by Gary North
There are times when I think America is coming to its collective senses. Then I recall North's law of bureaucracy:
"There is no government regulation, no matter how plausible it initially appears, that will not eventually be applied by some bureaucrat in a way that defies common sense."
Today, more Americans work for some agency of civil government (19.9 million) than work in manufacturing (18.4 million).
Bureaucrats are steadily taking over this country with our money. They are re-shaping America in their image. This is why, day by day, in every way, America is getting nuttier and nuttier.
The United States appears to be about to embark on a military crusade to remove authoritarianism from the Middle East. I can safely forecast that this will be a very long crusade.
There will be dead servicemen ("servicepersons") shipped home. There will be funerals. But if officials at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Burlington County, New Jersey, have their way, there will be no official mention of — dare I say the word? — God.
THE NEW, IMPROVED MILITARY VS. GOD
One of my subscribers sent me the following newspaper report. It's nice to have a growing army of 50,000 potential informants out there. I might otherwise have missed this. As you read it, ask yourself: "Have madmen taken over America?" (You already know my answer.)
As a military honor guardsman, Patrick Cubbage had a simple message to the families of deceased veterans at graveside services.
"God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America," he would say as he presented a folded flag to them.
Because of that, Cubbage was fired in October from his job at the Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Burlington County, near McGuire Air Force Base.
He breached cemetery protocol, his supervisor said, by deviating from the script.
"No family member ever objected," Cubbage, 54, a Vietnam combat veteran, retired Philadelphia police officer, and former city bail commissioner, said in a recent interview at his Northeast Philadelphia home."
"They were always very grateful — and sometimes very moved. People would even grip my hand and say things like ‘Thank you so much.'"
Cubbage said he found the blessing in training literature he got when he began working as a part-time guardsman at Doyle, making $16 an hour, in October 2001.
But Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said Doyle — the state's largest veterans cemetery — has a "standard phrase [for the flag presentation] for each service."
One of the unbroken rules of all bureaucratic systems is this: the bureaucracy's official spokesperson always invokes some obscure rule, or even some instantly made-up rule, to justify the latest outrage by some faceless, high-level superior. Never is anything officially done on the basis of principle, for that might lead some people to believe that some principle is more important than a bureaucratic rule. Citing a principle only gets a bureaucrat in trouble. Example: Cubbage was dismissed not for the blessing, Niedt said, but for departing from the standard presentation protocol.
There it is, the touchstone of bureaucratic religion: protocol. Even when it's fictitious, like some Olympian deity, it will be invoked.
Cubbage insisted, however, that he was operating within the rules for honor guards. Opening a slender pamphlet that he said the cemetery gave him when he started, he turned to a page topped by the words Flag Presentation Protocol.
After Taps, it explains, the honor guard folds an American flag into a triangle, and a guardsman then steps before the appropriate family member.
Depending on the branch of service, the presenter next is to say such words as: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service," and then to hand the flag to the deceased's kin.
"If the next of kin has expressed a religious preference or belief," the instructions continue, "add: ‘God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America.' "
"It doesn't say, ‘You may add ...,' " Cubbage, an evangelical Christian who attends Calvary Chapel in Northeast Philadelphia, said as he tapped sternly at the pamphlet. "And I said it only if the family had a chapel service or had clergy at the grave."
That seems clear enough, but it did not persuade the protocol-honoring bureaucrats at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
Although a part-time employee at Doyle, he said, he typically worked from 25 to 35 hours a week, and he estimated that he participated in about 2,000 burial ceremonies last year. "I probably said the blessing 500 times."
But two of his fellow honor guardsmen complained in October, he said, and on Oct. 16 Iven Dumas, the cemetery's honor guard coordinator, ordered him to stop the blessings.
He said he protested, noting, "It's right in the manual." Dumas replied that the blessing could offend Jews and Muslims, he said, and should be used only when next of kin notify the cemetery office that they want a blessing.
"Jews and Muslims believe in God," Cubbage said he replied.
Dumas, he said, responded by handing him a copy of state regulations prohibiting "harassment or hostile environments" in the workplace.
Ah, yes: harassment. I mean, here is an honor guardsman, dressed in a uniform, burying a veteran who served his country honorably. And this thoughtless churl in uniform says "God bless you" to the widow. This kind of harassment has got to stop! And Mr. Dumas was just the man to stop it.
Dumas declined to be interviewed and referred inquiries to Niedt's office.
Somehow, that does not surprise me. But this does:
On Oct. 24, Joan L. Edwards, affirmative-action officer for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, wrote to Dumas to clarify policy. Cubbage received a photocopy of the letter.
Government employees "must not engage in activities or expression that a reasonable observer would interpret as government endorsement ... of religion," she wrote.
Unless the next of kin expresses a religious preference "one way or another," she continued, "then, the protocol would be to omit the saying, ‘God bless ...,' portion of the presentation. This is not optional."
I want you to pay close attention to these revealing words: affirmative-action officer for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
The official backing up the decision against God's name is not a chaplain, nor is she a general who has seen combat, but an affirmative-action officer. You know, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination — that sort of thing. Not any more.
"Stark, raving mad?" you ask. On the contrary, it's right there in the book. The Good Book. The ACLU's Book of Anti-Church Order.
Cubbage said he reluctantly stopped saying the blessing — until Oct. 31. That day, he said, "this funeral procession pulls in for a burial, and I see the ‘fish' sign [a traditional symbol in Christianity] on the back of one of the cars."
"So, I start a conversation with the driver, who turns out to belong to Calvary Chapel. I asked him if the family would mind if I said the blessing. He said, ‘Oh, they're very religious. I'm sure they'd welcome it.' "
The widow, who was in a wheelchair, bowed her head at the blessing, Cubbage recalled.
But one of the other guardsmen "practically ran to the office" to report him, he said.
He said Dumas called him into the office and demanded an explanation. He said he explained that a family friend had assured him they would welcome the blessing, but Dumas — citing Cubbage's "disregard for stated policy" — fired him that day. . . .
Adam Cubbage is now a captain in the 108th Air Squadron — his father's unit in the Vietnam War.
"I just don't get it," Patrick Cubbage said of his firing. "When you give people that flag, you see them look into it and remember a whole time in their loved one's life. So why in God's name did they fire me? Because in God's name, they did fire me."
THE MODERN CHAPLAIN'S TASK
I am opposed to the coming war in the Middle East. There is no Constitutional authorization for our launching a pre-emptive attack. But this much is sure: if our troops are called into battle, they had better have chaplains in their units.
I wonder: What will chaplains tell them may await them? Death on the battlefield? An honor guard at the funeral? And what should the chaplain suggest as an appropriate hymn at the funeral? "Anyone But Him Bless America"?
When the men of my father's generation went off to war, they and the folks back home imagined that they were defending God and country, in that order. Almost 300,000 of them died; over 700,000 were wounded. Today, about 1,100 of them will die. An equal number will die tomorrow. But at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, their survivors will not get one of those intrusive "God bless you's" from the honor guard.
Honor guard. The words hardly apply.
When will it end? Not in my lifetime, surely. Probably not in yours. Men of faith have been hammered by faceless bureaucrats for so long that they no longer complain. They have rolled over and played dead. They no longer seem to expect the blessing of God. They expect only the cursing of bureaucrats.
Capt. Cubbage says he intends to sue. I hope he does.
I hope he wins.
We are up against the wall. When you're up against the wall, you had better fight.
I'm all for making a buck. I'm all for wise investing. But some things are more important than making a buck.
Anything you can do to put pressure on the self-conscious but faceless, two-bit tyrants who are steadily taking over this country is effort well spent. They hide behind their regulations and their protocol, and stick knives daily into the heart of this nation — from the back.
I don't care if it is politically incorrect to quote George C. Wallace. He said it best: "Send them a message!"
Here endeth the lesson.
February 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com