Now this is fairly offensive, but usually I ignore all hot air emitted from south of that disgusting rug (such as his asinine immigration remarks). Atop being an exhibitionist, Trump is clearly a deliberate contrarian, and I don’t think for a moment that he has any honest opinion about former prisoners of war. He wanted a rod to bash McCain with, and this is what popped into his bizarre little head.
I should say here that I know very little about the experience of POWs in Vietnam. I plan someday to read McCain’s memoir, but I haven’t yet. I have, though, read dozens of books about Allied POWs imprisoned by the Japanese in World War II. And so Trump’s remarks and their all-party backlash stuck in my head despite my best efforts. It took me a few days to realize why.
Narrator: When we surrendered, the Japs said we weren’t men. Real men would die of shame.
Japanese Torturer: YOU HAVE NO HONOR!
The toxic 1930s form of traditional Japanese bushido said that true warriors fight to the death, and capture makes one less than human. That philosophy was part of the reason that the Germans killed only 4% of their Allied POWs, whereas the Japanese killed 27%, many through deliberate neglect.*
So that’s what I keep coming back to: Didn’t America commit massive violence in the Pacific so we didn’t have to hear that kind of bullshit anymore?
Furthermore, Trump’s statement that a POW can never be considered a war hero is articulating the darkest thoughts of thousands of them. British Lt. Stephen Abbott, captured at Singapore, speaks for many:
Like most of my fellow prisoners I felt a terrible weight of personal guilt. The disgrace of the Malayan campaign could never be exonerated or forgiven.”
Stating in a public forum that POWs deserve to be ashamed of capture is – wait – not completely unlike telling rape survivors that they deserve the guilt and shame they’re doubtless feeling without any help. Which is what the rest of the Republican Party has been doing for years. And it’s just as much of a useless butt-dragging throwback as it is when The Donald echoes IJA-style bushido.**
All I know is if Trump ever says anything about a “co-prosperity sphere,” I’m hiding under the bed.
*By the way: NOT suggesting that the Japanese – or the North Vietnamese, for that matter – were or are uniquely inhumane – just that this particular moment in history, and its underlying ideology, was pretty damn evil. As to what I’m suggesting about Donald Trump, draw your own conclusions.
**Fuck, I just Googled “Republican rape statements.” Don’t make me do that anymore, internet.