President Obama has been firm with concept that America’s heavy footprint in the Middle East is partially responsible for stoking the intense violence of the region and that our withdrawal will reduce the nidus for the conflict. He has been adament that the descriptiion of the violence as a premeditated goal of a radicalized Islam is our contribution to the seeds of that violence, and has no place in American thinking. His view has led to the conceptualization of the Major Hassan as “workplace violence”, the Tsarnaev Boston bombing as “lone wolf” actions, and the recent Chattanooga recruiting station attack as a problem of “mental illness”.
Specific to the Chattanooga attack of July 16th, 2015, five unarmed military personnel were murdered by a Palestinian American named Mohammed Youssef Abdulazeez, whose parents left the middle east in 1996, and accepted American citizenship, but never left their fundamental Islamist beliefs behind. Abdulazeez, pummeled by a life of drug abuse, poor personal discipline costing him stable employment, and consumed by the internal rage of arab youth felt denied their position as the superior race, attained an AK 47 automatic assault rifle and unloaded 100 rounds into people who could not defend themselves, until he was put down by police fire.
On August 15th, 2015, the military finally secured a combined service for the five servicemen and their families, a month past the point where the rest of the country has already put the event behind them and moved on to other things. In a country anxious to avert its eyes to the growing threat of radicalized Islam, assisted by the Averter in Chief, the individual loss of soldiers does not take hold. After all, the country lives through assaults every week in its major cities as part of routine urban violence and does nothing but salute the occasional thug that determined to strike back against the police. The shared sacrifice idealization of a soldier defending their country no longer secures an emotional response among a population where the great majority of the population no longer serves, or knows someone who has.
The Vice President of this country is thankfully different, and eloquently expressed what is rarely expressed anymore by those in power. Vice President Biden has reason to connect with loss of loved ones; in 1972 he lost his daughter and wife in a car accident in which his two sons, Beau and Hunter were seriously injured. This summer he lost his son Beau, Delaware’s attorney general, to brain cancer. Beau, the Biden hope for the future, a major in the Army Reserve who served in Iraq, and assumed next governor of Delaware, was taken from the Vice President with a vicious cancer that has clearly and deeply affected the Vice President’s views on life, sacrifice, and loss. There is likely no loss as personal as a child to a parent, and places Biden in direct sympathy with those military families who must face their overwhelming loss in silence from a country that prefers not to know.
Vice Presidents do funerals, and perform eulogies. But there was something very special about the eulogy Vice President Biden gave yesterday. Something so heartfelt and direct, only someone who has lost, could understand. With his eulogy, Biden showed great clarity in what it means to serve and defend the ramparts, what it means to sacrifice, and what it means to be an American. Sometimes the most unpredictable events elevate a person and make them worthy of our attention. In an election season where the presumptive republican front runner clowns his way through policy discussion, and the presumptive democratic front runner has shown herself to be laden with corruption and indiscipline, Vice President Biden may have just set himself apart, and shown the world that there is still a place for someone who gets it.
Watch the speech in its entirety, and you will get it, too.