On Trump’s Assumption of Another Man’s Arms

Recently, the arms used by the Trump Organization has come into the public light. The New York Times, on May 28th, 2017, published an article by Danny Hakim entitled The Coat of Arms Said ‘Integrity.’ Now It Says ‘Trump.’. The article outlines the history of the arms, which were granted to Joseph Edward Davies in 1939. Mr. Davies was the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post, who built Mar-a-Lago, the Florida resort now owned by the Trump Organization. What can be inferred from the article is that Mr. Trump, in his acquisition of Mar-a-Lago, also believes himself to have acquired rights to the arms in question.

29trumpcrest-combo-articlelarge

Image courtesy of the New York Times

I’ll do my best to avoid being political in my response to the notion of assuming another man’s arms. As a gentleman should, though, I try my best (and sometimes fail) to stay above the political quagmire. This particular issue, for me at least, is not of a political nature, but a question of honorable action.

I am not saying that Mr. Trump is dishonorable. I am saying that assuming someone’s arms that have been granted by a heraldic authority such as the College of Arms is a dishonorable action. I realize that the College of Arms has no jurisdiction in the United States, or anywhere outside its very limited realm of authority, but its still bad form. The arms displayed on Mar-a-Lago when Mr. Trump purchased it were not intellectual property or a trademark to be transferred with the purchase of that wonderful estate (if estate is a fitting term for a resort), but the personal property of a past owner, to be transmitted to his posterity, independent of where he might have displayed them in his lifetime. On this issue, I find myself at odds with Mr. Trump.

I realize that as the de facto leader of the free world, Mr. Trump faces intense criticism, much of which is of debatable validity. I am not here to heap burning coals. Heraldry, anachronistic as it may be, is nonetheless a passion of mine, and I do not wish to see it diminished by anyone, especially by someone such as Mr. Trump who seems to enjoy its use.

In fact, in December of 2016 after Mr. Trump was elected President of the United States I sent a letter to him, that in part, made this petition:

Now, to the main point of my letter: I am writing to ask your consideration in expanding the role of The Institute of Heraldry (www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil) to include civic, corporate, and personal grants of arms. I have observed that you are an admirer of armorial bearings, and I think the expansion of the Institute fits in with your pledge to make America great again. America’s greatness is displayed in our symbols, from Old Glory to the Great Seal to the bald eagle. The federal government and the military make excellent use of heraldic devices, I would love to see formal recognition of personal coats of arms.

To date, I have not received a response to this letter. Granted, I sent it care of the Trump Organization’s address at Trump Tower in New York, before he had been sworn in as President. Maybe I should resend it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I went on to make the case for a republic to have a heraldic authority:

Like you Mr. Trump, I have a coat of arms that I have assumed [N.B. I was not aware of the controversy surrounding his assumed arms at the time], which is all that is possible in America since there is no equivalent of the Court of the Lord Lyon or College of Arms for the granting of private arms. The best I can do to have my arms recognized by a heraldic body is to provide genealogical evidence of ancestry from a nation with an official heraldic body and petition for an honorary grant of arms. This is a very time consuming and costly effort. I could also petition another heraldic body that does not have descendancy limitations, such as the South African Bureau of Heraldry, which is less costly, but also carries less meaning since I have no hereditary affiliation to South Africa.

There are a few notable examples of republics that grant arms: South Africa, which I have already mentioned, and Ireland. Both of these republics have historical ties to Great Britain, as do we, and they do not find heraldry incompatible with their republicanism. Likewise several prominent Americans have been granted arms: President George Washington, through his decent from an armigerous ancestor; President Dwight D. Eisenhower, assigned/assumed in relation to his investiture in the Order of the Elephant; President John F. Kennedy, who was awarded a grant of arms from the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland; and Secretary Colin Powell, who matriculated a coat of arms granted to his father, a Jamaican subject, from the Court of the Lord Lyon based on his mother’s Scottish heritage.

In amending the mission of The Institute of Heraldry, which would be well within your prerogative as Chief Executive, you would enable thousands of Americans to obtain formal recognition for their assumed arms.

I think expanding the role of the Institute of Heraldry could solve Mr. Trump’s woes in his improperly assumed arms, and provide American citizens the opportunity to have recognized grants of arms. I realize that adopting arms that differ from those that rightfully belong to the male heir of Joseph Edward Davies would be very costly for Mr. Trump, but it is the right thing to do. It is not a display of integrity to reuse a man’s arms without difference, except for changing the motto on the scroll from “Integritas” to “Trump”. I realize in the United States this may be “legal”, but it is most certainly not “gentlemanly”.

Am I asserting that Mr. Trump is not a gentleman; by all means, NO. Mr. Trump was elected as President with the mandate to Make America Great Again. I support him wholeheartedly in doing so. I just happen to think that part of that making great also includes following tradition. I’ve prayed for Mr. Trump’s success as President in doing the will of God, just as I did for his predecessor Mr. Obama. I didn’t pray for their individual success, I prayed for God’s blessings on the Nation through their leadership.

Mr. Trump is not old money and he doesn’t come from an established line of American “aristocracy”. He is a self-made man. He doesn’t need the arms of another man to provide him standing in society. One of my favorite books is The Great Gatsby. Mr. Trump reminds me of Jay Gatsby. He’s got the money; he’s in the right places, yet the old money snobs will never accept him. Mr. Trump’s story, at the trajectory it is on, will end much better than that of Jay Gatsby. Most importantly, Mr. Trump has a family to carry on the great name he is making. They have the potential to be a leading family in the American nobility (I can hear the shrill liberal screams of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” as I type this).

I think that one thing that Mr. Trump could do to secure that legacy would be to adopt his own unique arms, or have conferred upon him by some foreign state with a heraldic authority unique arms. These arms would be differenced among his sons, and passed on to their sons’ sons. This legitimate armorial achievement might even be as enduring as those borne by General George Washington, which he had hereditary right to through an armigerous ancestor.

Even if wholly unique arms are a step too far, Mr. Trump should at least difference the arms currently in use enough that they then become unique. Add a bordure, a canton, or something. Put a bald eagle in chief. Just something. The brand recognition would be retained and heraldry geeks such as me wouldn’t be blowing a gasket.

 

 

My comments on Armed Forces Week

There’s nothing to stoke the ego quite like being interviewed for television. At an American Legion district meeting yesterday afternoon, I was asked to provide some comments for a reporter with one of the local television statements. I didn’t get to see the segment that was broadcast, but I was quoted online as saying:

Veteran Jeremy Blevins says, “I think its wonderful to see the City of Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley in general do for the veterans community and its active duty service members.”

 

Blevins does say while many attractions use this week to provide retired and active duty military free admission, that’s now what they look forward to when they choose to risk their lives for their country.

 

“Veterans are never asking for a handout, we always, we’d like to be recognized for our service to our country, but we didn’t serve our country to be recognized.” (Source: WAAY TV)

There’s nothing like stumbling through an interview that you haven’t prepared for. With my role in the Legion over the past couple years, I’ve had a couple opportunities to be in front of the camera, and the introvert inside me cringes every time it happens. I hope for the benefit of everyone who has to sit through watching me that I get better.

Imagine my surprise when another ABC affiliate in Florida posted the article to its website. Given that my commentary has now escaped the Tennessee Valley, I wish I hadn’t stumbled over the wording.

 

In praise of Sir Roderick Spode

I spent the past month or so watching the complete series of Jeeves and Wooster on Hulu, and I proudly proclaim that my favorite character was Sir Roderick Spode, 7th Earl of Sidcup.

John Turner as Roderick Spode

Nevermind the fact that the character was patterned after Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley; Lord Sidcup is an inspiration to all would-be benevolent meglomaniacs who want to make the world a better place. Unlike Bertie Wooster, that useless fop, Spode held himself with dignity and honor (except when Wooster was blackmailing him with the mere mention of “Eulalie”) and sought to restore national pride in Britain. He even almost let his civic pride and duty to nation overcome him when he nearly cast aside his place amongst the Lords to run for Parliament, only through the manipulations of Jeeves (for the benefit of Wooster)  to be pulled back to his senses.

First, his vision. He knew what he wanted and worked toward achieving it. Before his elevation to the peerage, he sought out influential friends (Sir Watkyn Bassett) and established a source of income that allowed him the freedom to think on such noble causes such as British-made bicycles and umbrellas for all citizens.

Second, his influence. The Black Shorts were devoted to the cause of Spode. They donned the uniform, attended the rallies, and even fought the Communists in defense of their great leader. Granted, their membership was mainly young unmarried men in need of a hobby, and older men whose wives determined they needed a hobby.

Finally, his determination. As evidenced in the “Eulalie” fiasco, Spode was willing to do what it took to see himself reach the success that he desired. Any man who could design women’s underwear AND lead a small army of fascists is a true man indeed.

So to all my fellow Walter Mittys out there, seeking a resolute and determined role model, let us learn from Roderick Spode and keep our heads high, even when the poo comes raining down.

Appeal to the Queen to Make Colonel (RCAF, ret.) Chris Hadfield a Knight

I am an advocate in the recognition of those who have made significant achievements of benefit, not only for their homelands, but globally.  Thusly, I support the effort to petition for knighthood on behalf of Astronaut Chris Hadfield. His contributions to space exploration supersede national boundaries.

Excerpted from the petition:

May it please Her Majesty to honour retired Astronaut Chris Hadfield, a true Canadian and Commonwealth icon, with a substantive knighthood for his extraordinary achievements in space.

A former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, Colonel Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space. Hadfield has flown two space shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station.

During the mission he gained popularity by chronicling life aboard the space station and taking pictures of the earth and posting them through Twitter and Facebook to a large following of people around the world. From his perch in orbit, he was a guest on television news and talk shows and gained immense popularity by playing his guitar in space. His rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is easily considered to be “one of the best videos of all time.”

As the first Commonwealth citizen to command the ISS, Astronaut Chris Hadfield inspired people the world over, especially the next-generation of scientists and engineers, and once again brought international popular attention to space expeditions — all while running the most productive science mission to date. His exceptional achievements in space have made him, in the words of one BBC commentator, “the most famous astronaut since the days of Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gagarin.”

Given these outstanding contributions, we the undersigned believe a knighthood as something personal from the Queen, over and above any Canadian honours, would be highly appropriate to reflect the pride and gratitude of the whole Commonwealth family.

You can view the petition here:
Appeal to the Queen to Make Astronaut Chris Hadfield a Knight Petition | GoPetition

We don’t have quite as elaborate an honors system in America, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal being our highest honors, but I would argue that Colnel (RCAF, ret.) Hadfield’s international service would make him a candidate for them as well.

[UPDATE: 22 July 2013]
The author of this petition closed it on 15 July with the following statement:

Please disregard this petition. It was conceived with good intentions, but its author now believes that it is inadvisable to petition for Royal Honours.

Additional comment available here

Distinguished Warfare Medal, part II

The article below isn’t new news, but a welcome development in the drama around the

Ranking of new “cyber-medal” comes under scrutiny: Two Republican members of Congress who are also military veterans have introduced a bill that would lower the rating of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal, which can be given to drone pilots and cyber warriors. The legislation would prohibit the medal See all stories on this topic »

I wrote about this last year when I first heard about the idea being floated, and I  still loath the notion of
a “Distinguished Warfare Medal” with such a high order of precedence given the low risk in obtaining it.  I am not the only veteran outraged by this, and the media has caught on:

The medal itself is not the issue: the precedence is. It is an insult to those who risk their lives in combat, and though I do not fall into that category, I hold those who did in too high a regard to allow this to remain silent. As I stated previously, the medal needs to be demoted significantly.

I think this sums it up pretty well:

http://www.brecorder.com/images/wall/2013/02/thumb/distinguished-warfare-medal-328×280.jpg

Here is a link to Representative Hunter’s comments.

[Update: 6 March 2013]
Another link:
http://soldiersystems.net/2013/02/13/the-distinguished-warfare-medal-the-times-they-are-changin/

Also, in a meeting of the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the National Defense Industry Association, I heard this decoration referred to by the name that I will hereafter call it: the Fobbit Medal.

[Update: 12 March 2013]