Disclaimer: I am a former Marine. My views on the Marine Corps are not meant as a boost to myself, but rather, my love for the Corps as a whole, and undying respect for men and women far, far better than I who have served their country as Marines. It's a great honor to be counted among them, though I consider myself among the least worthy of those who earned the title.
By now, everyone's seen the nightmarish vision of U.S. Marines wearing covers that make them look like Inspector Renault from Casablanca, only without the "beautiful friendship." The first question one is likely to ask is "What kind of moron would mess with the traditions of the finest fighting outfit in the world?" But we already know the answer to that. It's the same moron who enjoys messing with traditions wherever and whenever he finds them.
It's the second question that deserves careful consideration. Why, when there are myriad problems in the world, with unemployment, rampant, unchecked illegal immigration, and financial uncertainty at home and growing threats abroad, would the President of the United States spend any time at all pondering uniform changes for the military? And not just any uniform, but the hands-down, undisputed, best-looking dress uniform worn by the Few, the Proud, the mighty Devil Dogs, the Leathernecks, those brothers and sisters of our Beloved United States Marine Corps?
I believe that Doctor Keith Ablow has an excellent theory for why the President would be mulling over clothing design while Syria burns and thousands of people are told the insurance they'd be allowed to keep is suddenly unavailable. Dr. Ablow had this to say about the President in a recent Fox News Op.Ed:
And an anemic America is the only America Barack Obama can love. Because it can’t hurt him or the many millions of people he considers his co-victims.
How do Americans defend themselves against a leader who wishes to sideline them by making them feel injured, oppressed and deserving of restitution?
First, we must recognize the psychological game being played. Because once you know that someone is trying to diminish you, to empty you out, you start looking at that person and his ideas very differently. The end of the game is in sight.
Imagine you're President Obama. You spent your formative years inhaling mind-altering substances and whining about how things aren't fair. Despite all this, you somehow manage to slog and smoke and whine your way through years and years of boring school, wondering why no one sees what a fantastic genius you are, and how if you'd only be given a chance, you could really make everything right. Then by some miracle, they do give you the chance, but somehow, things don't pan out because of those dumb Republicans and all those clingy Tea-Party people, and racism and stuff.
You decide to take a Presidential trip to some steel mill to blame somebody for something, but you know you're going to have to pass them to get on the plane. They stand straight as a bayonet on the tarmac, their impeccable uniforms standing out in stark relief against the white of the helicopter. The brass on their belts and covers shines like gold, their shoes like black mirrors. Their salute is pure snap-and-pop, the product of years of living a disciplined, purposeful life, a life where every man is expected to give everything he has and then some for the good of the mission and the Corps, where excuses are simply not tolerated, where responsibility, respect, and honor are not quaint, outdated concepts, but a living part of who they are as individuals and as a brotherhood of warriors. (And a sisterhood as well. I'm talking to you, Elizabeth Jane Arens, the finest squad leader I knew.)
And you have to salute these men back. And it galls you, to the deepest pit of your soul, because you know that when you salute those Marines standing by that helicopter, you're actually saluting better men than yourself. Men that share a tradition of excellence that goes back 238 years, and it's something that, no matter how many elections you win, or how many bad laws you manage to ram through a dithering and ineffectual Congress, you can never be a part of. They have something you don't, and never will, have.
They have the title.
They are U.S. Marines. They weren't given the title, They weren't elected to the title, and they didn't buy the title with money from Wall Street or Big Oil. They earned it. They earned the title Marine with sweat, with blood, with fortitude, and with honor. They have something you can't have, and you can't take away. For a man like you, the title United States Marine is utterly out of reach.
So what do you do? Do you simply accept that you're merely the President, salute the better man, and move on? No. You figure out a way to make them look ridiculous. That way, when you pass them, you can remind yourself how fortunate you are that you don't have to dress like that. It'll make the saluting easier the next time you have to go on an extended Blame-A-Thon.
Dress them up in pink pajamas if you like, Mr. President. They're still better than you'll ever be.