Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ignoring the Walk

I was out having lunch with a friend yesterday. It was a pretty good lunch. We went to a place called Sylvia’s not too far from where I live. If you ever find yourself in Antioch, California, I highly recommend it.

After lunch, we paid and started walking back to our respective automobiles. We talked a little more about the world situation and said good-bye.

As I got closer to my vehicle, I saw what looked like a couple of young men getting out of a pick up truck, a fairly large pick up truck. I could just assume it wasn't purchased for its efficient gas mileage. On the back window there was stenciled an American flag. There were two magnetic signs on the truck. They both read “Support Our Troops”. One was red, white and blue with stars and crossed over itself like a ribbon. The other was yellow and crossed over itself as well, like a ribbon.

I’ve seen these signs on one hell of a lot of vehicles, but never wanted to start trouble by asking, “What are you doing to support the troops besides putting signs on your vehicle?” I finally gathered up enough courage to ask these two very healthy young men a question I’d been wanting to ask for a long time. I guess I figured that two young healthy men wouldn’t beat up an old(er) looking man who could hardly walk. Luckily I was right.

One of the two was wearing a t-shirt with the American flag logo on the front and on the back was a picture of Osama bin Laden in one of those circles with a line through it, like this :

They actually stopped and engaged me. I thought that was interesting as many people might think, “Let this old crackpot go.”

One, the taller of the two, answered with, “What are you doing, gramps?”

Gramps? My wife and I have two kids that may have children within the next year or so, so I guess the “gramps” thing wasn’t too insulting. Yet, I didn’t like it much.

I said, “I’m doing everything in my power, which isn’t, I admit, too far reaching, to get the troops the hell out of harm’s way. I think that’s the kind of support they need more than any other kind.”

The shorter guy looked at his buddy and they both started to crack up. “Hey,” he said, “we have an old hippie wannabe.”

My anger was starting to build up, but I thought about the difference in size, numbers and age between them and me and I thought better of showing that anger. I took another bold step - bold for me, that is.

“Can I ask you guys a question?”

They said sure. I’m surprised that they didn’t see it coming.

“How old are you?”

“Why the hell should we tell you?” They turned and started to walk away.

I said, loudly enough to be heard, “I bet you’re not even thirty yet. Are you guys thirty?”

“We’re closer to thirty than you are, old man” and that's the last I've ever seen of them.

Maybe some of this is speculative, but two kids who aren’t yet thirty called me an “old hippie wannabe”, never really answered the question “What are you doing to help the troops besides putting signs on your vehicle?” and called me to task to answer my own question.

For years I lived with one of the most patriotic people in the world. His patriotism was unrivaled. He supported our nation’s actions in Vietnam and we argued - no, wait, that implies a two way conversation - I listened to him “argue” to me over the legitimacy of the Vietnam War.

I was of age to go to Vietnam during that war. I had a 2S deferment, meaning that I was a student and, thus, was exempt from the draft. Then I “earned” a 4F deferment because I was in a fairly serious car accident and was physically unable to go.

I was very easily intimidated at that age, but, even without the deferments, I don’t believe I would have gone to Vietnam. Our nation was supporting one side of a country embroiled in a civil war. We were supporting an extremely corrupt government led by Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem was assassinated in 1963.

The subsequent governments of South Vietnam were mostly corrupt. Consequently our government chose to support one tyrannical government over another, the Northern government which was led by Ho Chi Minh whom the US called a “communist”. As I’ve said in the past, there never has been, is not now and never will be a “communist government”. In fact, the phrase is an oxymoron.

I was of age to be patriotic, quit school and join the military. I didn’t support the war because I just didn’t see the excuses that were given for the bloodshed.

I see finality in death. That statement seems like a no brainer, but believers say that they are living this life to get to a better spiritual afterlife. Why else would so called “radical” Muslims blow themselves up for the purpose of harming their “enemies”? It certainly isn’t because they “hate us for our freedom”. It’s not at all about this life, is it?

Most Christians, especially the well dressed and well groomed wealthy Christians, agree with Islam, evidenced by what they preach. They, too, say that it’s not about this life, but they hoard as much of this life as they possibly can.

I mentioned that I lived with someone whose patriotism was impeccable during the years of the Vietnam war. He was “for the war” and I was “against” it.

Let me digress for a brief moment. There are times when the lives of loved ones are in danger and the only thing to do is to fight defensively in order to protect those lives. In the bigger picture, if America is in danger of attack, there may be a reason to engage in warfare. To emphasize that this is what America believes, the department’s name was changed from The War Department to The Department of Defense to give the impression that we don’t have a cabinet position that sits around thinking up ways to wage war. We wanted to give the sense that there is a department that takes into account all possible scenarios in which the US may be attacked in one way or another and decides the best way to respond to those scenarios.

There should be no one in his or her right mind who is ever for a war in the sense that someone is for a sports team. In the sixties and seventies, the question was asked, “Are you for or against the war in Vietnam?” How could anyone be for a war? I understand people thinking that war is absolutely necessary while wishing it wasn’t. But I can’t understand how anyone can be in favor of a war. One might be in favor of an action taken by a country’s leadership to respond by engaging in war, but I don’t understand how anyone can be for a war.

That same question is asked today in regards to the “war” in Iraq. “Are you for or against the war in Iraq?”

Everyone should answer, “I’m against it. I’m against any war.”

Those who somehow support what is happening in Iraq might follow up with, “I just don’t see any other way of defending our nation.”

The person with whom I lived supported our actions in Vietnam. When I asked him why, he used his powerful debating skills to tell me that my asking him why was an expression of hate toward him. I’ve already explained earlier in this site what followed from there.

This person turned 35 in 1963, before the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident took place. During the bloodiest days of the Vietnam War, he was too old to be drafted. However, it would seem that, if he could enlist and fight in Vietnam, he would. That’s how strongly he supported that war. His patriotism during the Vietnam war was unequaled.

Having said that, and I may be off a little on the following dates, this same person joined this US Army in 1946 and got out in 1948. He “did his two years”.

Two years later, in 1950, the Korean War began to become extremely intense and remained that way until 1953. The person whose patriotism was unparalleled during the Vietnam War, a war during which he was too old to be drafted, was 22-26 years of age during the Korean War. I was born in 1950, so I was in no position to witness his patriotism during the Korean War. It is a historical fact, however, that, unlike the great baseball player, Ted Williams who fought in World War II, got out of the military and rejoined in 1950 to fight in the Korean war, the person with whom I lived determined that “doing his two years” was sufficiently patriotic and saw no reason to rejoin the military in 1950 to fight in The Korean War.

I always think that letters to the editor that support our illegal war in Iraq are written by people who can not join the military. I always think that they’re written by people that are too old or have other legitimate reasons for not joining the military.

I don’t believe that the war in Iraq was or is justified. There is no draft at this point, but draft or not, I would not fight in this war. There isn’t anything about our preemptive invasion of Iraq that has anything to do with defending America.

If you remember, my definition of America is the land and the people who inhabit that land. My definition doesn't encompass what are referred to as “American Interests”, which is code for greedy multinational corporations.

Back to the two young men. Some of this is possibly presumptuous, but they appeared to be of age to join the military. I can’t help believing that they “support the troops”, meaning they support the war. The back window, the magnets on the vehicle and the one boy’s t-shirt leads me to believe that.

As I said, I support the troops by working as hard as possible to get them the hell out of Iraq. I’m too old to join the military and, even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t fight in a war of choice for which there was no provocation.

However, if I was of age and my nation was defending itself against a legitimate aggressor who had the power and the obvious intention of harming the land that is America and those that inhabit it, I would fight. I wouldn’t much like it and would hope that my government was involved in a genuine diplomatic attempt to stop the war as soon as possible. I wouldn’t fight in the war because I was for the war. I’d still be against it. I’d fight in the war to protect America, by my definition.

The two boys or young men shouldn’t have been in the parking lot of Sylvia’s yesterday. Those two young men should be in Iraq, really supporting the troops by fighting by their side if this war is one in which they believe.

This incident has led me to change my mind about who writes the pro war letters to the editor. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if people who are of age to join the military and have no physical ailments that would impede their joining write some of those patriotic letters. To these people and to the young men I met in Sylvia’s parking lot I say the following:

1. Whether or not you join the military to really support the troops, the war is illegal and is based upon lies to the American public.
2. Magnets or stickers on your vehicles mean nothing to the troops. They can’t see them. They’re in Iraq!
3. Writing letters to the editor which express support for the war doesn’t come anywhere near as close to supporting the troops as signing up and going to Iraq. Why aren’t you there?

The two young men I spoke to in Sylvia’s parking lot are helping to end this war in which they so strongly believe.

The phrase “support the troops” lives on a slippery slope. I support the safety of the troops by doing what I can to bring them home as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, if there were no troops, there’d be no war. A lot is made of loyalty and patriotism. A lot is made of the bravery exhibited by those who agree to go to Iraq and put their lives on the line.

I can definitely agree with the bravery part. Going to war would scare the living hell out of me.

However, I hear that there are troops who don’t believe in this war. I must ask, if they don’t believe in the war, why are they enabling it? Why are they there?

The Regime has made it obvious to the most casual observer that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with preserving the American way of life unless one considers perpetual war the American way of life. It has nothing to do with defending America, by my definition. It has everything to do with supporting a group of people, The Regime, whose interest in that part of the world is quite obvious.

I do not wish the troops harm. In fact, I repeat; I want them out of Iraq and ready to defend America as soon as possible. However, I wish those who don’t believe in this war would refuse to go. If enough troops refuse to go to Iraq, Leavenworth would be overflowing. The courts would have to find those troops not guilty of any crime, civilian or military. The mere numbers would make a farce of court-martialing them.

Next time someone says that he or she supports the troops but not the war, that person should consider the paradox. How does one support troops who’ve, through their free will have agreed to fight in a war in which many of them don't believe and without whose participation the war could not happen while not supporting the war that their participation is enabling?

I realize that's a tough pill to swallow. It would make a lot more sense to support the troops if the troops refused to go to Iraq, thus compelling this sadistic regime to end its occupation of Iraq. Such a bold act of bravery may even dissuade this or any future government from pursuing another unwarranted, preemptive war against people who have not shown that they're an immediate threat to this nation.

To friendship,

In the tree of history a sad tale we’re engraving.


storm said...

You sound like someone who never worked a day in his life. Or maybe you own your own business. If you worked for somebody and they asked you to do something did you refuse? If you did you probably got fired. You say you don’t support the troops that are fighting for whiners like you. What are they supposed to do? Their boss told them to do something and like any good employee they’re doing it. I’d hate to have someone like you working for me.

Not supporting the troops is bad enough but expecting them to be cowards like you is fucking unbelievable!

JtWalton said...

Michael I would read more of your stuff if it wasn’t so freakin’ long. I read this over a couple of times and I don’t see anywhere you say you don’t support the troops. I understand what you mean but I can understand how it can be miscontrued.

You talked about being intimidated when you were a kid don’t you think that these kids are intimidated to spend time in the brigg? I think its difficult for them to say they won’t fight. I think peer pressure has a lot to do with it too. Nobody wants to look like a coward in front of his buddies. So kids go because like storm said that’s their job.

I understand when you say you support the troops by wanting them to come home but they’re American citizens and you should support them even if they stay and fight.

storm, how can you say that being fired from a job is the same thing as disobeying an order for a soldier? It’s not even close. A soldier can get put away for a long time. You lose your job and you get another one. What does Michael having a job have to do with this anyway? What planet are you orbiting?

marathonman said...

another thing to look at is that the military is not meeting its enlistment quotas. but I’ve run into the same kind of punks. they have a word for people like you and me, “unpatriotic”. considering that many of these kids of age don’t volunteer, I’ll use that same name for them. those who use “unpatriotic” to describe people who oppose the war are the most unpatriotic.

Jerry Lanson said...

Nice essay, Michael. The dailogue with the two guys in the truck is terrific.