When a Fifth-Grader Gets It
Retired Marine General and Trump chief-of-staff John Kelly said recently that, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state.”
Kelly’s statement tells us much about how he personally views the concept of honor.
The idea of honor is anchored in the concept of respect which is, “deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
We don’t just admire them, we do so deeply.
Kelly deeply admires Robert E. Lee, a man who swore, “I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.”
Of course, Lee broke that oath, betrayed the United States and became a traitor as he not only fought for the Confederacy but led their forces in battle.
Lee is directly responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 people.
If breaking a solemn oath or taking up arms against your country makes you honorable, Generals Lee and Kelly have some rather odd company on their team.
Lee Harvey Oswald, Benedict Arnold and even Timothy McVeigh are “honorable” men according to Kelly’s definition.
All served in the armed forces and Oswald was even a Marine.
Such are the consequences when you recklessly politicize moral concepts to fit your needs of the moment.
Yesterday, I was guiding a group of fifth-graders through Arlington National Cemetery.
We had walked up to the foot of the Custis-Lee mansion and I paused to give the basic history.
With these young kids sometimes I go easy on the sordid story of how the place was chosen, which was basically out of spite for Lee’s decision to turn his back on his country.
I went easy yesterday, or tried to, anyway.
When I asked for questions a young lady stepped forward and up went her hand.
“Wasn’t Robert E. Lee a traitor?”, she asked.
General Kelly seems to have great difficulty grasping the most obvious concepts to the considerable detriment of our country.
Thank god we have fifth-graders to set him straight.