Friday, June 19, 2009

On The Proper Use Of Rank And Title

The story is already tearing across the blogosphere about how Senator Barbara Boxer interrupted Brigadier General Michael Walsh during a recent Senate hearing to tell him, "do me a favor, could you say ‘Senator’ instead of ‘Ma’am’ – it’s just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title so I’d appreciate it, yes thank you.” My opinion on this should be obvious, but I'm going to take the time to state it anyway.
I'll address first the part that irritates me most. "... I worked so hard to get that title ..." First of all, no you didn't. You were elected to an office; you did not earn a title. The distinction is subtle but important and it goes to the heart of what made this country different from the monarchy we broke away from more than 200 years ago. If I actually have to spell out that distinction then you have no business holding any office in this country. That isn't really the part that angers me, though. Sad as it is, I expect this kind of foolishness from the people who believe they are in charge.
No, what angers me is that this senator had the nerve to make such a statement to a brigadier general. Honestly, is there even a point in discussing which of the two worked longer or harder in earning a title? Is this person actually trying to compare the work involved in becoming a senator to the work involved in becoming a general? I know that Senator Boxer has demonstrated herself to be hostile to the military on numerous occasions, but this is rich, even for her.
Now then, there are some coming to her defense, claiming that the general was being demeaning by addressing the male senators as "Senator" while addressing Boxer as "ma'am". Of course, all you have to do to debunk this is listen to or watch the hearing. The claim is an outright lie. General Walsh intermixed "sir" or "ma'am" and "Senator" with every senator he addressed, including Senator Boxer. He used "sir" or "ma'am" more often than he used "Senator", but he did so equally with all of them. Only one of them chose to take offense at this and interrupt the General to address that offense.
There are also those claiming that proper military protocol demands the use of the title "Senator", but this is also patently false. One fool commenting on a blog actually tried quoting one of the military's internal pamphlets (these are, essentially, enforced guidelines for behavior in various situations and, trust me, there are many such pamphlets) without realizing that the pamphlet in question was concerning formal social etiquette, especially formal correspondence. Amusingly enough, even this pamphlet says that, concerning the President of the United States, "sir" is acceptable and appropriate in any prolonged conversation. I would assume that if it is good enough for the President it should also be good enough for a senator.
Military protocol for addressing a person of higher rank or station is actually quite simple. If you are referring to someone then you use that person's rank or title. For example, if General Walsh had been speaking to Senator Vitter about Senator Boxer, then it would be appropriate and required that he say, "Senator Boxer." This was not the case, though. When addressing someone directly, as General Walsh was doing, military protocol dictates that "sir" or "ma'am" is the appropriate title. In other words, General Walsh was speaking correctly as the protocols of his career require. Senator Boxer was flat out wrong.
In keeping with her entitlement mentality, however, it was not enough that Senator Boxer be wrong, she had to be rude as well. She couldn't wait for General Walsh to finish speaking before she made her demand (keep in mind that this was not early in the hearing so it was obviously not something that had to be addressed right away) but had to interrupt him to demonstrate her arrogance.
Someone voted for this person and someone, no doubt, will vote for her again. It really makes you wonder about the people she represents.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder, on occasion, just what would happen to our government and the people (yes, i am using this term loosely) who pretend to run it, if they were required to be respectful, polite and.. *gasp* use common sense.
    I can't possibly be the only person who thinks this would cause mass hysteria, esp. in D.C.?