On December 15, 2015, America and much of the world, were given nearly 5 hours of the best the GOP has to offer when it comes to national security. Vying for the Republican Presidential nomination viewers were presented with a CNN Debate that had the production value and hype of a major sporting event. I eagerly awaited the entrance music, fireworks, and Micheal Buffer’s famous “Let’s Get Ready to Ruuumble.” The Party faithful were given so much of the red-meat they crave, that they’re going to have to schedule a colonoscopy.
Those of us who aren’t part of the GOP base heard “Ruuuun the Moozlums are coming!” and war, war, war, fear, fear, fear, and the country was better off with George W. Bush!
The debate was about National Security or in GOP speak: What are you going to do about the Moozlums and Russia? No mention of gun violence, domestic terrorism which by the way 90% is committed by White Male Christians, nor Climate Control.
As a Black, American, Muslim, Veteran, I was left more than a little underwhelmed. In truth, I spent more time tweeting in all caps due to my outrage at some of the things that were said, than anything else. After all the debating was done, I felt as if I were a wet rag, wrung out and left to dry. To even think that any of those candidates could possibly be the next President of the United States is terrifying, some (Trump/Cruz) more than others.
Being a Black man, I didn’t expect any issues regarding the Black community to be addressed and I was right. No mention of Black unemployment, disproportionate incarceration and sentences, or any #BlackLivesMatter causes. Outside of having a Black man on the stage, the GOP had zero to offer Black Americans. I guess these issues will have to wait until they get around to discussing domestic policy, but I won’t hold my breath.
As an American in general, I’m disturbed by the vision these candidates put forth in both debates. In no uncertain terms, the candidates mostly agreed that we should be engaged in perpetual war in the Middle East, that we should give up our privacy for security’s sake, and that the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, should be suspended or not apply at all to some Americans. For a Party that calls itself Conservative, the proposals put forth, which would see an increase in our Defense spending (55% of our budget already goes to Defense), requiring private companies to give the government customer data if suspected of crimes, and drastically changing the Constitution, were the direct opposite of anything conservative. Add to the fact that they mocked Climate Change as a concern and you’d have to wonder if the GOP has a different English dictionary than everyone one else defining the word conserve.
It was definitely not a good night if you are a Muslim and I seriously doubt the GOP cares if they get any votes from American Muslims at all. With notable exceptions such as Senator Lindsey Graham’s passionate appeal to end this anti-Muslim rhetoric, Muslims were bombarded with accusation after accusation that made me feel as if Islam were on trial. In the 1st debate, Rick Santorum spoke at great length about Islam not really being a religion thereby excluding it from the same legal protections as other religions. To hear him speak about Sunnis, Shia, Jihad, and the Caliphate you’d think he were an expert on Islamic Studies. Except all his “facts” were wrong. Huckabee agreed which isn’t surprising and Graham and Kasich looked on uncomfortably. You could see in their eyes that that they realized that the inmates are running the asylum these days.
The second round of debates weren’t that much easier on Muslims either. The suspension of rights, surveillance of Mosques, and even the indiscriminate killing of innocent women and children either through carpet bombing or targeted assassinations of terrorist’s families were openly discussed as serious policy proposals and not the insane, fascist, rantings they were. Trump and others double downed on the barring of Muslims immigrating into the US and Cruz had a fascination with the term Radical Islamic Terrorism. Unfortunately, for Cruz and those like him who couldn’t strategize out of a wet paper bag, what they call being PC i.e. being correct in politics, is the right way to do things. The phrase “Radical Islam” is insulting to potential Muslim allies. When you insult your allies, you help recruit for ISIS. The war they claim to want to win is prolonged ever time they put their low information base above the safety and security of all Americans and our troops overseas. Actual professionals in the Federal Government, Private Sector, and even the Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, have pointed out that this way of speaking about Muslims only helps the enemy.
If a bunch of voters from the GOP Base want to hear derogatory and inflammatory rhetoric towards Muslims, if it’ll get votes, these candidates are all to eager to comply. Votes apparently, are more important than national security in a supposed national security debate.
As a veteran I was more than a little upset. In the first debate Santorum with his women should be barefoot and pregnant rhetoric, suggested that not only should women not be able to serve in combat roles, but also that the generals had it all wrong and though he a guy who’s never served in the Military a day in his life, had all the answers. He promised in no uncertain terms that he’d roll back the Military’s rules that allow women to serve in combat roles. I imagine he’d do the same for DADT as well. Rick Santorum’s comments were offensive because they presumed that women weren’t capable and that the leadership of the military would change it’s standards and weaken readiness, just to appease politics. Or worse, that the Pentagon leadership is incompetent.
This idea the the military didn’t know what it was doing, continued to be the talking point of the night. In the first and second rounds of debate the reoccurring theme was that the military was weak and couldn’t do its job, the Generals at the Pentagon were clueless puppets for Obama, and that America was worse now than it has ever been in American history apparently. This line of commentary was especially troubling, because all of these candidates are vying to be Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces, yet before they’re even close to remotely being sworn in, they’ve already disrespected those whom they’d potentially lead. A leader who doesn’t respect those under his or her command isn’t much of a leader at all. They’re a figurehead who inspires no loyalty or confidence and is just an inept politician.
I could go on, but in the end, this isn’t about me regardless of my background or perspective. This is about the future of our country. We can choose to live in a country that sees diversity as the enemy, hope as weakness, and respect as a pointless exercise in being PC, or we could choose to rise above our prejudices and the differences that divide us, knowing that true strength is when we rise above fear and move forward in hope, love, peace, and strength.