When your son or daughter is in a combat zone, you do not sleep except with a telephone next to the pillow. You can’t decide if you should obsessively follow the news or avoid watching it. You break into sobs while driving down the highway. You can’t listen to country music songs about Arlington Cemetery, you have unaccountable fits of anger when a well-intentioned person asks if the troops get to come home for the holidays, and you hear your child’s voice via a static-filled satellite phone line only once in eight months. You know someone in the battalion has been killed when all outgoing emails are shut down so the bereaved family can be notified, and you swing between sadness for them and terrible relief that it’s not your child.
The Khan parents were making the point that Muslims do serve honorably and courageously in the American military, and that Trump was wrong to disparage every person of their faith and question their patriotism in such a blanket manner. It was a dramatic moment. I am no legal scholar, and Khan may or may not be correct about whether Trump’s immigration proposals are constitutional—hard to judge because the wording of the proposals changes so often—but those Trump supporters who are now debating the legal or constitutional points Khan was making are merely trying to deflect attention from the shocking lack of compassion their candidate displayed after that speech.
It is time instead to reflect for a moment on sacrifice in battle. We have a special term, really a euphemism, for members of the military who fall in battle. We say they “made the ultimate sacrifice.” The word “sacrifice” is from the Latin, “to make sacred.” We citizens must make the death sacred, otherwise it’s just a meaningless, unhappy occurrence somewhere far away. Our nation needs to elevate the deaths of those who die in uniform, serving us. For the most part, it does a good job.