Poor Americans. Even when there's enough authentic drama in the world to provoke the angst of our most composed of human beings -- what with metastasizing wars, repeated beheadings, climate change crises; child refugees -- we as a nation still find time and energy to expend time and energy on the most inane of issues. Think beige suits, nude selfies, "chubby" senators and Palin fisticuffs. It's as if we, collectively, have -- as my mother used to say about my brother's eating capacity -- a bottomless pit... for pettiness disguised as righteous outrage.
This week we have the "latte salute."
I find myself shaking my head at what becomes "the news," what Americans find to argue about, froth over, take to social media to debate. I'm talking about both sides, all sides, every side. Media, and our slavishness to it, would have us believe (and it appears to be true) that we're culturally drawn to the most petulant, pouting expressions of our political, religious, and cultural differences, and we can't seem to take a stand or make a point without a predictable whine in our tone:
"... you know it's not a latte salute, it's a chai salute, because he drinks chai tea, but I mean please, how disrespectful was that?" Rove asked.
Well, please right back to you, Karl. I don't care whether it's George Bush toggling a terrier or Barack Obama balancing a half-caf or a chai, there's not a president in history who has not held the highest regard for the men and women of the military and if in a moment of rushing schedules, cumbersome canines, or disembarking distractions a proper military salute was not smartly delivered... SO WHAT??
We've been down this road before, remember? Our last "salute-gate" was back in May of 2013, when Obama disembarked the Air Force One helicopter while forgetting to salute and the universe tilted on its axis. The free-for-all that followed was enough to shame us all and, yet, here we are again... carrying on like a bunch of hissy-fitting teens over the perceived fumble of the head cheerleader.
COME ON, PEOPLE!
I've purposely ignored this percolating kerfuffle, figuring it would die out sooner than it has, but today on social media I noted not only a continuing rumble of expressed "offense taken" comments, but an implication that no matter what one's political leaning, it was only military men and women who could understood the depth of the President's slight, something us non-military personnel couldn't possibly grasp.
I remained unconvinced. Considering the gravitas of their positions, I would guess that military men and women understand the tremendous pressures of the Commander in Chief and are intelligent enough to forgive a salute that might occasionally include an errant coffee cup. I also have no doubt Obama has tremendous respect for the military and that intention carries far more weight than an unintentional salute slip-up. But it was when a true military man weighed in on the debate today that I felt the clearest points were made. This from a gentlemen I know who's allowed me to quote him by name, Michael Armijo:
"As an aircrewman - 25 years in the Army, I flew cadre for years, and if high ranking officers, generals or their officer staff saluted every time we did when entering and exiting the aircraft, their arms would fall off. To expect them to do so is ridiculous. A return salute is not expected or required by aircrew. That goes for the Commander In Chief also.
"In this picture/vid [the one of Obama's 'latte salute'] I think the President has just delivered a decisive attack on our enemies overseas who are sworn to kill us and he's taken us back into another war at the request of Congress and the majority of the American people. He was stepping off the aircraft prepared to address the United Nations in order to rally our allies.
"I think maybe he had things other than a salute on his mind.
"It's worthy to remark that nobody gave even a whisper when President Obama stood at stone-solid attention and gave an impeccable salute when they quietly unloaded the flag draped coffins of our fallen at Dover Air Base in Delaware just a while back. That can be sobering, I know, I've been there.
"Disrespect has to have purpose. This was not disrespect.
"In my opinion, President Obama is one of the best presidents we've had in 35 years - I might know, I served under most of them."
And that, to me, regardless of one's political stance or opinions about Obama, should put "latte-gate" into proper perspective. Period. End of sentence.
Here's a suggestion for us all: given the state of the world and the demand to find a necessary balance to live our lives as best we can while still being aware that millions are dying of ebola, terrorism, warfare, and poverty; that climate change is real and literally changing our planet; that economies remain choked, jobs unstable, and, for many, money scarce; while we're all trying to raise our families, take care of our elderly, keep ourselves healthy and enjoy the beauty of nature, creativity, and love... how about we stop embroiling ourselves in pettiness, banality, judgment, disdain, partisanship, and all those other limiting, negative, diminishing attributes we all know so well?
Let's stop sharing the intentionally incendiary blather from those like Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck, Hannity, Rove, Palin; et al. Let's eschew "gotcha" journalism and click-bait news. Let's agree to disagree politically without reverting to ugliness, pugilism, and denigration (that goes for ALL sides!). Let's get productive and proactive and decide that compromise and thoughtfulness are not signs of weakness. Let's respect our leaders -- even those on the other side of the aisles on which we stand -- unless they actively give us reason not to. Let's peel our attention away from 24/7 negativity and see what we can do to actively, constructively, in real-world tangible ways, make things better. Let's do that.
Because, I guarantee: spending time debating selfies, salutes, and beige suits is not ever going to get us closer to "better."
Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke on Facebook, Twitter, and Rock+Paper+Music. Find details and links to her other work at www.lorrainedevonwilke.com and her Author Page at Amazon, watch her book trailer HERE, and be sure to follow her adventures in independent publishing @ AfterTheSuckerPunch.com.
AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH
by Lorraine Devon Wilke