My skin isn’t thick enough to endure criticism trailblazers like Harris, Pelosi, Gandhi, Meir, and Thatcher have had to suffer; but I have been inspired to follow in their footsteps, in my own ways. As Harris told Marie Claire magazine, “I want [young] women to know, you are powerful and your voice matters." Amen, Sisters. Amen.
When George Floyd was killed by a white policeman, three others were criticized (and arrested) for not stopping him. How could they watch him suffocate a man in handcuffs, not resisting, without doing something?
This principle – that sometimes people must act for the good of humanity, rather than the chain of command – has long endured. Germany’s Nuremberg trials after World War II found Nazis complicit in Hitler’s war crimes.
Holding people accountable is good, but it’s far better when those involved refuse to be accomplices.
Thankfully, we’ve also seen leaders doing that, not just “following orders” (as war criminals plead in defense). They spoke out, emphatically, against abuse of authority.
Show of Force, Change of Heart
After Floyd’s death, President Trump had peaceful protesters forcibly removed from Lafayette Square, near the White House, so he could stage a photo-op, Bible in hand, at St. Johns Church.
To bolster his intended message, Trump requested the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, to accompany him.
Milley, dressed in combat attire, believed he was assisting Trump reviewing National Guard troops, then was surprised he was merely a photo prop (like the Bible).
He resented it, saying later “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
Milley wasn’t the only military leader publicly distancing himself from Trump – or disrespected by him.
Those Pesky, Strong-Willed Generals
In the early days of Trump’s presidency, he appointed several generals to high-ranking positions: former Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary and Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
All “former” because all have resigned or been fired by Trump, surprised he couldn’t intimidate them into submission.
Trump threatened to dispatch “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers” to U.S. streets, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. He asserted governors (mostly Democrats) had been weak confronting protesters, demanding “you have to dominate the streets”.
Fortunately, Defense Secretary Mark Esper stated he was against deploying troops on U.S. soil to suppress peaceful demonstrators, after Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, which empowers him to deploy the military here.
Trump, Esper and Milley near St. Johns Church in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Google Images/Business Insider
“Mad Dog” Bites
Then Mattis, a respected four-star general (nicknamed “Mad Dog”, high praise in Marine culture, by his troops), previously unwilling to criticize a sitting president, weighed in.
He condemned attacking peaceful protesters, calling it an “abuse of executive authority”, adding “we must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution”.
Mattis leveled a sharp critique: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”
He concluded “we are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy… but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”
Trump and Mattis
Photo: Google Images/TRT World
A startling challenge: that Americans must unite IN SPITE OF our president, not BECAUSE OF him.
A Trump campaign adviser confided “he loved calling them ‘his generals’… now they’ve all turned on him”. But did they turn on Trump, or turn TOWARD the rest of America?
Three Didn’t Do the Right Thing – But Three Did
Sadly, those Minneapolis cops stood by, doing nothing to stop the other one from choking the life out of George Floyd. Thankfully, these leaders DID do the right thing – stopping a rogue president from choking the life out of our democracy, by abusing his power while using our esteemed military as his personal political weapon.
Moderates who believe in our democracy, in our honorable military leaders, and in the principle of protecting the common good, rather than the political whims of the commander in chief – better follow their lead. Speak up, act, do the right thing. And VOTE.
Photo (3 Minneapolis Policemen and George Floyd): Google Images/New York Post