By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
President Trump has proclaimed May 1 as Loyalty Day. The proclamation states, “The United States stands as the world’s leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality and justice,” and goes on to praise service members and veterans who “…pledge to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Loyalty to God and country is a fundamental American value, but coming from Donald Trump it seems ironic, if not insincere. Trump’s obsessive concern for his own interests at the expense of others has been a hallmark of his business and entertainment career. It was evident in his reality TV show, The Apprentice, where Trump relished telling contestants, “You’re fired.”
Trump’s supreme confidence in himself and disdain for criticism has also been evident in his politics. At the Republican convention Trump proclaimed that “I alone can fix it [the system]. Since then he has demanded obsequious loyalty from Republicans and shamelessly berated and threatened all who have questioned his policies—including federal judges.
During the campaign Trump was compared to fascist demagogues like Mussolini and Hitler, who, like Trump, exploited public fears and hatred to gain personal power that put them beyond the reach of public accountability. It’s truly amazing that so many people in the U.S. ignored Trump’s obnoxious, deceitful and bullying characteristics and elected him president.
Trump has stated his political objectives in terms of his personal happiness. He has said he will be unhappy if North Korea conducts any further nuclear tests, and commended its leader as a smart cookie for eliminating his opposition. Trump has also commended other international strongmen, like Russia’s Putin, Egypt’s El Sissi, Tukey’s Erdogan, and the Philippine’s Duterte.
Trump’s outlandish and erratic foreign policy has undermined U.S. national security by poisoning the domestic politics of important allies. Public opinion in Mexico and South Korea has turned against the U.S. and threatened decades of foreign policy successes in those nations.
Trump avoided military service, but if he had served he would have learned the meaning of loyalty and duty in protecting and defending the Constitution, and might better understand the paradox of an authoritarian military in a libertarian democracy. Those in the military must sacrifice their personal freedom and risk their lives to defend the freedom of all Americans.
Loyalty is the first of seven Army values: Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. Those altruistic values stand in stark contrast to the self-centered values of Donald Trump and his supporters and should be required of all politicians, with the president and commander-in-chief of America’s military forces at the top of the list.
Those Army values are grounded in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including those of other races, religions and political preferences. That love command is a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and all of them serve in the U.S. military, where no religion is given preference over others.
The military has been a harbinger of social change in America. It has provided a model for civilian society to eliminate the evils of racial discrimination, and it can do the same for religious discrimination. The military prohibits religious proselytizing, such as the banner at the Air Force Academy in 2005 that urged football players to play for “Team Jesus Christ.”
President Trump was elected by Christians, who represent over 70% of Americans. They, more so than Trump, need to understand the meaning of loyalty and duty to God and country. In an increasingly pluralistic world democracy requires a politics of reconciliation; but those Christians who supported Donald Trump created more division than reconciliation.
Concepts of loyalty and duty reflect a nation’s values and its standards of legitimacy. If Americans ignore their loyalty and duty to God and country and support divisive demagogues like Trump, they do so at their peril. The ideals of freedom, equality and justice require leaders who respect others and promote the altruistic values of selfless service and integrity.
It will take a political and religious revival—or a revolution—to restore altruistic values in America. Since most Americans are Christians that revival must begin in the church. Loyalty and duty to God and country require that the altruistic teachings of Jesus take precedence over exclusivist beliefs that promote religious and political division rather than reconciliation.
Notes and commentary on related topics:
On Trump proclaiming May 1 as Loyalty Day, see http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/28/trump-proclaims-may-1-as-loyalty-day.html.
On Trump’s assertion that “I alone can fix it” as “the single most frightening, anti-democratic phrase of modern presidential history”, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/one-final-election-plea-on-the-behalf-of-us-ideals/2016/11/03/4975a1c4-a1dd-11e6-a44d-cc2898cfab06_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1; see also https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/following-the-path-of-despots/2016/07/22/c41b2896-5047-11e6-a7d8-13d06b37f256_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1.
On Trump as a fascist, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-is-how-fascism-comes-to-america/2016/05/17/c4e32c58-1c47-11e6-8c7b-6931e66333e7_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_headlines; see also https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-isnt-hitler-but-the-united-states-could-be-another-germany/2016/12/05/9f026004-bb15-11e6-91ee-1adddfe36cbe_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1; also https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trump-is-actually-a-fascist/2016/12/09/e193a2b6-bd77-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1.
On Trump praising international strongmen, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-keeps-praising-international-strongmen-alarming-human-rights-advocates/2017/05/01/6848d018-2e81-11e7-9dec-764dc781686f_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1.
On Trump’s outlandish positions and erratic foreign policy turning other countries against the United States, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-turning-other-countries-against-the-united-states/2017/05/04/40bbe7a6-310b-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1.
On the paradox of an authoritarian military in a libertarian democracy, see chapter 5, Military Legitimacy: Might and Right in the New Millennium, pp 88-89, posted as a Resource at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/p/resources.html.
On Army values, see https://www.army.mil/values/index.html.; on their relationship to military legitimacy and leadership, see chapter 5, Military Legitimacy: Might and Right in the New Millennium, at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/p/resources.html.
On prohibited proselytizing at the Air force Academy in 2005 that was acknowledged by its superintendent, LTG Rosa (now retired), see http://www.denverpost.com/2005/06/05/afa-chief-has-work-ahead-tackling-team-jesus-climate/. LTG Rosa is now president of The Citadel.
On the greatest commandment as a common word of faith, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/01/the-greatest-commandment-common-word-of.html.
On the politics of loving our neighbors as love ourselves, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/01/the-politics-of-loving-our-neighbors-as.html.
On religion, democracy, diversity and demagoguery, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/03/religion-democracy-diversity-and.html.
On religion and a politics of reconciliation, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/05/religion-and-politics-of-reconciliation.html.
On the need for a revolution in religion and politics to make the greatest commandment a priority of faith and politics, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/02/the-need-for-revolution-in-religion-and.html.