An opinion piece in the USAToday complains about President Trump’s according recognition and honor to slain SEAL Ryan Owens and to his wife and family during the recent nationwide address. The author of the piece, Christian Schneider, after the usual excuses and politically-proper qualifications, finally gets to the point:
Undoubtedly, the temptation for Trump to wrap himself in the valor of a recently deceased soldier was too much to resist. Actors frequently win awards by playing historical figures who risked their lives in service of a cause, and yet the actor still benefits from the residual goodwill — despite being paid millions of dollars to dress up like someone who displayed actual bravery. Call it “dignity by proxy.”
But simply exhuming culture does not create culture, just as recognizing honor does not, by extension, make one honorable. Secondhand compassion is not a thing, but it doesn’t mean people won’t try. [emphasis added]
There is a point to putting grieving widows in the spotlight. Widows and orphans touch human beings deep in their gut. Here is someone who’s husband/wife/father/mother/son/daughter/next door neighbor believed in America enough to place themselves in danger while you went about your life, and the danger got them in place of you. It is death by proxy, sacrifice in absentia.
That connection sparks the intangibles: pride, terror, and wanting to be a part of that (whichever that is, either patriot or enemy of the state). That is the point of using joes and widows and orphans and Gold Star parents as stage props: first connect at the gut level, draw the People in, and then engage with them and make them a partner in effort. This is one technique leaders employ to persuade followers, so Schneider’s complaint of its use is not credible, and dignity by proxy is a reward for being part of society.