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Hugh Thompson’s Legacy: Political Honesty Post-Trump

Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson speaks with reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 4, 1969, after testifying about the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam.  (Associated Press)

We’re one year out from the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and it might benefit us all to reflect on how it has changed our nation. Some people might have hoped that the shock of his election would jolt our society out of it’s political division. I don’t just mean the division between the right and left, but also the division between those who are so burnt out on the combative nature of American politics, that they’ve become almost totally apathetic, and those who see the growing intensity of the rivalry as a reason to fight even more aggressively. It would seem reasonable that the more absurd our presidents and presidential candidates become the more likely it would be for people to recognize the tremendous harm that our political warfare is causing, but it doesn’t appear that is happening, yet.

What we need are more Hugh Thompsons! If you’re not familiar with Hugh Thompson he was a US Army helicopter pilot most known for his intervention in the My Lai Massacre. On March 16th, 1968 an army infantry company under the command of Capt. Ernest Medina, attacked the small Vietnamese village of My Lai, in part as revenge for the high number of causalities the unit had received from booby traps and sniper fire. According to the New York Times (WARNING: Graphic Violent and Sexual Language), “By the end of the day American forces had killed 347 to 504 unarmed Vietnamese women, children and old men, and raped 20 women and girls, some as young as 10 years old.” Thompson was flying a scout helicopter in the area and when he observed the murders landed his helicopter to confront the units leadership.

When Thompson eventually met with platoon leader Lieutenant William Calley and demanded that the attack be stopped, even threatening to fire on his own forces if the massacre did not end. Thompson then convinced other helicopters operating in the area to help evacuate Vietnamese villagers and once his radio traffic was picked up by military commanders they ordered Calley to cease and desist. As I mentioned earlier we are witnessing political warfare on a daily basis and many of the attacks are psychologically damaging the next generation. Imagine how it would affect a child to grow up hearing your parents claim that their political rivals, some of them neighbors in their own community, are “morons,” “psychotic,” “dangerous,” and “ruining our country.” Or to over hear them repeatedly threatening violence towards these individuals.

It is shocking for me to see Christian leaders like Sean Feucht and Greg Locke continuing to weaponize this political warfare for their own personal gain. I mention these two specifically because they’ve gained and continue to hold prominence primarily from their outrageous political views that they have strategically developed on social media. Two examples from just this past week were Sean’s meeting with Ted Nugent claiming on Instagram, where he has 284K followers, that God had opened the door for their connection, and Greg’s organization of a “burning service” on Facebook where he is encouraging parents to bring copies of Harry Potter and Twilight to burn because of their demonic influence. Both leaders claim that a return to conservative nationalism is God’s desire for the country while seeming to be totally unaware that their own blind devotion to one political party is the real demonic influence that we ought to be speaking out against.

We need more “Hugh Thompson’s” in our society, more men and women who are willing to speak out against their own side when they see unethical or immoral activity taking place. If you’re progressive, and your local media outlets are unfairly demonizing your local police department, do everything you can to set the record straight. If you’re conservative and your local police department isn’t being held accountable for mistakes they’ve made, speak out about it. It’s easy to “call out” the other side and defend your own views, the scriptures say that it is easy to love our friends and hate our enemies, but true love is loving your enemies! Part of loving our enemies is being honest with our friends when they act in hateful ways towards their enemies, and some times it can be even more difficult to be honest with your friends in a way that you know might hurt them, but that is the type of courage we need and the type of courage Hugh Thompson exemplified.

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