By Matthew Wadler:
“CPT Sobel…we salute the rank, not the man.” As most readers will recognize, this comes from the HBO series Band of Brothers, where MAJ Winters confronts CPT Sobel for not paying the proper respect to Winters’ rank because of personality conflicts. It is from here that I wish to begin this article; not on the concept of respect (which is seemingly difficult to understand these days in and of itself), but the concept of separating people and positions.
Granted—especially in the real-life scenario on which this was based—there was quite of bit of background between these two men. In fact, Dick Winters was not shy about his amazing detest for Sobel, even long after WWII. But his dislike for the man only really heightens the point of this story. You can respect a leader regardless of their position or rank. You can, conversely, detest everything a man stands for and wish to have no interaction with him at all. A position or rank, however, is an entirely different situation in the case of the military.
I once had a friend of mine who had a very unique way of separating out those who outranked him that he didn’t like. To him, sir or ma’am was a sign of heartfelt respect. He refused to use this nomenclature on anyone he did not hold in high regard. For those he did not respect, he would always call them by their rank and name. So instead of “Good morning, sir,” he would say, “Good morning, CPT Jensen.” He understood that he must respect their title as a member of the military. He understood that this adherence to such cultural norms was the very foundation of the discipline that keeps the military together. In his adaptation, he ensured that he could feel his disdain at the individual while still respecting and showing proper reverence to the rank.
For me personally, I was taught at a very young age in the Army to understand the difference between the man and the rank. I have had great friends in the military that I had to tell, quite bluntly, that they were horrible officers. They simply did not have the leadership qualities it took to lead soldiers. On the other hand, I have also had subordinates I personally could not stand who were exceptionally good leaders. They simply led in a way that I disagreed with. Yet my feelings did not matter, as they were still effective leaders who were able to build unit cohesion and esprit de corps.
I fail to understand why people cannot evaluate the position of president in the same light. I have grown weary of the “not my president” posts all over social media. If only life were that easy. In fact, I agree. I am going to send the IRS a note that says “not my taxes.” Since I don’t want my tax dollars going to our over-bloated bureaucracy or wasteful projects, it only seems fair that I shouldn’t have to pay. I think we should send China a letter from the US as well—“not our debt.” I didn’t vote for Obama or his policies. I have always been a believer and supporter of a balanced budget and view our bloated debt as a severe national security risk. I say that we put that obligation on him and his supporters. Clearly, those who are in favor of social welfare would love nothing more than to accept the liability that such programs create.
These are clearly sarcastic statements. We cannot create such division fiscally or politically– not without tearing our country apart. Recently, I saw a post on Facebook from someone who clearly leans to the left (and by leaning, I mean falling over). She was talking about the Women’s Rights March in Washington that occurred the day after the inauguration. Curious as to her response, I asked a simple question: “What were they protesting?” Her response was,
“I am protesting for pro-choice! I should never have anyone tell me or any other woman what they can or cannot do to their body! LGBTQ right, which affect me! I am protesting against the super-rich unqualified people wanting cabinet positions with conflict of interest. I protest against tagging Muslims and making them register. This is America, we are founded on diversity of nationality and difference of religion! I protest against racism! I protest for my daughter and nieces, hoping that no one ever treats them like second-class citizens!”
She finished with,
“But I’m sick and tired of being called a snowflake a libertard blah blah…I’m not asking you to join me, I’m just asking you not to criticize me for what I believe in. I’m just asking for my rights to be saved; I’m not asking anything to be taken away from you.”
At first, I felt compelled to respond to this. She clearly is against everything I believe in. Then I reread her post many more times. Really, who is she attacking? She wasn’t calling for violence. While I believe that many of her statements are incorrect and simply propagated by left-leaning sources, what caught me most was her statement of being tired of being called a “snowflake.” I look at this statement from multiple angles. First, I clearly see the irony in someone from the left being upset about what the left has mastered over the years: racist, tea-bagger, bigot, anti-gender, birther, pollutionist, religious fanatic, homophobe, warmonger, and my favorite of all time—baby killer. Yet this woman has never called me any names, and for all I know has never called anyone any names. What gain do I have by going in and attacking her?
This is where we have come as a country. It is especially clear with the President, but it should apply equally to everyone. People keep saying that Trump has to earn respect before they will give him a chance. That goes against everything that the left purports to believe in. Love, acceptance, inclusiveness—these are all statements made by the left at numerous rallies. Yet what do we actually hear? Hate, segregation, and name-calling.
I have said this multiple times in several of the articles I have written: the President of the United States is no longer an individual. They are the embodiment of the Constitution. From the moment they take that oath until the day they die, they are a national treasure and deserve to be respected for the office that they have held. For example, I believe that Obama and Carter are two of the worst presidents we have seen in modern times, yet I will not abash them personally. They both had views for our country that were far outside of what I believe we stand for as a nation. Yet at the same time, I believe quite sincerely that they both were doing what they felt was right.
With all of this said, I do believe that there is one exception to the rule. Under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution,
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
In the case of impeachment or conviction, the President forfeits their right to such high regard. This clearly makes sense; as the physical embodiment of our most sacred of documents, should the President turn his back to our nation, there needs to be a consequence.
Minus such a case, however, the office of president should automatically garner respect from all Americans. Respect does not mean adoration or blind obedience. Protesting is a hallmark of the American way of life. It is one of the best ways to have your cause exposed to others and garner support. When we turn to personal attacks, however, we lose the ability to sway others. Ideologues will be enchanted with the rhetoric, obviously, but that does nothing to help convince others. They simply look at you with deeper contempt.
Matthew Wadler is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army veteran. Matt served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring. His service includes time as Military Police, Field Artillery, Adjutant General, and Recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. His formal education includes a master’s degree in HR Management. He is a strong supporter of the constitution and advocate for the military and veteran communities. Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewWadler.
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