Classless. That is the only term I can use in a family newspaper to describe Donald Trump’s comments about the passing of Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who died from COVID-19 complications on Oct. 18.
Said Trump, “Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday. He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace.” Does the guy have to insult everybody? Is he that insecure?
Longtime Georgia state representative and arch-conservative Don Parsons, of Cobb County, responded, “I believe it is important that people know that Donald Trump does not speak for this Republican in his statement about General Colin Powell. Even after what he, who has never served one day in the uniform of the Armed Forces of our nation, has said about the late Senator McCain, as well about General Mattis, General Kelly and others, I was somewhat taken by surprise by his statement. General Powell was a great soldier and a man of character and integrity. He loved our nation and served it well.” Amen.
Colin Powell is an American success story. He didn’t inherit millions of dollars from his daddy’s real estate empire in Manhattan. He was the son of Jamaican parents — a shipping clerk and a seamstress. He didn’t attend a fancy boarding school. He attended public schools in the South Bronx.
Upon graduation from the City College of New York, Colin Powell joined the United States Army. After a short tour of duty in Vietnam in the early ’60s, Powell returned in 1968 as a major and assistant chief of staff of operations. He was decorated for bravery after surviving a helicopter crash and then rescuing three others from the burning wreckage.
That same year, following four earlier deferments for education, Donald Trump, 22, was exempted from the draft after being diagnosed with bone spurs in his heels.
We hear the word “patriot” tossed around a lot these days. I looked the term up. It is defined as “A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” Somehow, it has been coopted by right-wing groups who believe themselves to be the only true patriots and those who disagree as the enemy. Trump even referred to those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 as “patriots.”
Let me offer another view of patriotism. Oliver Halle is a retired FBI agent, a Vietnam veteran and an unabashed liberal. We have had many spirited political discussions over the years and have come to the conclusion that about the only thing we can agree on is the time of day. And not always that.
Halle was a Swift Boat commander in Vietnam. He and his five-man crew patrolled the narrow inlets and canals within the country, helping get Navy SEALS and Green Berets on shore, providing them gunfire support and emergency extraction if needed, as well as intercepting North Vietnamese and Viet Cong contraband. Extremely dangerous business.
While we don’t see eye-to-eye on politics, Oliver Halle is by my definition a patriot, and, not surprisingly, one with a different opinion about the country he defended than that of some of the self-described patriots.
He says, “I strongly believe the reason America is exceptional is because it is the one country that protects the right to be different, the right to dissent, the right to express outrageous opinions---all without a knock at the door at midnight. That includes burning the flag in protest, among the many activities and forms of expression that don’t sit well with ‘patriots.’ And while not sitting well with me, necessarily, we wouldn’t be America without the most important of all amendments, the First Amendment.”
The privilege to express outrageous opinions, therefore, extends to Donald Trump. He can demean the legacy of a Great American like Colin Powell. That is his right. I can also express my opinion that he has shown a lack of class and thumb-sucking petulance in doing so. Now you have the right to express your opinion of my opinion of Donald Trump’s opinion. This is what Colin Powell, Oliver Halle and thousands of other fought and risked their lives for. They are the true patriots.