I felt a special connection when I read Mrs. Ghazala Khan’s July 31st column in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ghazala-khan-donald-trump-criticized-my-silence-he-knows-nothing-about-true-sacrifice/2016/07/31/c46e52ec-571c-11e6-831d-0324760ca856_story.html.) She described how she had a son who graduated from UVA and then went on to become an army captain. So did I. My boy was deployed to South Korea while her boy was deployed to Iraq. My son came home with a Korean wife and baby. Mrs. Khan’s son never came home. Our sons’ situations could have been the reverse.
Any parent who has not walked in the Khans’ footsteps should never dare to question their sacrifice or patriotism. And minimizing the sacrifice of a Gold Star mother, the loss of a child, by stating that “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures,” shows a blatant disregard for all of those who have truly served their country. (http://www.politicususa.com/2016/07/30/trump-insults-military-claiming-sacrifices-fallen-soldiers.html)
It used to be that certain values were sacred, among them a Gold Star mother. My 95 year-old mother has described a time, during the Second World War, when there was a national reverence in particular for Gold Star Mothers. My mother mentioned previously to me how, as a young woman walking home in the evening from the “L” station in Chicago, she would see a gold star displayed in a neighborhood window. What gave her the greatest pause was on the occasion she saw two gold stars placed together in the same windowpane which meant, of course, that there were two sons who weren’t coming home. I also personally remember from my childhood that, when John Kennedy ran for president in 1960, voters on both sides of the political divide showed respect for the gold-star sacrifice of his mother Rose. But, sadly, in this election that no longer seems to be the case.
The Republican Party seems this year to have lost its moral compass. Captain Khan’s father asked for Republicans of conscience to speak out against the nativist intolerance displayed by Mr. Trump and some of his supporters. I worked for six years for one of the greatest Republicans of them all, the legendary House Chairman Henry Hyde, as his Asian affairs adviser. Hyde became a national household name when he served as House Judiciary Chairman during the 1998 impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. I came to work for Mr. Hyde after he had moved on from the Judiciary Committee to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Yet I never once heard “the silver-haired gentleman from Illinois” disparage anyone, including the Clintons, despite the previous impeachment imbroglio. Hyde believed in civil discourse and never raised his voice except perhaps in the retelling of some joke from his Rush Street days in Chicago. He had worked as a stand-up comedian in clubs there to put himself through Loyola University Law School.
Mr. Hyde and I shared a special pride in hailing from Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. That first Republican President, for whom my Irish immigrant great-grandfather fought, told a war-torn nation: “With malice toward none, with charity for all….let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Yet there are those who will too easily forget a veteran who fought for his country if he happens to be foreign-born. My grandfather spoke of his father’s disgust over the rabid anti-immigrant bias directed against Irish Catholic immigrants by the mid-nineteenth century “Know Nothing” Party members — the spiritual antecedents of today’s nativist “Tea Party” members. (http://thehill.com/opinion/juan-williams/251749-juan-williams-trump-stokes-tea-partys-fire-on-immigration)
While my great-grandfather, Captain Patrick Foley, survived the carnage of war, unlike Captain Humayun Khan, he too felt the sting of anti-immigrant prejudice directed against his family. The prejudice at times came from those who themselves did not step forward to serve in the epic Civil War. All they saw was another “drunken” Irishman coming over, half-starved, from a famine plagued backwater of a country. They apparently did not care one bit that he had answered Mr. Lincoln’s call to fight to save the Union. Then it was the “swarms” of Irish immigrants who were seen as the problem. Now it is the “swarms” from the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, like Captain Khan and his family.
Another famous Republican was Hyde’s great friend, Ronald Reagan, also originally from Illinois. This was the very leader who advocated tearing down a wall not building one. — “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” — because Reagan saw that wall as being used to isolate and enslave people. His message was the opposite of today’s Republican nominee.
Then there was Dwight Eisenhower, who answered the summons of young Congressman Gerald Ford and his House colleagues to return from his post as NATO Supreme Commander in Europe and campaign for the presidency in the spring of 1952. Eisenhower went on to defeat the isolationist, anti-NATO Senator Robert Taft at the Chicago Republican Convention with the delegate calls of “I like Ike.” He reversed the Republican tendency toward isolationism which Taft represented and which had roots going back to the pre-Pearl Harbor “America First Committee” (AFC). — sound familiar? The AFC was championed by the Nazi apologist, aviator Charles Lindbergh (whose father had been an isolationist Republican Congressman opposed to the First World War.)
Eisenhower, as the very first NATO Supreme Commander, came to be the personification of that alliance. He also stood with America’s Asian allies in South Korea and Japan by making central to his 1952 campaign the pledge “I shall go to Korea” to swiftly end a stalemated, fratricidal war. Ike, with his deep personal knowledge of alliances and military strategy, would likely not think highly of those who would speak so cavalierly of throwing America’s friends under the bus for not paying up.
So looking at four great Republicans who are no longer with us — Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Hyde — I think they would all, for each of their own, distinctive reasons, be appalled by Mr. Trump’s dismissive treatment and demeaning rhetoric directed toward Gold Star mother Ghazala Khan.
In closing, I offer a Biblical quote (John 15:13) to the memory of Captain Humayun Khan: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
And for Donald Trump, I would offer John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s clarion call from his Inaugural Address: “Ask not what your country can do for you. ask what you can do for your country.”