Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cankers aweigh! Diving for the bottom

A lot of people, even perhaps some unemployed white men, are starting to see what a  superficial viper they have supported, through a quirk of multi-candidate primaries, into the nomination of a political party that has smeared itself with smug and hateful politics. Somehow they are being convinced that hating somebody else and following a pied piper will give them jobs.

I've never written here about electoral politics, but the time has come.  It is bad enough that Mr Trump has shown a lifetime of no principles or ideas other than seeing his coiffured self in the news and debasing people on a stupid television show and making money (off gamblers and their families, good Christian that he is). The appeal to disenfranchised white workers using racist and bigoted scapegoating, rather than constructive ideas that could actually work, wallows deep in the dishonor department.

However, he went the extra low mile when he dissed the story of a fallen war hero, who knowingly put himself at risk for those in his command--as is the duty of every military officer. Given the demagoguery of his campaign to date, the Democrats had every business in the world responding by presenting the facts of this officer's sacrifice to us.

Gold star medal

I served nearly 5 years as an Air Force weather officer during the Vietnam years.  I volunteered, because President Kennedy had told us to ask what we could do for our country.  But I was no sort of hero of any kind.  Indeed, I was very, very lucky to be assigned to a European NATO fighter base; it was during the Cold War, and I never had to go to Vietnam. So I have no idea how I would have borne up had I had to face enemy fire.  But basically all the pilots I forecast for every day did or had done just that.  A number didn't return.  One told me he had been shot down and seen his copilot or wing man hacked to death by machete in a rice paddy, before he himself was rescued. Some whom I knew when they were stationed at my airbase, I was told, later ended up in the Hanoi Hilton (as POWs).  One friend, an intelligence officer, was shot down in his first week there, as he took a recon flight.  Need one say more?

It is low enough to skip out on service at a time like that, as Trump did.  (Wasn't it bone spurs in that multisport collegiate athlete? Which, surprise, surprise, were not even mentioned in the very odd medical report he released in December.)  But it becomes base beyond base to denigrate the sacrifice of an officer who died saving his men, or his distraught family, whatever their religion.  And then try to justify his vile remarks.

This country has done many evil things.  We started with an economy largely based on indentured servitude of needy Brits (who, by the way, were white), and when demand grew greater than supply, landowners enthusiastically adopted slavery. We committed intentional genocide against native Americans.  We've oppressed women and minorities, including the descendants of those slaves, Asian railroad builders, and many others of all faiths who came as immigrants after the British claimed the land.  There has even been religious discrimination here before now.  But as a nation we generally have eventually come around, often painfully, to recognizing our faults and at least trying to correct them.

No political party has all the answers, and we still have a long way to go.  Even so, how many, many African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and, yes, Muslims have served this country?  And sacrificed their lives for all of us.  Even when they couldn't eat at lunch counters or stay in a motel.  And Trump can still look himself in the mirror after saying that he, too, has sacrificed -- by getting rich building casinos.

But the icing on this foul cake is that that noble Presidential candidate boasted that his Vietnam service equivalent was avoiding venereal disease in the pursuit of his philandering.  As he put it, "“It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”  What he really meant was: "Cankers away! I'm diving for their bottoms!"

When I think about the many I knew, who served and/or were harmed in Vietnam, and the others that have followed, that heartless joking is enough, by itself, to define the patriotic basement.  And enough is too much.

After the Air Force, I was able, in this country, to have a fine career.  I've had 50 or so years of post-service life, none of which many of my military peers survived to have.  Military service isn't something most people talk much about, because it's what one is supposed to do in times of need, and I rarely do. I wasn't any sort of hero.  But you don't ever, ever joke about it or sneer at those who answered the call, or compare their realities to the danger of philandering.

I won't make a habit of this sort of rant.  I'm no jingoist, but some things need to be said, to honor those who had a sense of honor, but who can no longer say them themselves.

[I mildly edited the original post to tone down some of the rhetoric, but didn't change the message]


Ellen said...

Made me cry. Thanks for writing this.

Anonymous said...

Spread the word. Convert those that can be converted. Reject the dark side and vote against #TraitorTrump.

Ken Weiss said...

Yes, this must be done. But we must all also recognize why so many are susceptible to the Trump message (or implied message, or whatever one wants to call it. They are human,too (well, I'm less sure about their purported leader). They swarm around his droppings like flies for a reason.

Both parties have left the ordinary people--not just unemployed whites but minorities and so on in large numbers. The Republicans have for decades needed to play the demagogue card, because they, at their core, are only about protecting the upper level elite's wealth; to get majorities they need to wave the religion, race, xenophobe, trickle-down, etc cards.

But the Democrats did not try to reinforce organized labor (and clean it of abuses and organized crime), they played too strongly to minorities per se rather than those losing out regardless of race etc. They were largely an alternative part of the plutocracy, enjoying too many fine dinners on Wall St, etc. Their kind of demagoguery was to promise things to large minority groups (and women,etc.) but they didn't or couldn't deliver that much.

I have some ideas about what happened that I might write about, relating equity vs inequity at home to international threats, mainly communism, to today's situation. If you read Jochim Bittner's op-ed (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/02/opinion/the-new-ideology-of-the-new-cold-war.html?ref=opinion&_r=0) you'll get a taste of what seems relevant.

Democrats have to listen to the Trumpistas, realize that they are human and hurting, lashing out in vindictive anger, and appeal to them with promises they, the Democrats, will actually struggle to keep.

Demeaning or trivializing the military and the true sacrifices many people make for others, really was the limit, to me, for reasons I wrote about. But trashing Trump won't solve anything unless some real answers are offered, believed in, and delivered on. That's where light may be found, if done in time with a real sense of commitment.

There are bad apples in any group of people,including our military. But I believe our military is one of the most honorable institutions that one will ever encounter, an example for the rest of us, despite the very unsavory work they must be ready to do.