Government employees have shared serious concerns about working under Donald Trump. None of them are more concerned than the active duty members of the U.S. military who wrote to us.
Last week, we asked for government employees to share their thoughts with us about the prospect of working for a Trump administration. These are responses that we received from soldiers. They are well worth reading.
From a physician in the U.S. military
Sitting now one week out from the election, I am forced to honestly evaluate how Trump as my boss affects me. As a white, highly educated male in a high earning profession, in reality most of his proposed policies either benefit me or have little bearing on me. The really sad part is that I can’t make that statement for basically a single other demographic in our country.
Ok, now I will explain why I am terrified with him as my new CinC other than just the irreconcilable concept of him controlling the most adept and powerful military in the world after running such an ugly campaign, smearing US military leadership and demonstrating on multiple occasions a laughable lack of basic knowledge regarding military capabilities (I reference his inability to articulate the nuclear triad or explain any coherent position on nuclear no first use policy).
I watched his interview after the Khan parents’ DNC speech and, frankly, I was left speechless. I was speechless 1) because I couldn’t believe that he fell into such an obvious political trap hook, line and sinker, but 2) because it left me with a feeling of distress I have never felt. How will he possibly talk to the families of the service members that he sends to their death in the name of America? I am scared that he has absolutely no empathy for those who have taken an oath for the nation and regards the military only as a tool. I have been associated with the U.S. military for the younger Bush and Obama and, while I can’t say I have been in either corner for everything, I fundamentally trusted in their ability to understand the gravity of conflict and the meaning of service member sacrifice.
I have lost that trust. Are people in the military going to die needlessly for this man? I can’t stop wondering, are we going to find ourselves in the military on the hook for fighting a conventional war as the result of a needless trade war or the result of an uncontrollable ego? I imagine as examples China balking at aggressive American trade negotiations and Trump responding with force in the South China Sea, or an aggressive foreign leader offending him and he responding impulsively with force. Only a few weeks ago, a Russian fighter and American fighter nearly collided during nighttime combat operations over Syria. How will he respond to such an event—or even worse—how will he respond if Russian anti-air defenses mistakenly shoot down an American jet? Will he have the fortitude and thoughtful demeanor to avoid a major conflict in such a case? I am left only to hope that despite his public demeanor and knee-jerk responses to feeling as though he has been attacked, he will suddenly stop acting impulsively now that he has at his disposal the might of the US military to right any slight against him. Anyone else feel good at that prospect? I don’t.
From an active duty member of the U.S. military
To be honest, I can’t look at myself in the mirror while being a black man working for a white supremacist. I know that responsible logic says to stick it out for the sake of my young family, but this isn’t Jeb Bush or Romney winning the election. This is different. I think that this is closer to 1937 Germany than anything else.
I’ve been used to many of my peers in the military having a different viewpoint than mine, since the bulk of them come from the middle of the country. But I was naive enough to think that those differences stemmed from policy or an anti-Hillary sentiment (there is a massive, irreparable lack of trust between our troops and Hillary Clinton. Many folks think she should be in federal prison) instead of good old-fashioned racism. On election night, when it was becoming apparent that Trump was going to win, I tried explaining why I interpreted a vote for him as basically a “fuck you” towards me and people who look like me, but I got nothing but blank stares in return. And of course, FOX News has now become part of our TV watching staple at work for the first time since I’ve been there. They’re so happy. So happy.
I was social and outwardly happy at work prior to the election, but I don’t talk to the majority of the people I work with anymore. If it doesn’t pertain to getting a job done, then I’m completely silent at work. My supervisor has asked me everyday if I’m alright. Everyday I say no. And I won’t be alright. My family with me overseas is terrified. My family and friends back in the States are terrified. And the people at work get to move on with their lives like nothing happened. It’s not fair.
So much of military culture is “next man up” and moving forward regardless of the decisions being made out of our control. But I can’t move on from this. I refuse. Veteran’s Day was this past Friday, and I’ve never been more ashamed to be a part of the Armed Forces. My uniform might as well be a white hood and mask. I feel like I’m literally fighting *for* white supremacy alongside sympathists of white supremacy. I’m getting paid to potentially die for a regime that wants to make life actively worse for every non-white person not named Ben Carson. How do I explain that to my infant son when he gets older? I want to get out, but I’m under contract until [future year]. I don’t know what to do, but “business as usual” isn’t an option.
From an active duty member of the U.S. military
Donald Trump is my future Commander-in-Chief, and that is depressing to write.
My wife is also active duty military and we were both shocked and in disbelief over what occurred on election day. I would describe my general feeling on that Tuesday as “terrified.” I am still shocked, almost a week later, that President-elect Trump will have the authority to severely impact my life. Donald Trump! How did this happen! He is the guiding force of the world’s greatest military. In my career, I have seen so much progress in this institution, from the reduction of an good old boys style, awareness and attempted reduction of sexual assault and harassment, equality in our unique workplace, the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell that finally allowed homosexual people to join and serve, more religious freedom, and the introduction of women into previously male-dominated career fields... The nation had moved forward, and the military has reflected that progress, but I worry about the future.
In the military, as sad as it is, the personal opinions of the vast majority of members seems to be to vote Republican, since they supposedly support the military more than Democrats. A vote for a Republican is a vote for a pay raise at the end of the calendar year. I could never fully agree with this and I think a few percentage points of a raise is too large of a price to disregard my own ideals or beliefs.
Personally, though, I did not vote for Trump. I joined the military in 2004, in the midst of the Junior Bush’s presidency. I realize this all sounds so hypocritical, that I would vehemently oppose Trump and identify myself as a Democrat, but will potentially have served the majority of my military career under a Republican leader without protest. This is the world I live in every day, split between my own beliefs and the beliefs of my future boss. The conflict is unbearable at times. But the government is paying for three full years of my child’s college education whenever he turns 18, so I grin and bear it. Plus, I love America and I am hopeful for the future even though it currently seems bleak...
I can only hope the Secretary of Defense will be someone competent that values human life, but we will see. The potential candidates are not making feel too hopeful.
From an active duty member of the Air Force
These people operate in binary land. “Democrat bad, Republican good.” And no amount of trying to plead with these people will alter their reality. I’ve dealt with it my entire career. Speak ill of a Republican openly amongst co-workers and people will start to treat you like shit. Praise a Democrat and immediately get rebuked. The military is still a Republican Christian white man’s world. And usually one from a rural, flyover Trumpistan area.
So, it makes me think that I’ll one day get a Stasi-like visit from someone in a position of power because I don’t think like them. I’m worried. Is it likely to happen? No, I have a wide array of friends, but...you never know. I’m not leading any revolts anytime soon, but I feel like any show of disagreement in policies with a Trump Administration might get people to question me.
And this worry manifests in other areas. I’m very pro Constitution. How could I not be? It’s in my oath of enlistment! The first amendment is the key to our foundation as a country and I cherish the ability for all to have a voice with no government intervention. So when Kaepernick sits or kneels during the National Anthem, I don’t get mad. I feel good because I’m doing my job right. (And for fuck’s sake, stop apologizing to us. I don’t take offense to that. It’s your fucking right as an American.) If a flag burns, I don’t get mad because it was affirmed and re-affirmed under two separate Supreme Court cases. If people protest (no matter how futile it ultimately is), I’m good with it. Having your voice heard is a good thing.
But Republican, and now Trump supporting, military members don’t see it that way. They see opposition. They see complainers. They see a negative entity that needs to be quelled. Despite training and leadership and instances in their own military careers where they have to understand the realities and perspectives, they look at Americans who don’t fall in line with their side contemptuously. These attitudes have no place in the military, yet there they are...
And of note, The military has been very progressive these last few years with helping people and making sure the awareness is there. Oh, and not to mention, the Secretary of the Air Force is a woman and the Secretary of the Army is gay. Whomever Trump selects as Secretary of Defense is going to be extremely important. I hope for a smooth transition, but who knows...
Excuse my doomsday paranoiathink scenarios, I have to go throw up again.
From an active duty member of the U.S. Army
I’ve been in the Army for [years], but I’m getting out. There are a couple of reasons, but the idea of working for a Commander in Chief like The Donald is pretty upsetting.
I don’t know what Trump is or isn’t, but his behaviors and policies suggest that he accepts racism, sexism, antisemitism, and is anti-LGBTAQ. He seems completely unburdened by principles and incapable of considering the 2nd or 3rd order effects of his decisions. My biggest concern is that he seems/is unpredictable, which makes this country and the world less safe.
Part of me feels like I need to stay in the Army so that I can have a (very small) blunting effect on his policies. I’m also screwing up the courage to talk to a JAG about what my options are to protest or decry any potential rollbacks of the hard-won equality that women, people of color, and members of the LGB (and soon T) community, are only just beginning to enjoy in the Army.
My tentative plan is to leave the Active Army and join the National Guard, where I should be mostly free to criticize and oppose the President, if not the Governor of my state.
I’m very disappointed that Trump will be the CinC, but I’m not too surprised. As an Army brat and as Soldier, I’ve lived with the angry Caucasian folks that put him in office. I think he won as a third party candidate by masquerading as a Republican.
The bright spot for Officers like me is that we take an oath of office that places the constitution in a position of primacy over the office of the POTUS, and I sincerely doubt that many flag-grade Officers would even tacitly support sexist or racist policies.
I do think that we as a people need to pursue all but insurrection to preserve the rights of the historically disenfranchised, and I think it has to start sooner rather than later. I think I’ll be too constrained to matter if I stay on active duty.