October 22nd, 2017

Yesterday I wrote about using laughter and humiliation to make the White Supremacist clowns plaguing our nation in the era of Trump shrivel up and blow away. Spencer is, of course, the poster baby here, but he’s not the whole problem. The exchange between CBS News correspondent Chip Reid and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders illustrates a deeper problem. Sanders said:

If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.

Two points. First, Kelly is a civilian. Second, in the United States of America, our military leaders serve under civilian command that ultimately is constitutionally obligated to the leadership of We The People. Certainly we may raise up in respect those who chose to serve their country and defend our Constitution. Certainly we will honor, as President Abraham Lincoln in his 1864 letter to Laura Bixby did, those who give their lives in that service, but we do not grant anyone in the military a popeish mantle of infallibility.

If people like Spencer and his minions are deserving of public scrutiny and ridicule when they go off the rails, so too must all elected officials and those who serve in any branch of our government be subject to curbs on their enthusiasm.

Laughter, or the fear of laughter, is a powerful tool for keeping the haughty focused.

Eric Arthur Blair, using the pen name George Orwell, wrote to that point in The Lion And The Unicorn: Socialism And The English Genius:

One rapid but fairly sure guide to the social atmosphere of a country is the parade-step of its army. A military parade is really a kind of ritual dance, something like a ballet, expressing a certain philosophy of life. The goose-step, for instance, is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive-bomber. It is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is ‘Yes, I am UGLY, and you daren’t laugh at me’, like the bully who makes faces at his victim. Why is the goose-step not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh. Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army. The Italians adopted the goose-step at about the time when Italy passed definitely under German control, and, as one would expect, they do it less well than the Germans. The Vichy government, if it survives, is bound to introduce a stiffer parade-ground discipline into what is left of the French army. In the British army the drill is rigid and complicated, full of memories of the eighteenth century, but without definite swagger; the march is merely a formalized walk. It belongs to a society which is ruled by the sword, no doubt, but a sword which must never be taken out of the scabbard.

Yes, retired Marine Corps general Kelly deserves our thanks for his years of service but he doesn’t get a pass, ever, in his new job.

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