USAFA Supe Calls for Dignity, while Others Show Disrespect
In a widely reported incident, US Air Force Academy Superintendent LtGen Jay “Tonto”* Silveria took to the staff tower at the cadet dining hall (Mitchell Hall) to tell USAFA cadets that racial slurs had been written on message boards at the nearby Academy Preparatory School, essentially a junior college for those who will eventually join the Air Force Academy.
In a five minute speech in which he notes hundreds of staff and faculty are lining the walls, LtGen Silveria eventually boiled it down to a simple statement:
If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.
Then he walked away.
That’s a call with which anyone can agree. Treating a person with dignity and respect should be a basic human principle, and it is at the core of Christian doctrine — because man is made in the image of God, and all have inherent value.
(As an aside, it is worth noting USAFA believes there is only one perpetrator, based on the handwriting. Also, some are raising the possibility of a hoax or an attention-seeker. Even if so, LtGen Silveria’s words are valid.)
Of course, good and honorable people — and some not-so-good nor quite so honorable — may yet debate what qualifies as “dignity and respect.” Can an atheist call a Christian’s Deity a “sky fairy”? Can a Christian call the homosexual lifestyle an abomination? Is simply being offended enough to have one’s “dignity and respect” violated? Must you respect another’s ideas, or just their person — or is that splitting too fine a hair?
More importantly, some people wrongly equate respect with agreement. So, yes, two service members — one a Democrat, one a Republican — must treat each other with dignity and respect. That doesn’t mean they have to agree with, like, support, or otherwise validate the other person’s ideas or ideology.
Yet, some people would disagree — as Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, atheist Jason Torpy, and homosexual activist Tom Carpenter do. In one example, you can recognize them in their call for Christians to be purged from the military if they are morally opposed to the practice or normalization of homosexuality.
It will be an interesting conversation.
Gen Silveria provides an interesting contrast to now-retired Air Force Gen Michael Hayden, who was CIA Director under President George W. Bush. Referring to the dust up over kneeling football players and President Trump, Gen Hayden said
The president had created what logicians call a false dilemma, that support for free speech or for teammates equated to disrespect for flag, anthem or country. And he did it for political advantage…
And, to be specific, [the protesting NFL players’] displeasure was largely with President Trump…
Gen Hayden’s construct is tortured (pun intended). In these contexts, a person stands to show respect — whether it be for a nation’s anthem or for a respected senior who enters the room. (One can also kneel to show respect, but that isn’t what these protestors are doing.) To intentionally kneel in this way is to explicitly show disrespect — regardless of its intentions as a “free speech” exercise. Contrary to Gen Hayden’s implication, disrespect does not suddenly become “respectful” or unworthy of criticism merely because it is the exercise of a right.
Colin Kaepernick and others who have followed his lead have intentionally shown disrespect for the national anthem and the nation’s flag, using them as a vehicle for their personal political agendas. Gen Hayden essentially admitted as much when he said NFL players were refusing to stand for the anthem in protest of President Trump. In other words, they were showing disrespect to the flag and the anthem not because of the flag itself or the anthem itself — but just as a way to protest President Trump.
Yes, they are free to do so. And, yes, they are equally able to be criticized for doing so.
But Gen Hayden wrongly asserts his military credentials to oppose the man who would have been his Commander-in-Chief (and some might say still is, in his status as a retired General officer):
As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flag, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight. It’s not to allow the president to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner.
That comes off as self-serving and hypocritical. One cannot vaunt self-sacrifice for liberty and then dictate to others under what terms they may exercise that liberty. A true freedom advocate — regardless of his time in military service — would recognize that.
That may be “why” Gen Hayden fought, but his personal political motivations are not why “we” fight.
All that notwithstanding, Gen Silveria’s message of respect — “obvious” though it should be — is well said. It remains to be seen if it can be equally well executed.
You can watch Gen Silveria’s statement here.
*There’s a certain irony in a fighter pilot named “Tonto” (Tonto, Silver, get it?) delivering this message, in this politically correct day and age.