In speeches in Ames, Iowa, and later in front of 15,000 cheering supporters at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Sarah Palin threw her weight in support of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy. With those speeches, the Alaskan queen of the non sequitur is back on the national political stage. As Trump beamed approval at her side, an animated Palin pandered to the ungrammatical using a syntax of concatenated clauses in which the antecedent, if there was one, is lost in a scrambled logic that only she and her followers can understand.
In her Oral Roberts speech she tried to account for her son's recent domestic violence arrest by blaming it on post-traumatic stress disorder caused by Obama's foreign policy. PTSD is a complex, debilitating, potentially deadly disorder often manifested by nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks, alcohol abuse or suicidal tendencies. PTSD is not a combat merit badge. It is not an excuse to punch your girlfriend in the face. It is a public problem but an intensely personal thing. A stump speech is not the place to discuss the cause of your son's PTSD. Using your son's lamentable situation for political gain is deplorable.
For the record, Sarah Palin and I have something in common. We each have a son with military disabilities based, at least in part, on PTSD derived from fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In my son's case, six deployments as an Army Ranger.
Using outrageous speech to link the cause of soldier PTSD to Obama borders on sedition. There is not one iota of evidence to suggest that combat veterans get PTSD because Obama hasn't recklessly jumped in to "kick ISIS' ass" or any of the other innuendos made by Palin. Terms like a "weak-kneed capitulator in chief" are inflammatory and insulting to the office of the presidency and therefore to Americans.
Palin's skewed logic seems to be: 1) my son has PTSD and therefore punched his girlfriend in an argument; 2) my son's PTSD, and other combat veterans' PTSD, is caused by Obama because he doesn't "support the troops." 3) Therefore, you should support and vote for Donald Trump for president of the United States.
My son, like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened, they come back wondering if there is that respect for what it is that their fellow soldiers and airmen, every other member of the military so sacrificially have given to this country…It starts from the top. The question through it comes from our own president, when they have to look at him and wonder, do you know what we go through, do you know what we're trying to do to secure America?
Palin is right, they do come back different. But she's wrong to say they come back hardened. Some perhaps, but many come back very fragile. Through it all, guys got shot and shot others. Combat veterans saw people die in horrible ways or had legs blown off. Many actually in combat were on edge for an entire deployment -- you never know when you're going to be called out to face fire. Young men killed Iraqis and Afghans for reasons they didn't understand. It's war. It's PTSD.
Palin stated, "We need to elect a commander in chief that will respect our troops ... A new commander in chief who will never leave our men behind. A new commander in chief, one who will never lie to the families of the fallen."
In her uncontrolled hyperbole, Palin fails to note that Obama did not cause the Iraq/Afghanistan wars -- President Bush and his cabal of neoconservatives started it. Curiously, the man beaming approval by Palin's side -- Trump -- as she derided Obama, claims to have come out in opposition to the Iraq/Afghanistan wars as early as 2003. Moreover, he ridiculed Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the man who selected Palin as his vice presidential candidate, for "not being a war hero" despite five years in a north Vietnamese prison camp.
You may choose to ignore Donald Trump and Sarah Palin or dismiss them as inconsequential, but that would be a mistake. Trump can become president. Palin can become vice president, secretary of state, whatever, on his coat tails. In America today, money and showmanship can get you elected to high political office.
"Well, I am here because like you I know that it is now or never. I'm in it to win it because we believe in America, and we love our freedom." - Sarah Palin
Alan Boraas is a professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College.
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