Friday, October 20, 2017

The Wisdom of General John Kelly

     It has been many months since my last blog.  The reason - despite having only about 200 or so followers, I had one such follower that frightened me - WH.Gov. - the White House.  For the first time in my seventy-plus years as a citizen, I felt intimidated.  It was my Wizard of Oz moment as the cowardly lion, a moment that has silenced me far too long.  Especially after today.
     Retired General John Kelly make his second appearance in the White House Press Room Thursday afternoon in as many weeks.  What he said moved me to tears and left me seething with anger - tears for the brave son he lost in Afghanistan in 2010 and angered that something he considered inviolate was being demeaned; veneration and respect for young American soldiers killed in the line of duty.  General Kelly said, "I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die in the battlefield; I thought that might be sacred."
     It is, Gen. Kelly; it is.
     But not for Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.  She was privy to the telephone call made by President Trump to the widow of a soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four American servicemen killed in a terrorist ambush in Niger earlier this month. Mr. Trump had asked his chief-of-staff, "what do I say."  Paraphrasing Gen. Kelly, the President was advised to tell the families of the four fallen soldiers that they are among the one percent, the best this country has to offer, who volunteered to join the Armed Services, that they knew what they were signing up for and yet still chose to don the uniform of the United States and set out to far places around the world in an effort to keep terrorism from our shores. 
     No fan of President Trump, the vocal and often vitriolic congresswoman, know for her colorful hats, declared Trump's words to the widow were "disrespectful and even questioned Mr. Trump's mental stability on CNN.  This follows her several speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives calling for his impeachment.  I'm waiting for evidence of Mr. Trump's "high crimes and misdemeanors" from the good Congresswoman.  She will find that the basis for such an action in the U. S. Constitution.
     Gen. Kelly, now White House chief-of-staff was also listening.  He took great umbrage with the Rep. Wilson, dismissing her vitriol spewed against the President on CNN and other liberal leaning media outlets as "an empty barrel makes the most noise."
     Before he took to the press room podium, Gen.Kelly had gone to a place from which he draws great strength and humility, Arlington National Cemetery, and walked amidst the hallowed stones that mark the final resting place of many of our nation's heroes, some of whom Gen. Kelly noted sadly were there because they were carrying out his orders.
     A grieving Gen. Kelly and his wife never received a call from his commander-in-chief, President Obama.  Mr. Obama did send a letter acknowledging his son's sacrifice.  The General did not perceive getting only a letter as "disrespectful" in any way.  He said some past presidents have made calls, though not many.  Mostly they wrote letters.
    Since the loss of his son, General Kelly has continued to serve his country with great distinction, and still does in his new civilian role.
     Sadly, the empty barrel analogy speaks to the state of our divisive politics and race relations in this country.  Sgt. Johnson was African-American as is Congresswoman Wilson. I can only believe that Dr. Martin Luther King's heart is heavy tonight as I write this.  He, who gave the ultimate sacrifice to win civil rights for Americans of color.  And equality in the workplace for a white woman like me.  I was prohibited by AT&T policy from advancing above a supervisory position with the telephone company.  His civil rights movement changed that.  And I have been privileged to see Dr. King's legacy benefit my daughter and my granddaughters.
    But my greatest heroes are my sister, Kathey, and her husband, who, when faced with not being able to have children of their own chose to adopt two bi-racial children.  That was in the late seventies, long before it became more fashionable to adopt a child of color.  They remain doting parents to their son and daughter and to their daughter's son, who is the light of their life and a young man who now makes his parents, grandparents and aunts, especially this aunt, very proud.
     Black lives matter, white live matter, all lives matter.  When actor Spencer Tracy must come to terms with his daughter marrying a man of color in the 1969 movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, he delivers a profound soliloquy in which he tells the young couple, what we have is a problem of pigmentation.
     As a Christian, I believe we are all made in God's image.  Just as the earth is extraordinarily tinted with a plethora of color, so to are the people who inhabit this planet.  It is the beautiful diversity God gave us.  Let us champion and celebrate that diversity.  It is a gift.  And if we must kneel, may it be in a house of worship where we pray for those who cannot embrace this gift of diversity.

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