Sunday, January 15, 2006

Swift Bloat Chicken Hawks Against Murtha

Thank you to Lietta for inviting me to post this article at this excellent site.

This is an updated opinion of something I wrote during last year's election.- AR


Who has earned the right to speak about serious stuff with a veterans's wisdom?

I'm an old veteran with no hair, high blood pressure and military memories going back to the early 1970's when Jane Fonda was a swear word and my cousin somehow got into the National Guard and I didn't.

Had I waited another six months before enlisting, the new draft lottery which placed my birthday at the 350+ level would have meant that I, like Mr. Cheney, could have pursued my "other priorities."

Somewhere downstairs I've got an old hard-cardboard Schlitz beer-box with enough military records in it to prove I went and to prove I did.

There's a bunch of ribbons there that I didn't toss over any walls in protest but are in a glass jar where sometime I'll go down and look at them.

There's an air-medal (and maybe a cluster) that are still in their containers.

There's little sterling silver wings that my commander told me I could wear even when not on flying status after completing ten combat missions.

They're all down there to prove I went and did.


When I was studying Russian at Syracuse University, Woodstock happened less than 100 miles away.

I wasn't about to drive over and see that. I was too mad at Jane Fonda - mad about her movie Barbarella which had offended my youthful moral view of the world. And I was incensed by her Hanoi affair.

I don't remember hearing anything about John Kerry back then and his post-Viet Nam role against the war. I recently watched a Dick Cavett show where Kerry debated another vet and can assure you that at that time I would have voted Kerry into the brig for what he was saying and doing.

Funny how time changes perspectives.

My yuppie kids are outraged that in 1969 I willfully refused to go to Woodstock.

I agree with them.

What was I thinking?

Was my patriotism so shallow that rain, mud, outlandish music, naked women and pot smoke could rock my foundation as a true American?

I'm embarrassed about what I thought was important when I was 22 and what I did and didn't do about it.

Yet, here I am today, a middle-aged repository of all my experience which is the only source of wisdom I have to offer my kids and grandkids.

I sure as heck am not going to teach my kids that military veterans are long on judgment and condemnation and short on wisdom.

No, I'm not retired from the military. I got out after 6 years and later served 2 more in the reserve.

30 years later, I'm still aware of a sense of difference between the civilian and military world where you have got to trust somebody before you follow them.

In 1968 I was so mad at LBJ, I voted for Nixon so I guess that made me a Republican.

In 72 I thought McGovern was a peacenik and I was a war-nik so I gave RMN another vote.

In 76 I was genuinely offended at Nixon - and Ford for pardoning him - so I voted for Carter.

In 1980 when Reagan asked "Are you better off now...." he got my vote.

In 1984 he looked tougher than Mondale so I voted for RR again.

By 1988 though, I didn't trust Bush the First so I went into my vote-for-the-outsider mode and voted for Dukakis.

1992 and I'm mad at Bush Sr. who seemed to think looking like Patton would fix the economy and voted for Bill with the following little sentence in sotto voce: "Ok you SOB, you'd better not blow it."

By 1996 I began to suspect I was more of a liberal than a conservative and just couldn't bring myself to vote for Dole.

So there I am, trying to vote the man instead of the party, flip-flopping and waffling with the best of them.

By 2000 I realized that my veteran's instincts were alive and well and I saw only form without substance in Dubya. Besides, an old NBA fan like me thought Bill Bradley was the smartest guy for president and I was disappointed that he didn't get nominated.

I voted for Gore, the veteran.

So let's get real out there! Being so offended at what Kerry said and did in 1971 that you voted for George more out of spite than wisdom is not a prideful attribute.

If you think there is more international wisdom and military craftsmanship from a gang that truly cannot shoot straight, has not shot straight and literally did not serve - has not been there nor done that - then by all means betray what you think you stand for.

Speak out and reveal your belief that splashing around in shallow water is better than learning to swim and navigate in something deeper where there's much more substance to everything.

Go ahead and pretend that Repuglican political fools - presenting to us a bushwhacking war president who is bluffing - have really convinced you that Bush knows more about the military than Jack Murtha;

That Mr. Bush as a run-and-hide Texas Champagne Guardsman is truly a wiser military-veteran grown-up than Jack Murtha;

Be sure to watch a lot of Fox TV (chicken hawk heaven) and pay attention when William Kristol of PNAC fame makes a guest appearance there and talks like winning games of RISK make him a strategic wunderkind;

who said last year that Ted Koppel shouldn't have said out loud on Nightline the names of our fellow warriors who didn't make it.

And by all means, go to Kristol's pride and joy site The Project for the New American Century.

There you'll find an ivory-looking tower made of fragile glass full of intellectual hubris. It's a place where political power theories look like they came out of a perusal of Cliff Notes and where - like in RISK - military troops are nothing more than little colored blocks of wood that are casually swept off the board with each roll of the dice.

That's the alternative to using your own common sense.

Jack Murtha is much closer to the reality in which I live and the memory trove from where my own supposed wisdom comes.

I trust Jack.

Cross-posted to WashBlog at Pacifc Northwest Portal

1 comment:

Noemie Maxwell said...

Since 911 when I suddenly "got it" that heroism and caring for others is non-partisan, and especially -- since I began grassroots action against Bush Jr. in early 2004 -- my tolerance level for people who hold political philosophies different than mine has greatly increased.

Expressions like this post have been very influential in this broadening of my understanding. I have talked with many people about the evolution of their beliefs -- and have read many similar accounts. As a result, my views have changed too.

Previously, I could not tolerate a view that seemed to contradict what I see as the moral imperative that our taxes protect the vulnerable and keep our environment on an even keel. Any other way of seeing the world seemed un-loving to me, unethical, obtuse. I could not understand how someone could support any war except one responding to a direct threat to US security --- without themselves being of a murderous nature.

But being able to get insight into what changes people's minds -- and undergoing radical changes of perspective, myself -- has taught me a bit about the process involved in shifts of perspective. I no longer assume that a person whose political views differ from mine is coming from a place of dishonesty or aggression. And I can see a bit more clearly some of the reasoning behind the conservative viewpoint so that I can better separate conservatism from what I see as selfishness and be more willing to learn from its ideas.

Changing the way we see the world is a slow process. There is an ecology to it, or perhaps a mathematics. What I am trying to say, is that it is a kind of natural process that can happen instantaneously, perhaps, but nevertheless cannot be rushed. It requires certain steps, certain experiences, certain processing. Demanding that others (or oneself) go through this process immediately, or condeming people because of a perceived failure to have entered into it in some realm or another -- is counterproductive.

I've always been a liberal. From the time when I was 7 and cheered for Humphrey instead of Nixon (because he seemed more friendly) and then the days I was riveted by the testimony of Dean and Erlichman during the Watergate hearings (I thought to myself -- gosh, can't everyone just see immmediately that Mr. E is lying lying!?), I have thought that conservatives just were completely out of it. I thought their conservatism made them willing to leave most of the people in this world out of the good life -- or even to exclude them from what they need to survive. I saw the cheering Republicans at George Sr.'s convention and thought, how on earth can so many nice-looking people have such an ugly political philsophy? Surely, most of these people must be kind-hearted. How can they support a party and ideology that puts money-making above the needs of children and other human beings, above caring for the environment of this beautiful world? And I felt completely intolerant toward them, furious, as if they were cheating the world -- and me -- out of peace and justice because of their own narrow, stupid views. I associated these well-dressed people with the children who teased and ostracized me when I was young because my family had less money than theirs and I was less well-dressed and affluent.

It takes a leap of faith and a leap of imagination to accept without rancor or disbelief that someone of a differing philosophy could be equally mystified and taken aback by my understanding of the world. But I have to admit, from what I have learned, that I also must have areas of blindness. And also that I may be exaggerating the blindness I see in others -- they may have wisdom that I cannot understand.

My gratitude toward people, like the person writing here, people who have courageously changed the way they see the world in response to their experiences and their understandings of the experiences of others, inspires me to be more humble about my own perceptions, to aspire to keep more open to new evidence, and to be more patient with myself and others.

President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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