Here’s a handy rule of life — always honor Gold Star families. Always. That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. You can certainly openly disagree with a Gold Star mom or dad on policy, especially when they choose to enter the political arena, but it is not hard to do so while honoring their lost children, honoring their sacrifice, and without issuing personal insults or making stupid, disrespectful statements.
In the last two days, Donald Trump has declared that Gold Star father Khizr Khan had “no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things,” speculated that his wife, Ghazala, “maybe wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” and discussed his own business as his example of “sacrificing” for his country. That’s a man who hopes to take an oath of office to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution apparently forgetting about the First Amendment. That’s a man seeking to be commander-in-chief of the military who treated a Gold Star mom as if she was a mere tool of her husband. And a man who mentions his business success as a “sacrifice” in the context of discussing a soldier who gave the last full measure of devotion to his country is a man without shame.
It’s hard to overstate how much Trump’s comments contradict the culture of the military he seeks to lead. Gold Star families are treated with reverence, and the mere sight of a Gold Star pin means that soldiers of all ranks move quickly to serve. They don’t ask the parents’ views on policy. They don’t care about the parents’ personality, ethnicity, or faith. They have suffered immense pain for our country, and a country that cannot honor that pain isn’t a country that deserves any man or woman’s sacrifice. A candidate who can’t respect those parents doesn’t deserve to lead. When Gold Star mom Cindy Sheehan led a vocal resistance movement to the Iraq War, George Bush responded with appropriate respect — disagreeing with her conclusions but stating clearly and unequivocally that she had “every right in the world to say what she believes,” and further that it was his “duty” to listen.
Sadly, the American people have given us two candidates who disrespect families of the fallen. Twitter featured a depressing argument over whether it was worse that Trump disrespected the Khans or that Hillary Clinton reportedly lied to to the faces of multiple Benghazi families. Politifact lays out the allegations against Hillary well — Patricia Smith (Sean Smith’s mother), Kate Quigley (Glen Doherty’s sister), and Charles Woods (Tyrone Woods’s father) each have said that Clinton told them in personal meetings that their loved ones died because of a protest or a video, shamelessly advancing false, politically-motivated administration talking points in the most intimate and tragic of settings. Woods even said that Clinton promised to have the filmmaker “arrested” and showed Fox News his diary entry recording that promise.
This is what happens when our so-called elite places victory over principle, and electoral majorities cheer them on. Nothing is sacred, everything is politics, and even “leaders” feel they can compound human suffering for the sake of seeking and holding power. These politicians — and their movements — stain our national soul.