Edward F. Palm
As a retired naval officer turned academic, I have long argued that we need military officers whose mental and moral horizons transcend the institutions they serve and who stay away from partisan politics. of the day.
I was heartened to hear that we have such an officer at the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. On June 23, Milley was attacked during a Congressional hearing on teaching critical race theory to army cadets at West Point.
âI think it’s important for those of us in uniform to have an open mind and be widely read,â Milley said. “Personally, I find it offensive that we are accusing the US military … of being ‘awake’ or whatever because we are studying certain theories that are out there.”
To study a theory is not to present it as a dogma similar to the precepts of the old “Baltimore catechism” that Catholic schoolchildren of my time had to memorize and repeat word for word. I presume West Point cadets are free to debate and question the relevance of critical race theory to improving race relations in the military and in our society in general.
And what is wrong with being “awake”? The opposite of “awake” is being unconscious or foolish. In my opinion, this describes the state of conservatives who oppose critical race theory. I remember what those baffled by the civil rights movement of the 1950s weren’t ready to say, “Our people of color” – the polite term at the time – “were fine until these agitators exterior touch them â. No, they weren’t doing well and they are still not doing well.
I further remember the paranoid people who feared that fluoridated water was a communist plot to weaken our minds. Now such people decry Critical Race Theory as a Communist plot to indoctrinate our children and exacerbate divisions within our society. This is because the main proponent of critical race theory, law professor KimberlÃ© Crenshaw, is a self-proclaimed Marxist, and critical race theory focuses on class divisions within our society.
What some do not understand is that to be an academic Marxist is not to be a communist. Communism is an imperfect and totalitarian application of the political theories of Marx and Lenin. Academic Marxists simply believe that our history, politics, and artistic expression can be better understood and enlightened in terms of competition and socio-economic class conflict. And anyone who believes America is a classless society lives in the apocryphal Never Never Land of American exceptionalism.
The irony is that critical race theory in its entirety was never going to be taught in our elementary and secondary schools. Republicans are militarizing critical race theory to stifle discussions of race relations and promote so-called “patriotic education,” which overlooks or seeks to tone down troubling aspects of history – slavery, for example. It’s indoctrination, not education.
For my part, I applaud the general for establishing that the much-maligned “military spirit” can be, and should be, an open mind.
Edward Palm is a former enlisted navy and Vietnam veteran. Palm retired from the Marine Corps as a major and pursued an academic career. He can be contacted at [email protected]