Apparently the American Government is now tweeting out policy. Many people were caught off guard by the tweets from President Trump on July 26th, banning transgender soldiers from serving in the military.
There is so much to unpack in those three tweets: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
First of all, we are now tweeting out policy? Did I miss a meeting where Americans decided that would be a good idea?
Secondly, if we are going to be tweeting out policy, then we should really make sure that all involved departments are aware of said policy so they are not caught off guard, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff were. Also, perhaps we should have a plan in place on how to handle questions from the press, so that your Press Secretary isn’t sending the press to the Pentagon only to have them refer the press right back to the White House.
Third, the United States of America is an all-volunteer military, and there is a reasonable argument to be made that if if you want to serve, you should get to serve, no matter how you identify your race, religion, gender or creed. And you should have the thanks of a grateful nation for your service, not discriminatory regulations on whether or not you are allowed to serve. Defense Secretary James Mattis did not want this ban – he wanted six months to study the issue. A week after the Tweet, the Pentagon was still looking for clarification on the new policy.
Again, there is so much going on in the President’s tweets from July 26th – the unequal treatment of the LGBTQ community alone is enough to make one see red – that it can’t all be unpacked in one blog post. I know that many other news outlets are focusing on the discrimination aspect of the tweets, and are doing a better job than I would in discussing that aspect of the messages. But there is another aspect to these tweets, something that has slowly been building and building in my mind to the point where it can no longer be ignored.
I have always believed in the Voltaire quote, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will forever defend your right to say it.” But this is hard, if not impossible, to defend. I can’t defend this. Why? Because this isn’t an issue of free speech – Trump is the Commander in Chief; he didn’t tweet out his opinion, he tweeted out policy. And he did it from his personal twitter account, not the official @POTUS handle, further muddying the distinction between his private opinions and governmental action.
Sometimes (for example, when you are the leader of a country), you have to keep your mouth shut and your ears open. When you are a leader (like the leader of a country), no one expects you to be the smartest person in the room. However, people do expect (and hope), that you will surround yourself with smart people and listen to their advice. Sometimes, to truly lead (like the leader of a country), the smartest thing you can say is nothing.
With that said, we have to defend tweets about “Crooked” Hillary and “Lyin” Ted, tweets about James Comey and Jeff Sessions, tweets about “obstructionist Democrats” and “Fake News” because, whether or not you agree with them, they are examples of free speech. Frustrating, infuriating, free speech. And all Americans have the freedom of speech, as granted by the First Amendment.
But that doesn’t always mean you should exercise it.