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The Resistance Prays

December 27, 2018
By Rev. Posey Krakowsky

Today's Top Story

The New York Times reports that President Trump may have avoided serving in Vietnam because a Queens podiatrist falsely diagnosed him with bones spurs as a favor to his father, Fred C. Trump. In exchange, the podiatrist, who was a tenant of the Trump family, may have received favorable and rapid attention when he had issues with his office building.

According to the Times, “The podiatrist, Dr. Larry Braunstein, died in 2007. But his daughters say their father often told the story of coming to the aid of a young Mr. Trump during the Vietnam War as a favor to his father.”

It is unclear if the doctor ever actually examined President Trump. It is also, to be fair, unclear if this story is just Braunstein family lore or reality. There are no remaining medical records, and the president has not chosen to show the “very strong letter” he presented at the time to the draft board. (Again, to be fair, the president may not have the letter anymore - this all happened in 1968.) If this all happened in 1968, then why are we talking about it? Why would such a story be on the cover of the New York Times — especially if it is an unsubstantiated rumor with no paper trail?

Scripture 
When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.” Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to look for David and his men in the direction of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. The men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. Afterward David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord’s anointed.” So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. Then Saul got up and left the cave, and went on his way. - 1 Samuel 24: 1-7
Respecting the Dignity of Every Human Being, Including Combatants

Why are we still talking about Trump’s bones spurs from 1968? Because despite his sudden (and first) trip to visit the troops in Iraq yesterday, so much of Trump’s habitual behavior shows that he does not really honor our veterans. His disrespect makes the his own lack of service all the more jarring.

Just to be clear, I am not shaming President Trump for avoiding going to Vietnam. It was a horrible war, and Trump was not the only one who took active measures to get himself out of fighting. That being said, it is important to note that throughout history, getting out of military service has been far easier for those with money than those without. Vietnam was no exception to this rule. This was true for both Democrats and Republicans. And privileged men of both parties exploited this advantage.

What I do take exception to is Trump’s frequent baiting and shaming of those who have served - especially those who served with honor. Trump’s dismissive comments about the late Senator John McCain - not only a Vietnam veteran, but also a prisoner of war who refused to use his own privilege to get him out ahead of his fellow soldiers - are only one example. There’s also Trump's failure to show up at a ceremony to honor American First World War dead at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in November of this year. And his peevish behavior at the funeral of President George H. W. Bush (a World War II vet). What about his boorish condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, widow of LaDavid Johnson, who was killed in Niger in 2017? The list goes on and on. Just yesterday, Trump repeated a lie to the troops in Iraq - telling them that he had gotten them a 10% pay raise (via CNN.) This is Trump’s all-too-familiar pattern - he degrades and denigrates the achievements of those who have accomplished what he has avoided or been unable to do himself.

Whether or not we agree with a particular war, most of us agree that those who do serve have earned our respect for their service. The passage from 1st Samuel makes this clear: David does not take an easy opportunity to kill Saul because it is not honorable or respectful to do so when Saul is relieving himself, no matter how convenient it would be for David. There are rules and norms of conduct, even in wartime. And respecting all combatants, even those on the opposite side, is one of those rules. It is especially important for the president of the United States to observe and model these norms. And yet this is another norm that Donald J. Trump has blithely shattered.

Act

In the Episcopal Church, my own tradition, our baptismal covenant asks us to "respect the dignity of every human being." This includes veterans. We can all make an effort to honor veterans for their service. Here is a website from the Veterans Administration that gives many different suggestions about how to do this. Some of them may feel jingoistic and unsuitable, but there are 45 of them - we can each find more than one that works for us.

Pray

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping the women and men serving in armed forces in all nations all over the world. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; help them make decisions that benefit the common good; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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