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I Support the Soft Insurrection Against Trump

James Mattis

Trump's Cabinet and military leaders -- like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis -- are really running the country. Thank God.

I appreciate a fine case of moral conflict. There's nothing more engaging to me than trying to wrap my head around two contradictory ideas that challenge two firmly held beliefs I hold. That's how you learn, that's how you grow, and that's how you change your views. Probably the greatest challenge I have faced as of late is the return of the ban on transgender people serving in the military. Before you even think it, I'm totally for lifting the ban and was horrified and outraged when Donald Trump reinstated it. There's a more complex meta argument going on here.

Just this week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that despite Trump's announced reinstatement of the ban, transgender soldiers may continue to serve and the study of integrating them into the service is ongoing. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, issued guidance saying that until an official pronouncement from the White House has come down, it was basically business as usual. Mind you,Trump issued his Twitter proclamation almost a month ago now. In the meantime, numerous former generals and admirals and former secretaries of Defense denounced the ban, and even currently serving Navy Secretary Richard Spencer (absolutely no relation to the Nazi) said that he would obey any order given, but that "any patriot" should be allowed to serve.

These statements are relatively unprecedented. By law, service members are not allowed to weigh in on politics while in uniform, and nearly universally have never contradicted the president on anything in public. The most notable exception to this rule was when Gen. Douglas MacArthur openly challenged President Harry Truman over using nuclear weapons during the Korean War, which resulted in Truman firing the most popular general in America (this later came to be seen as one of Truman's boldest and wisest acts, though like most of his acts it damaged him at the time).

While it's true, as a few conservative pundits have noted, that this is not a true act of defiance since there is no official edict from Trump, it's notable that they have had to come to Trump's defense on this issue to quibble over a rule of procedure that to most outsiders is arcane. Basically these military leaders are saying, "Yeah, the president is just making noises, doesn't mean anything." That's stunning. Being a veteran and a big believer in the idea that the military is subservient to civilian command, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable that the military leadership is being so openly flippant about the president. It's often drilled into soldiers that they should "defend democracy, not practice it" and "shut up and soldier."

On the other hand ... God, I hate that sad, pathetic man we call president. Brigadier Bone Spurs spent the entire Vietnam War dodging the draft, and he insults veterans and is so disdainful of his role as commander in chief that he handed over the running of the war in Afghanistan to the secretary of Defense. Sure, LBJ and Nixon ran the war in Vietnam in an arguably criminal way, but they were at least hands-on. When you toss in the almost certainty that Trump has criminal ties to the Mafia and Russian oligarchs, with the fact that he's one pillow case shy of being a Klansman, along with the fact that he's a petulant child with nuclear weapons, I cannot stomach giving that man any form of respect.

In fact, according to numerous articles, the federal bureaucracy feels the same way, and its members simply ignore anything he has to say unless it's on White House letterhead. Even his own Cabinet is disregarding him. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that discarded William Faulkner villain, under any other presidency would have resigned by now, but he sticks around to carry out his own agenda and probably annoy Trump. Rex Tillerson, secretary of State and subsidiary of Exxon, has issued statements that directly contradict Trump's unchecked statements and Twitter nonsense. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has rolled back Trump's noises about Palestine. Mattis said the military won't torture, and at this point House Speaker Paul Ryan, the worst argument for Ayn Rand's ideology, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the best argument for schadenfreude, are ignoring him.

I believe strongly in the structure of government -- that the military obeys the orders of the president, that the president gives instructions to his Cabinet members and they carry out his wishes, and friendly members of Congress help him pass his agenda, but damn it if Trump makes me glad they aren't. Trump reminds me of a mean, flighty child king who manspreads on the throne while his ministers rule the kingdom -- and that makes me glad. So you can see my dilemma. How do I reconcile the decentralization of leadership and almost rogue actions of the government, not to mention the fact that the "deep state" keeps leaking vindictive information to weaken Trump, with the fact that I hate Trump? I've disliked presidents before, but I wouldn't piss on him to put him out if he was on fire. Even Vice President Pence, the creeptastic bigot, seems competent enough to not start World War III by falling asleep on the button.

In the end, I feel myself coming down on the side of the "soft insurrection." Mostly because that while I believe in American institutions of law and governance, I also believe that when those institutions go astray, in this case the president himself, it becomes the moral obligation for those who value the ideas of America's potential to do what they can to salvage it. If a president can't be trusted to not nuke the planet into a cinder in a fit of rage and petty revenge, we should trust those who, while different in political views, share in the value of American institutions. Also, I won't lie, I kind of get a kick out of watching them make Trump look like a schmuck. Someone should assign an all-transgender Marine guard to the White House just to spite him.

AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @Amanda_Kerri.

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