Jay Ambrose: What a D-Day hero can help teach us
Why in the world would Ralph Frang make me think of Colin Kaepernick?
I mean, look, Frang is 93 years old, Kaepernick just 30. Frang, who sits in a wheelchair, is a World War II veteran who became a carpenter. Kaepernick is a muscular former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who earned $ 20 million a year. Frang risked his life for his country. Kaepernick exhibits disrespect.
So there, in the last two sentences, we see the reason Kaepernick came to mind as my church paid tribute to Frang this past Sunday.
Here we were heading toward the June 6 anniversary of D-Day and Frang had just recently received France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor, from President Emmanuel Macron. In an accompanying letter, Macron said thank you for helping to save France from the Nazis.
Frang was just 17 when he decided he had to “go out and beat those sons of guns,” as he himself has put it. He had to fib about his age, but was soon enough an Army paratrooper flying toward Normandy as part of the allied invasion of Europe.
He was getting ready to jump from the plane when, wham, something hit it and he fell out, opening his parachute just in time to avoid fatal consequences. He was alone but clicked his cricket, a device used to locate fellow soldiers. He was soon part of a group that fought the fight on D-Day and then throughout Europe. While many of his comrades were killed, he was only wounded and got the Purple Heart along with other medals before he came home and ended up in Golden, Colo.
At the church ceremony, we had Eagle Scouts march forward with flags as we all stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and, at the end, Frang said this should not be about him but about those who lost their lives.
Kaepernick does not like to stand. His thing is disrespectful kneeling, at least when the national anthem is being played at football games. Most of us do stand when we hear the music. We do it as a way of saying we love our country, that we embrace our other precious ideals and appreciate a history exceptionally pointed in right directions despite egregious faults we have persistently conquered.
Kaepernick’s object is to protest black oppression, which he sees as interwoven in all we are. And some defend what he started, namely the kneeling of so many other players. He brought attention to police abuse of power, it has been said, but that theme was already getting plenty of attention. In fact, he alienated many, a likely factor in the NFL recently saying players shall not kneel on the field again and President Donald Trump playing to the crowd.
Martin Luther King Jr., maybe the most successful protester of the 20th century, praised America, saying it should do more to live up to what it stands for. Meanwhile, as a show of disrespect, consider Republican Rep. Joe Wilson who shouted, “You lie!” when President Barack Obama was giving a speech to a joint session of Congress. Did that serve Wilson’s policy ends?
Much of the left does not applaud America, summing us up by what’s gone wrong with little mention of what’s gone right. Racism is definitely part of what has gone terribly wrong and there have been police killings of blacks that are absolutely horrid, but so are some shootings of whites. It has been shown by the scholar Heather Mac Donald that police have saved thousands of black lives by their work. Studies say they are not racially biased in their shootings.
One defender of Kaepernick has said kneeling is actually a meek, prayerful thing to do. But not in all instances, for heaven’s sake, and Kaepernick has received awards from a branch of the ACLU (for courage), from Amnesty International ( for conscience) and from GQ magazine ( for citizenship).
I believe the Legion of Honor matters far more.
He was the most powerful man in the world. She was a 21-year-old intern. They had an illicit affair in the White House. He went on to make millions of dollars and was revered by millions of people while she was shamed into silence and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
And yet, if you listen to many Democrats, what happened between Monica Lewinsky and then-President Bill Clinton was just a private relationship between two consenting adults. It’s what Democrats say any time someone points out the disturbing parallels between the way Democrats excused, and eventually rallied behind, Clinton and what Republicans are doing for President Donald Trump. It’s an astounding defense, given what the #MeToo movement has taught us.
It’s no wonder Clinton seems to have learned little from his past discretion, even though he has in the past publicly apologized. Why learn when people keep making keep making excuses for you? Clinton, who is on a media tour touting his latest book, was asked if, in the age of #MeToo, he has reassessed his actions in the late 1990s. It was a predictable question. Clinton could have simply said that times have changed for the better; that he has admitted his wrongdoing multiple times; that he hates how Lewinsky and other women like her have been treated; and that he and other men need to commit to soul-searching. He could have even asked for forgiveness again for good measure. It would have been the politically astute and morally correct thing to do.
Instead, he said he did the right thing by “defending the Constitution,” mentioned the $16 million of debt he accumulated defending himself, chided the reporter for supposedly leaving out important context, then claimed #MeToo proponents were “frustrated that they got all these serious allegations against the current occupant in the Oval Office and his voters don’t seem to care.”
I get why it is a sore subject for Clinton and other Democrats. The Republican Party used an investigation into real estate deals – which essentially turned up nothing – to impeach Clinton because he lied under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky. He should not have been impeached over such an infraction. (In 1998, I argued Clinton should have resigned because he was dividing the country with unnecessary lies and lowering standards for our leaders that we’d come to regret. I still believe that. But impeachment was the wrong course.) And it’s particularly grating given that the Republicans who giddily voted to impeach Clinton – many of whom are in office today – are protecting Trump from even worse behavior.
Still, Democrats would have been wise to follow the lead of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who last fall said she rethought the Clinton era and now believes he should have resigned. It’s OK to change your mind when new evidence emerges, and #MeToo has provided us all numerous reasons to rethink gender equality, and not just when it involves questions of sexual assault. While Lewinsky was an adult when she engaged in an affair with a married man, something for which she has taken responsibility, we should not discount the enormous power imbalance between her and Clinton. What’s worse is that the person who had the least power in the relationship has suffered the most.
That wasn’t OK in 1998. It’s not OK in 2018.
White evangelical Christians, especially faith leaders such as the Rev. Franklin Graham, and Republicans have shown that politics trump their purported principles. Democrats, when it comes to their handling of Bill Clinton, have proven to be no better.