This is a political post. If you don’t like political posts on a blog set up as a writer’s space, then skip this one and find something more to your taste.
It’s January 12 as I write this. In ordinary times I’d be a week further along in the revisions and at least halfway done with the annual wildlife management report required by our county’s tax appraisal district. But as it became obvious (certainly very clear by January 5, when they started pouring into Washington, D.C., and the more extreme Republican politicians, including the President, were urging on their extreme followers) that there would be an assault on the Capitol building the next day, and it could become very bad indeed. How bad, we’d have to find out in medias res, as it were.
I know some of you are not US citizens and thus some things may not be obvious to you, so I’ll try to add in some [boxes] that those who know already can skip over. We don’t have a working TV, and I knew reportage would be chaotic anyway. I’m a little over 1800 miles [2240 kilometers] from D.C. which means no matter what happens I can’t affect it. I had been emailing my U.S. Congressman (John Carter, Republican) and both Senators (John Cornyn, Ted Cruz) over the previous week, but they’re all stone Republicans and never act as I’d wish. So instead of watching what news was available online, I spent the day mostly in prayer, on the National Cathedral site. They have lots of material up to read, watch, or listen to, and it was calming indeed. (I may suggest to them that putting up some music files would be really useful at times like this. Late in the afternoon, after the horses’ evening feed, I went back online and learned what had happened and what was still going on. I’m assuming most of you have seen/heard enough by now to have a rough idea, but I don’t know what newsfeeds you were able to get, or if you’ve followed some (any) of what’s been learned since.
First, my background and biases. I first went to Washington on a trip with my mother at age 11. We were in Washington for about 3 days, I think, and there was no way we could see everything, walk around everything. We arrived by bus, stayed at a modest hotel, took a quick taxi ride around the monuments, visited the National Gallery, the National Archives (Constitution and Declaration of Independence), parts of the Smithsonian, saw the Capitol from the outside and I think went in and looked up in the rotunda (I kindasorta remember that) and the White House from outside. We didn’t have time to sign up for a tour of that. We had a short time at the National Zoo (where my mother backed away from a scary snake in the reptile house and didn’t realize she’d edged around a warning post until a snake in confinement *behind* her struck the glass. It was a King Cobra, and the first time I’d ever seen my mother really afraid. We left the reptile house immediately.) The National Zoo had a baby giraffe, I remember. We also took a combination boat and bus tour out to Mount Vernon and back.
The next time I went to Washington, D.C. I was in uniform, stationed at Headquarters Marine Corps and assigned to the Systems Design and Programming unit, to head a miniscule group (myself and two enlisted personnel, later increased for a time to three) working on converting two paper-based accounting messes to neat, tidy computer files you could random access. That’s another fifteen or twenty stories. We were housed across a highway from the Pentagon for the first year, and then moved to a different building almost on the Potomac, downstream of most of the city. There was no on-base housing for me, and I was lucky to find an apartment in Alexandria that I could afford. This was during ‘Nam. I traveled by bus or car to and from the WWII “temporary” buildings we inhabited. They aren’t there now. As an outdoor semi-country girl, I spent most of my free time out in the country, a lot of it in Shenandoah National Park, hiking. But I did take a couple of night classes at the Smithsonian, visited museums, etc. I became comfortable in D.C., though not driving in its city traffic. I’ve always preferred driving back roads, however twisty and rough.
As I said, during ‘Nam. Stationed there from about September ’69 through leaving active duty in (June? July? not sure) ’71. Yes, there were demonstrations. A bus I was in had rocks thrown at it, but not dangerously. It was a curious mixture, on the streets or in stores, etc, between extreme almost fawning admiration for military personnel and extreme nastiness and hatred for us. Away from demonstrations, mostly civilians and military were careful to avoid starting trouble, but not always and one needed to be careful. R- was at a different base at first (he was Army, not Marines), and then in ‘Nam for a year and then returned, left active duty, and went to work as an orderly at one of the hospitals; I don’t remember which. A couple of days before we were going to head back to Texas, he got word he’d been called up for his summer training with the Pennsylvania National Guard at a place that resembled, he said, “Camp Swampy” in the old Beetle Bailey cartoons, down in Virginia someplace. Another set of stories as are many other things in the decades since.
So what the heck went on last Wednesday and why did it happen like that? Armed insurrection, a seditious attempt to interfere with the legal and required government procedures leading to an orderly transfer from one Administration to another, an illegal and violent invasion of the Capitol building by a large and unruly mob, stiffened by cadres of trained military and paramilitary personnel that almost led to members of Congress being in immediate danger from armed invaders. It was incited, and enabled, by the corrupt, dishonest, and treasonous Trump Administration, including Trump’s post-election appointees in the Pentagon, who prevented any adequate protection from reaching the Capitol for two or more hours. It was essentially unopposed that’s what Trump wanted, and put in place, with the help of those who knew exactly which levers to tie down. Some current members of the House and Senate incited this riot; some showed up and cheered on the participants as it happened; some colluded with the insurgents from within the Capitol building (for instance, tweeting Speaker Pelosi’s whereabouts when the individual knew she was on the insurgents’ hit list.) So did some off-duty law enforcement and military personnel, and some former military.
This was not only illegal but unethical. The President, like every other person in government, swears an oath of office, and all those oaths contain one or another wording of “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Every military officer. Every law enforcement officer. Every sheriff. Every legislator. Others swear a similar oath (referring always to the Constitution) but may also include vows of loyalty or obedience to lesser authorities. Military officers–including me and the oath I swore the day I was commissioned–swear to support and defend the Constitution. Intentionally, they do not swear obedience to any higher authority. Same with Presidents and Vice-Presidents. We are swearing loyalty not to the flag, or a branch of service, or officers senior to us, or even the President…but to the Constitution. And quite a bit in the military law course we were given as officer-candidates dwells on what this duty means, and how it is parsed in practice. It means we have the duty to notice whether the orders we’re given are legal or not…and if they are not, we have the duty to inform the giver of the orders that they’re illegal. And then the duty to refuse to obey them.
Members of Congress have the duty also to support and defend the Constitution “against all enemies foreign and domestic.” They have a duty to the Constitution that is supposed to transcend party, location from which they were elected, and any pressure from constituents or donors to their campaigns. Attempting to overturn the proper business of government (like the presidential election) or interfere with it (by invading Congress and trying to scare them into not accepting the Electoral College results) is exactly opposite to their sworn duty: it is neither supporting nor defending the Constitution, but trying to nullify it. So members of Congress supporting the insurgents, cheering them on, helping them find things they want to trash or people they want to kill…is proof that they have broken (abandoned) their oaths of office. In regard to impeachment, keep in mind that voting for impeachment is voting for the basis of our law, law & order generally, and voting against impeachment is voting for rioting, vandalism, theft, murder, threats, and the destruction of our government.
Back in 1968, when I joined the Marine Corps and made it through OTC (which amazed my mother–she knew what a disorganized scatterbrain I could be) and was commissioned, I took that oath I’ve been talking about. Here’s the whole thing: “I, [full name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” The oath is for an indeterminate period. Some who abide by it well shrug it off when they leave the military: that was then, this is now. Others feel in their heart and soul that it’s not just indeterminate but lifelong. I’m in that group. Quite a number of Marines are. After all, our motto is Semper Fidelis, always faithful. Faithful to what? To our promises, our oath…THAT oath in particular. That saying “There’s no such thing as a former Marine” is, for some of us true. You can leave the Corps; the Corps doesn’t leave you. The Corps changed me. I was not, by the way, a perfect specimen by any means….and I’m sure not a perfect specimen now, at almost 76. Nor was the Corps the only influence in my life. But with respect to citizenship, and my commitment to the Constitution above state, above party, above person, there it is, always in my head: Semper Fidelis…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic….ALWAYS faithful.
So when I observe a President, a Commander in Chief, complaining that the Constitution is “inconvenient” and when I see him encouraging his followers to go to the Capitol and fight, force Congress to do his will…and I know this is not the first time he’s broken faith with his oath of office…I become…well, no word for it but angry. When I see Senators and Representatives, who took that same oath ignoring their duty to the nation, to the Constitution, and supporting him, defending him, instead of the Constitution…the anger grows greater with every seditious and treasonous and disgusting phrase. So a small warning to you, friends near and far, foreign and domestic. This is not a topic I can easily discuss (this took hours and hours to write) and I do not want to “argue” it. Best to just walk away, if you want to argue it, and go find someone else. My heart is sore, grieving for this, that I couldn’t prevent it, that I couldn’t make a dent in the solid Trumpism of my own Congressional Rep. and the two Texas Senators. But this is where I am, and you’re safer knowing that the bear has a very, very sore nose that should not be tweaked right now. I have a whole category of language you haven’t heard me use (guess where I learned it) and would prefer not to have that particular Pandora’s box unlatched until I’m calmer. Semper Fi.
And I have to get the wildlife management report to the county tax appraisal district office by Jan 31 or else. So tomorrow starts…er…later today starts the home stretch push on that one.