Airline Highway where I’ve traveled perhaps a thousand times in my earlier years by most accounts did not kill because of race but because of a sovereign citizen belief and opposition to law enforcement.  It was only 4 years ago that another group of sovereign citizens ambushed law enforcement in LaPlace, LA, where my great-grandfather lived at the time of his passing.  That ambush saw Deputies Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielson murdered for no reason other than their profession.

Yes some excuse the domestic terrorists because in their opinion the major cause of this violence is a lack of respect for authority.  Many claim that lack of respect is evidenced by people in the Black Lives Matter movement.  Unfortunately Donald Trump did not receive the message that “decent” people do not criticize public servants based upon his lambasting of fire marshal Brett Lacy in Colorado.  Seriously I think he really believes that enforcing occupancy limits for public safety is a personal attack on him by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Democrats.

More and more people seem to be running to the defense of Donald Trump by stating that the Khan’s are hypocrites.  Again, however, the same things that are deemed hypocrisy coming from the Khans is deemed patriotism when it comes from those who label themselves “conservatives.”

Again it’s the arguments that the Khan’s have not sacrificed, the Khan’s are somehow evil, or that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Democrats are to blame for everything bad.

In March of 1954, Edward R. Murrow invoked the words of Cassius in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act I Scene II) in trying to convey the danger of Joseph McCarthy to the public.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Even though I began with that thought, I’m reminded more, however, of the words spoken by Joseph Welch on 9 June 1954 during the Army–McCarthy hearings before the United States Senate’s Subcommittee on Investigations which aired live on the ABC network and the DuMont Television Network. 

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.”

McCarthy tried to continue his attack, but Welch interrupted angrily,

“Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last?  Have you left no sense of decency?”

Senator McCarthy attempted to continue again:

“I know this hurts you, Mr. Welch. But I may say, Mr. Chairman, on a point of personal privilege, and I would like to finish it. “

To which Joseph Welch responded:

“Senator, I think it hurts you, too, sir.”

Perhaps Mr. Khizr Khan sums up the philosophy of the modern “conservative” movement and Donald Trump with this succinct observation.

“I have exactly same rights as he does. He wants to have one set of rights for himself and he wants to have another set of rights for others.”

It would be decades before I was born, but the study of history is not contained to a single generation.  We saw a perpetuation of fear; the irrationality of hate; the process of pointing fingers of blame that encompassed the country.  Yet that generation overcame those purveyors of fear and hate.

I pray that we are still capable and have not been defeated by a desire to justify, to excuse, just because we already have the benefit of the doubt and do not want others to have the same for whatever reason.  That we have not been defeated.  That our opinions, thoughts, actions, and values are not merely a response to the dislike or distrust of another.

I do, however, maintain hope from knowing what previous generations overcame to leave me with opportunities not available to them.  I will never know their experiences in the same manner as they because I wasn’t here.  I do express that understanding and and appreciation with sentiments like the following:

“I speak to you today with deep humility. My grandfather marched in Patton’s Army, but I cannot know what it is to walk into battle like so many of you. My grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line, but I cannot know what it is for a family to sacrifice like so many of yours have.

I am the father of two young girls, and I cannot imagine what it is to lose a child. My heart breaks for the families who’ve lost a loved one.

These are things I cannot know. But there are also some things I do know.

I know that our sadness today is mixed with pride; that those we’ve lost will be remembered by a grateful nation; and that our presence here today is only possible because your loved ones, America’s patriots, were willing to give their lives to defend our nation.

I know that while we may come from different places, cherish different traditions, and have different political beliefs, we all – every one of us – hold in reverence those who’ve given this country the full measure of their devotion.

And I know that children in New Mexico and across this country look to your children, to your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and friends – to those we honor today – as a shining example of what’s best about America.

Their lives are a model for us all.

What led these men and women to wear their country’s uniform? What is it that leads anyone to put aside their own pursuit of life’s comforts; to subordinate their own sense of survival, for something bigger – something greater?

Many of those we honor today were so young when they were killed. They had a whole life ahead of them – birthdays and weddings, holidays with children and grandchildren, homes and jobs and happiness of their own. And yet, at one moment or another, they felt the tug, just as generations of Americans did before them. Maybe it was a massacre in a Boston square; or a President’s call to save the Union and free the slaves. Maybe it was the day of infamy that awakened a nation to a storm in the Pacific and a madman’s death march across Europe. Or maybe it was the morning they woke up to see our walls of security crumble along with our two largest towers.

Whatever the moment was, when it came and they felt that tug, perhaps it was simply the thought of a mom or a dad, a husband or a wife, or a child not yet born that made this young American think that it was time to go; that made them think “I must serve so that the people I love can live – in happiness, and safety, and freedom.”

This sense of service is what America is all about. It is what leads Americans to enter the military. It is what sustains them in the most difficult hours. And it is the safeguard of our security.

You see, America has the greatest military in the history of the world. We have the best training, the most advanced technology, the most sophisticated planning, and the most powerful weapons. And yet, in the end, though each of these things is absolutely critical, the true strength of our military lies someplace else.

It lies in the spirit of America’s servicemen and women. No matter whether they faced down fascism or fought for freedom in Korea and Vietnam; liberated Kuwait or stopped ethnic cleansing in the Balkans or serve brilliantly and bravely under our flag today; no matter whether they are black, white, Latino, Asian, or Native American; whether they come from old military families, or are recent immigrants – their stories tell the same truth.

It is not simply their bravery, their insistence on doing their part – whatever the cost – to make America more secure and our world more free. It’s not simply an unflinching belief in our highest ideals. It’s that in the thick of battle, when their very survival is threatened, America’s sons and daughters aren’t thinking about themselves, they’re thinking about one another; they’re risking everything to save not their own lives, but the lives of their fellow soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines. And when we lose them – in a final act of selflessness and service – we know that they died so that their brothers and sisters, so that our nation, might live.

What makes America’s servicemen and women heroes is not just their sense of duty, honor, and country; it’s the bigness of their hearts and the breadth of their compassion.”

Barack Obama: “Remarks on Memorial Day in Las Cruces, New Mexico,” May 26, 2008. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

Was the future President of the United States talking about people like the Khan family? Like your family and mine?  Like our friends and neighbors of all colors, backgrounds, and creeds?  Isn’t that a description of WE THE PEOPLE?

Why are those words considered anti-American by the Trump supporters and members of the GOP?

That’s how ridiculous our partisan politics have become.

[Note I can criticize Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or any past or present presidential candidate just as I can Donald Trump.  None are saviors of this country, and no previous president has been either.  My personal feeling is that when a campaign is based upon discrediting the other person and not offering anything other than I alone can fix things, then we no longer have a republic or representative democracy but a demagogue.  When supporters are able to excuse transgressions for which they castigate others, what does that say about the candidate and supporters.  I expect specifics from my representatives.  I do not expect to agree with them 100 percent of the time, but I expect them to be able to explain in minute detail their reasoning for a position.  The bully mentality always fails because it lacks staying power, and skeletons find their way out of closets].

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