By Tom Klocek, USNA ’69
Member of the Calvert Group
“Wokeness” is all about oneself. It is political correctness on steroids.
It rewards conformity to ideological perspectives rather than real performance. It does not look at others, their needs (except when “virtue signaling” or trying to make yourself appear to be taking the moral high ground), or how to work with them.
Some of the basic principles of being “woke” include the lack of personal responsibility for one’s actions, the need for safe spaces when there is a hint of adversity, and the right to be offended at the slightest trigger.
This ideology has infected America’s military and is wreaking havoc among our troops. Young adults entering the armed forces are indoctrinated into being afraid to think for themselves.
Self-sacrifice is foreign to them. They are being pushed to believe that their nation, their upbringing, their families, and their history are all based on hate. These characteristics are directly at odds with service to one’s country.
Wokeness is antithetical to everything the military represents. It is divisive and isolates one group from another based on immutable characteristics, including ethnicity and sexual orientation.
You cannot build an effective team if the members are in conflict with each other. Teamwork requires unity, not divisiveness, which is prejudicial to good order and discipline.
Moreover, the military services have led the way in fighting racism and fostering equality of opportunity. For decades, the military has provided equal pay for equal service.
Now, however, the military academies have affinity groups that are inherently divisive, grouping people by external characteristics, such as skin color.
Military service is built on performance. The mediocre pilot is not going to fare well against an enemy who has honed his flight and dogfight skills against difficult opponents.
We don’t want our fighters to be passable — we want them to be better than the enemy.
Another major characteristic of military service is self-sacrifice.
Military members give up time with their families to deploy for months at a time, even more in crisis situations. They put their lives on the line. One doesn’t have to be in a combat zone to be in dangerous situations. For example, just going to sea is an inherently hazardous situation.
Consider some of the mottos and sayings that characterize the sea services, some of which we memorized during our Plebe Year at the Naval Academy.
“I have not yet begun to fight” (John Paul Jones, 1779).
“Don’t give up the ship” (Capt. Lawrence, War of 1812).
And here’s one that is not well known but which is exemplary of warfighters: “Always pray, not that I shall come back, but that I will have the courage to do my duty” (Lt. Anthony Turtora, Marine Corps, Guadalcanal).
The sea is not a place for wimps. You don’t get a participation trophy: You survive or you don’t. And to survive, you need courage, strength, teamwork (unity), and perseverance.
In an emergency, an almost daily occurrence for ships at sea, teamwork is the difference between life and death. Any distraction due to a trivial woke sensibility can be deadly. Just ask the crews of the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain who continue to mourn lost shipmates.
The men who signed our Declaration of Independence were not looking for a “safe space.” The Constitution guarantees to protect every state against invasion and empowers Congress to “raise and support armies” and to “provide and maintain a navy.”
Our Founding Fathers knew the hostility of the world at large and thus provided for the protection of the nation.
The woke agenda weakens our defense by changing the priorities of the services from protecting the country to catering to individual members within the services themselves, thus diverting attention from issues of readiness and leadership.
Most people who join the military do so because they believe there is something greater than themselves. Even during the draft, the underlying concept was service to the nation as a necessary aspect of citizenship. Individualism had to take a back seat.
The essence of wokeness, on the other hand, is focused on the individual — the exact opposite of what our military needs to function effectively.
Consider this quote from Rev. Dennis Edward O’Brien, a former Marine:
“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
Can today’s military continue to claim that honor?
Tom Klocek represents Calvert Task Group 69, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reversing the negative effects that diversity, inclusion, and equity programs are having on military readiness, recruiting, morale, and retention.