My sons are not in the military. I can't imagine how hard it would be, to be at once proud of your child's courage and conviction while living with that awful noose of worry wrapped tight around your throat. I can imagine that one of the few comforts afforded the mother of a soldier is the respect she should be able to expect from us regular, everyday citizens who benefit from her sacrifice. Not so in the case of Catherine Byrne. This military mom was booed at a Mike Pence rally for asking some questions about GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump. And it makes me wonder what those people booing her thought her son was fighting for in the first place.
GOP vice presidential candidate and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was speaking at a rally at the Carson Nugget Hotel and Casino in Carson City, Nevada when Byrne asked him about Trump. When she first identified herself as a military mom, the announcement was met with loud cheers. But things changed radically after she asked Pence (whose father was a combat veteran, and whose own son, Michael, is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps) a more pointed question:
Time and time again, Trump has disrespected our nation's armed forces and veterans, and his disrespect for Mr. Khan and his family is just an example of that. Will there ever be a point in time when you're able to look Trump in the eye and tell him enough is enough? You have a son in the military. How do you tolerate his disrespect?
While the crowd began to boo this mother (one woman can even be heard shouting over the boos, "Why are you here?"), Pence tried his best to calm the situation. He thanked Byrne for her son's service and reminded the angry crowd, "Folks — that's what freedom looks like, and that's what freedom sounds like, OK? It is," before continuing to toe the party line:
As I said last night, as Donald Trump said Saturday night, Capt. Khan is an American hero, and we honor him and honor his family, as we do all Gold Star families in this country. We truly do. The story of Capt. Khan is an incredibly empowering story.
Pence is speaking of Capt. Humayun Khan, the soldier who was awarded the Gold Star posthumously after saving members of his platoon from a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004 during active duty. Capt. Khan's story made national news during the Democratic National Convention, where his father Khizr Khan spoke about his son's service, and his own Muslim heritage in the face of Trump's Islamaphobic platform.
Since then, Donald Trump has gone on to stage a series of bizarre attacks at the Khan family, suggesting that Khan's wife Ghazala was "not allowed" to speak publicly (she has since gone on to write an opinion piece for The Washington Post explaining that discussing her son's death in public is too hard for her, as if she should have to).
The Republicans who booed Catherine Byrne for mentioning Mr. Khan's name at the Nevada rally were unrepentant when speaking to Politico. Barbara Weisenthal said she booed Byrne because the Town Hall-style event was “probably not the best place to do that.”
The whole idea, of course, is that people like Byrne's son and Capt. Khan are serving or have served in the military to protect her right to ask questions wherever she wants to ask them, without being jeered or booed or even having her voice taken away, in this case due to the microphone she was using being quickly snatched away by a Trump staffer.
When did that change?