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Monday, March 4, 2024


“This Rotarian loves chocolate and big dogs, is a published author, was his high school’s Valedictorian, attended the Naval Academy; enjoys bicycle riding, rowing and tree-climbing. This Rotarian participates in community committees that include Emerald Keepers and Avenue of Heroes, and co-chaired Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) during the pandemic. This year’s Rotarian of the Year is Daniel Steward (second from right).” Photo & caption via Coronado Eagle and Journal. 

Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

GUEST OPINION / By Dan Steward, retired U.S. Navy Seal—It has become increasingly clear that what hundreds of thousands of individuals over many generations have fought, sacrificed and died to protect is in peril under assault by one of the oldest threats to any civilization — a demagogue and those who overtly and/or cravenly support him. 

We in the United States tout democratic principles, individual freedom and a Constitution unique in history, yet far too many citizens ignore what can neither be reasonably denied nor justified — an insurrection fomented, aided and abetted by an individual refusing to accept the will of the people expressed through voting. 

I’m a simple guy. 

Never been elected to public office. 

Swore an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” 

Served a career in the U.S. military. Was held — and still proudly hold myself — to that oath. 

Americans would be well-served to recall John Brown’s 1859 attempt to foment an insurrection at Harpers Ferry. A quick synopsis for those who don’t remember their American history. Brown, an abolitionist and agitator, sought to ignite an uprising to upend slavery in the U.S. His raid on a federal armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, was short-lived; resulted in the deaths of many of his small band of raiders; and killed several innocent people. Brown survived, was convicted of treason, and was hanged in December 1859. His failed insurrection became a cause célèbre for both the North and the South and a spark contributing to the deaths of an estimated 620,000 Civil War American soldiers (roughly the equivalent of American fatalities in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War combined). 

“And the relevance of John Brown to today?” you may ask. One individual can change the course of history. Consider the current presidential race and the compounding impacts of fomenting distrust of the electoral process, judges, the courts and law enforcement. 

Of castigating and making false assertions against elected officials, judges, military leadership. 

Of disparaging any who engage in legal, constitutionally based opposition. 

Of incessantly claiming victimization at the hands of “a corrupt system.” 

Will we to allow ourselves to be swept along this dangerous path while turning a blind eye to the swirl of divisiveness, incivility and unconscionable demands of fealty to an individual or party? 

This is not a diatribe against an individual or a political party. 

It is a wake-up call — particularly to younger generations who may not understand or recall historical instances when an individual has led a nation down a slippery slope with promises to unseat the status quo power structure, punish those who stand against “us,” restore national pride ... and then led the country over a ledge. 

The U.S. has plenty of problems, but is it sane to break an institution in order to improve it? The oldest democracy in the world? Change is needed, but governmental change comes slowly. 

Departing from fundamental principles upon which our nation was founded (all are equal in the eyes of the law, governmental separation of powers, separation of church and state, to name a few) is to ignore history’s stark lessons. 

We do so at our collective peril. 

Foreseeing the fragility of democracy, the framers of the Constitution did their damnedest to protect the nation from enemies “both foreign and domestic.” They enshrined fealty to the Constitution above all else, requiring solemn oaths be taken by the president and members of Congress. 

For all who have sworn an oath to support the Constitution, the path should be clear and incontrovertible. For any who have not taken an oath, the path should be no less clear. 

Lies, legal gamesmanship to obfuscate and delay, and intimidation designed to subvert authority and encourage abrogation of responsibility must not be countenanced by either elected officials or the electorate. 

Answer reveille’s call. 

If ever there was a time to understand what is at risk and how your vote can influence the future, this is it. Wake up and exercise the greatest fundamental responsibility and privilege afforded citizens of this great republic: Cast an informed vote! 

Mr. Steward is a retired Navy SEAL who lives in Coronado. 

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