What Rights Do You Have in The Military?

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One of the most overlooked professions in this country is that of being a member of the Armed Forces. Whether you’re Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard or a Reservist (yes, the way they are used today, they deserve to be noted also), the work that these men and women do goes literally above and beyond the call of duty. Not only do they perform these jobs – often without much recognition – but they will also give up a tremendous amount to be able to wear the uniform of a United States military member.

A couple of stories recently in the news encapsulates these points very well. While it is not officially recognized as a part of the military, The Citadel has the highest percentage of any U. S. college student body that has gone on to serve in the military; to be exact, all but 46 of their living graduates have been or are members of the Armed Forces (perhaps because every student is a member of ROTC, which eases the transition into the military’s officer programs). Thus, their rules are pretty much in line with that of the Armed Forces itself in the conduct and dress of cadets.

According to recent reports, a prospective student recently accepted to The Citadel has challenged the college, requesting to wear a hijab – the traditional headscarf that Muslim women are required to wear – and to have thorough coverage of her arms and legs per the religious dictates of Islam. The Citadel, however, denied that request, citing that the dress code that is dictated to the cadets emphasize the uniformity of a military organization. “The Citadel has relied upon a highly effective educational model requiring all cadets to adopt a common uniform. Uniformity is the cornerstone of this four-year leader development model,” the Commandant of The Citadel, Lt. General John W. Rosa, said in a statement that was released by USA Today. “This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit.”

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Now it has to be noted that The Citadel does have three Muslim members in attendance at the university, so it isn’t like they haven’t dealt with this situation previously. In addition, The Citadel – as do all of the military academic academies – do make accommodations for particular religious diets and services. As of now, the student has decided not to enroll at The Citadel, but her family is considering legal action against the public institution.

On another military-related front, a group of black female cadets from West Point, the Army’s academy, will not be reprimanded for posing for a photograph on the West Point grounds. While wearing their cadet dress uniforms, the women posed on the stairs of their barracks with their fists in the air – the “Black Power” salute – which drew the outrage of some when it somehow found its way into the media. After an investigation, the U. S. Department of Defense decided that the cadets didn’t break any rules with their actions and, as such, no reprimands or punishments would be issued.

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For those that aren’t a part of the military (or have never been), there are several huge differences between military life and civilian life. To be honest, there are some that function better under the guidance of the military lifestyle than they would in the civilian world. But there is one thing that is undoubtedly true…when you’re in the military, you do not have the rights that you would have in the civilian world.

As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, I saw on a regular basis how rights that you have come to expect – nay, are granted – in the civilian life DO NOT EXIST once you don the uniform to defend your country.

Freedom of speech? As a member of the military, you do not have the ability to discuss any situation, whether in support or opposition to the President of the United States or the government, otherwise you can face a court martial for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is something that was seen a few years ago in something that, personally for me, was quite annoying.

Over Facebook a few years ago, there was a rash of supposed “military members” (I say supposed because there were several of these photos that looked photoshopped) who would post pictures of themselves with quotations about their opposition to service in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or potentially being sent to another conflict in the Middle East. These quotations, normally written on a piece of paper, were then held strategically to block the “military member’s” face so that they would not face punishment for what they were doing (if you had any cojones, you’d stand behind your words, show your face and give your name). The movement died off fairly quickly, however, for reasons unknown.

Political freedom? While in uniform, a military member cannot support any political activity, much in line with being unable to have freedom of speech. In 2012, an Army Reservist was reprimanded by his superiors for speaking at a Ron Paul for President rally, then going on to do a live interview with CNN regarding his position on the wars in the Middle East.

When it comes to religious freedoms, the military begrudgingly breaks on that front. They will allow for special meals, even for Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath, which usually entails that the practitioner abstain from working, electronic activities and other non-restful activities) or, in extreme cases, some clothing (The Citadel does note a cadet was allowed to wear long pants during physical training “about eight years ago” in a break with their normal attire). They also will provide adequately trained religious leaders – priests, rabbis, etc. – to conduct services for their servicemen and women.

Double jeopardy? In the civilian world, that exists. In the military, you can be punished on many occasions for the same offense. I saw many a fellow Marine who, after committing some offense out in the town, be subjected to the military’s form of justice under the UCMJ. Even if the civilian case was eventually dismissed for one reason or another, the military was never wrong and their punishment always stood.

Basically, if you enter the military, you are owned by the federal government. They have the right to tell you where to go, when to do it, how to do it and what will happen to you if you don’t do it that particular way. They also can tell you what to do in your daily life, whether you are on the base or living off base…their rules are final and unyielding.

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In the case of The Citadel, they did the right thing. While making accommodations for religious reasons isn’t out of the question, there is an importance to having all members conform to the same regulations and be judged by the same rules. If someone is allowed a different form of clothing – regardless if it for a religious reason or not – then they are not being held to the same standards as another cadet. As such, I believe The Citadel is right.

I do believe that the commanders at West Point got it wrong, though. Although one of the superintendents at the Army’s academy stated the cadets would “receive some instruction,” part of the reason they are at West Point is to learn how to conduct themselves as an officer in the United States Army. Doing things such as the “Black Power” salute – which is perfectly allowable if you’re a civilian – while wearing your cadet uniform IS a violation of the UCMJ. A reprimand was completely in line…expulsion, as some suggested? No, nowhere close to being an offense worthy of being tossed from school.

We hear a great deal of talk about freedoms in the United States and it is important to think about them carefully. Those that defend those freedoms – the men and women of the United States Armed Forces – don’t have the same voice that we civilians do. You learn to appreciate that when you’ve been in the military previously.

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The Sane Side Finally Stands Up in The Republican Party, But It’s Too Late to Save the Institution

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Ever since the stampede that began literally three years ago following Barack Obama’s re-election and inauguration to a second term as President of the United States – and if you don’t think the 2016 Presidential Race began there, you’re adorably naïve – it seems that, at least for one side of the two party system in the United States, the inmates have taken over the asylum (and just as a tangent, if any other country in the world said “we only have two parties to choose our leadership from,” the U. S. would be screaming voter repression from the highest peaks…in our own country? Not a peep.). The Republican Party – the party that once held such great thinkers as Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, other politicians such as Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller, journalists Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and the late William F. Buckley – has usually been able to bring some sane minds to its leadership. Around the turn of the century, however, there was a change in the thinking, what became the Neo-conservative mindset, that splintered a once great party. Instead of being a party of intelligence like the people above, it began to erode from the inside, with its hoi polloi beginning to follow the baying of hounds such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the en masse robotic diatribes that flow from Fox News, turning the GOP base into an ugly, misogynistic, xenophobic, scared-of-its-own-shadow (and any minority that may have the audacity to even begin to think its…equal…to them) mob.

The sane side let the mob rant and rave after Obama’s election in 2008 and his re-election in 2012, saving its energy for the 2016 election. They set about trying to say all the right things in their 2012 “autopsy” about what went wrong:  they needed to reach out to women and all minorities – Asians, Hispanics, blacks and gay voters – and needed to have a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. They needed to have fewer debates – presumably so their candidates didn’t shoot themselves in the foot as often as they did in the run-up to the 2012 election – and needed to decide their nominee earlier, changing their primary structure. But the sane side said their principles were still good, they just weren’t “resonating” with the electorate.

Then the sane side let the maniacs in the asylum take over.

It started in 2010, actually. Elected that year, Florida Senator Marco Rubio had made it clear that there was only one aspiration that he desired in his political career and it wasn’t to sit in the U. S. Senate for the rest of his career, it was to be the President of the United States. In 2012, another player came along with that same philosophy, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and both of these men were embraced by the “Tea Party” element (the “Tea Party” element is actually a bastardization of the group originally started by former Texas Representative Ron Paul, but that’s another story for another time). While they didn’t announce it, both of these men were running for the GOP nomination well before they even inked the paper letting the Republican Party know they were in the race for 2016.

The Republican National Committee, after their 2012 “autopsy” and all their plans and their sanity, saw the maniacs bring that all crashing down. They were OK with Rubio (not so much with Cruz) but, after the November 2014 midterm elections Dr. Ben Carson, a darling of the “Tea Party,” began to leak information that he “was interested” in running for the GOP nomination and actually entered the race in May 2015. Instead of getting a few “qualified” candidates, the floodgates opened; by the time the spigot closed, 17 people had announced their candidacy for the Republican nomination, an unruly amount that would present logistical difficulties on several fronts.

It was one of those 17 candidates that truly exposed the maniacal – or, perhaps at its unfortunate worst, the true heart – of the Republican Party. When he made his announcement in June that he would seek the GOP nomination, billionaire Donald Trump immediately stuck his foot in his mouth by insinuating that Mexicans were “rapists, drug dealers…and a few are good people, I’m sure.” He said he would deport all illegal immigrants – estimated to be approximately 12 million in the United States – and build “a wall” on the border between Mexico and the U. S. and “force Mexico to pay for it.”

In a normal world, under normal circumstances and with a normal party that hadn’t fanned the flames of xenophobia and racism after being thumped twice in a Presidential race, Trump’s comments would have brought a direct disavowal from the party’s leadership. Instead, the party’s leadership reached out and embraced Trump while at the same time trying to look aghast at what he was saying. The sane side of the party sat on the bench and tried to reason that their fellow Republicans would come to their senses and realize the rhetoric that the Orangutan Mutant was spewing wasn’t A) becoming of a member of their party, let alone the human race, and B) would eventually move towards a better choice.

As Trump’s comments became more outrageous, his support grew rather than fell. Disparage a decorated military veteran who was a POW in Vietnam? Sure! Ridicule a handicapped journalist? He’s on it! Want me to bash women? Let’s talk about their looks and menstrual cycle! It’s now gotten to the point that Trump has discussed killing journalists and that he could “shoot someone” in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City and not lose any voter support. We’ve even reached the point where white supremacist organizations are sending Trump information over Twitter…AND HE RETWEETS IT without anyone blinking!

It’s finally gotten to be a bit much for the sane side of the Republican Party, but it is far too late as you’ve already lost your party to the lunatics. The conservative magazine National Review dedicated an entire issue last week to the question of Trump’s leadership of the Republican Party, firmly stating their opposition to his candidacy and his position as the potential GOP nominee for President. 22 conservative voices stepped up and penned essays explaining their reasoning for not supporting Trump, with a predictable response.

Trump, after lauding the magazine the week prior to the issue’s release, ripped the Review as a “failing rag” saying that Buckley (the founder of the Review) “would be ashamed of them.” The RNC, not surprisingly, sided with Trump in removing the Review from a future debate as moderator, citing that a “moderator can’t have a predisposition.” Other voices have also sounded off and it may actually have an effect.

In New Hampshire, the mood is supposedly turning against Trump despite what current polls say in the state’s upcoming primary. According to the New York Times, a sizeable number of GOP voters are anti-Trump and feel that the polls are being swayed by those that won’t be voting in the primaries. They call themselves the “68 Percent” – “the significant majority of Republican voters here who are immune to Mr. Trump’s charms and entreaties, according to a battery of voter interviews on Thursday at campaign events for his rivals,” according to the Times.

The problem is that the sane side hasn’t stood up to this point yet, to put an end to the maniacal side’s reign of terror. They haven’t been able to thwart the drive from those that feel that Donald Dickhead is the one who should be the face of the United States, the one that we should send to discuss important worldwide topics as climate change, nuclear proliferation (let’s not get into the factor that he doesn’t even understand what the “nuclear triad” is), worldwide famine or pestilence, potable drinking water for lacking areas, reasonable solutions for refugee situations (either through war or natural disasters) and other critical matters. Then there’s the home issues, such as domestic spending, military spending, Medicare/Medicaid, improving employment options and living arrangements, drug and alcohol treatment and a litany of other areas. If Trump thinks he can come in and wave a magic wand, “hire the right people” or just “it’s gonna be huge” everything away, he’s going to be greatly surprised.

Then there’s the problem with the GOP itself. For a party that ran an “autopsy” on itself in 2012, they don’t seem to have learned anything. It seems that the party’s leadership is willing to make the same mistake with the Hispanic vote, thinking that a miraculous outpouring of disaffected white voters will somehow appear out of the woodwork to somehow counteract the damage that Trump has done. Then there’s the factor that the spokesperson for your party’s leading candidate (Trump, naturally) wants to call President Obama a “half-breed” and defends it because she is one, too…not exactly the way to embrace minorities.

Finally, let’s get to the GOP…it really doesn’t seem that they are “for” anything, rather it seems that they are advocates for “taking” things. The Republican Party wants to take away the woman’s right to choose, take away gender equality and gay rights, take away “welfare” and food stamps. They’ll defend “family values” as long as they agree with them (right, Governor Huckabee?), shrink the government (unless it infringes on the military), put Jesus back in the school system (but no other religions) and create jobs (despite not introducing a jobs bill in the past six years) by cutting taxes on everyone who already has more money than they absolutely will ever need.

Perhaps the sane side should have spoken sooner. But perhaps the sane side was lulled to sleep, thinking that they had taken care of the potential problems for 2016 and just needed to keep the wolves at bay with a little red meat. Now, those wolves – the maniacs that they let grow to a size too large to keep in the kennel – are recalcitrant to the sane side’s arguments and discussions. Along the way, they may have destroyed what was once known as the Republican Party…the remainder of 2016 will decide that question.