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Kelly's remarks were about sacrifice -- not politics

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- As if our country weren't divided enough already -- red vs. blue, rich vs. poor, urban vs. rural, those who kneel vs. those who stand -- White House chief of staff John Kelly has now reminded us of another chasm: military vs. civilian.

Contrary to what we've heard from Kelly's critics -- who are also President Trump's critics -- the retired Marine Corps general did not create this split. It was already there, and it got much wider during the Vietnam War. Kelly just acknowledged it.

I've thought a lot over the last few days about the tension between those who have worn the uniform and those who haven't. After all, when a four-star general gives you a direct order, you ought to follow it.

Kelly's order, which he gave as he wrapped up his recent remarks about Trump's now-infamous condolence call to a military widow, was that Americans think deeply about the following:

"You know, when I was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran -- World War II, Korea, and there was the draft. These young people today, they don't do it for any other reason than their selfless -- sense of selfless devotion to this great nation. We don't look down upon those of you who that haven't served. In fact, in a way we're a little bit sorry because you'll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do -- not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that."

Granted, these are the words of a soldier, not a diplomat. If your goal is to persuade people to your point of view, hold the condescension. That line about how those who serve feel "a little bit sorry" for the rest of us was not helpful.

 

Ditto for Kelly's snarky -- but accurate -- criticism of Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., as noisy "empty barrels."

Besides making noise, Wilson also ghoulishly made political hay out of the solemn ritual of the commander in chief offering the nation's sympathy to the family of a fallen warrior.

Wilson, who is African-American, was also way out-of-line for calling Kelly's critique "racist." That's ridiculous.

The vast majority of Kelly's remarks that day weren't about politics at all. They were about something much bigger. They were about service, sacrifice and sacred rituals.

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