The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

An intemperate post

Posted by Bill Nance on September 6, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I read this article by Phillip Butler, one of John McCain’s fellow POWs. I thought about writing something at the time, but I held off. I couldn’t quite put words to my feelings.

This guys is a hero; Eight years as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton, two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merits, two Purple Hearts. The Real Deal.

The Juice:

John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty, and tenacity. More that 600 of us did the same. After our repatriation a census showed that 95% of us had been tortured at least once. The Vietnamese were quite democratic about it. There were many heroes in North Vietnam. I saw heroism every day there. And we motivated each other to endure and succeed far beyond what any of us thought we had in ourselves. Succeeding as a POW is a group sport, not an individual one. We all supported and encouraged each other to survive and succeed. John knows that. He was not an individual POW hero. He was a POW who surmounted the odds with the help of many comrades, as all of us did.

I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.

Today I finally figured out what I couldn’t quite say at the time. Here it is:

I find the argument made by Butler to be a no-brainer, but not a winner for the voting public. Too few are veterans to grasp these concepts. Heroism 40 years ago is not a qualification for the highest office in the land. It deserves great respect and gratitude. It is not a free pass forever more.

As much as I think the draft is and was a bad idea, the one very good result was a common shared experience among Americans. Veterans after WW2 knew better than to buy wholesale that Audie Murphy was somehow presidential material. He was a a hero. a great hero. But’s all.

That common experience is non-existent today. A tiny fraction of Americans have served compatred to the numbers of 40 years ago.In my extended family, only myself, my brother, and my father and grandfather have served. no one else has. As a matter of fact most Americans don’t even know a currently serving soldier, airman, sailor or marine, much less are veterans themselves.

I had one of my college teachers call me a “hero” 3 years ago merely because I had served in the military. (USAF 1981-85) Not in combat, not even in war-time. I not only objected, I actually yelled at her in front of the whole class: “I’m not a Goddamned hero. I know heroes. I just volunteered. That means I give a shit, not that I’m a hero. Calling me “hero” cheapens the valor of the REAL heroes.”

The knee-jerk jingoism we see today results as much from the rank cowardice and feminization of our society as much as from any national pride.  That feminization, that lack of commitment to ones country has resulted in everyone who’s never worn a uniform feeling as though they can’t criticize a soldier NO MATTER WHAT. This has just contributed to a military establishment that is ever less accountable to civilian rule. It’s dangerous for democracy and bad for the country.

You can’t say what this guy said, even if it’s true, without provoking a knee-jerk reaction from Americans.I guarantee some readers seeing his article will automatically try to find some way to cheapen his valor, because he DARES be less than 100% supportive of John McCain.

I think it’s a holdover from Vietnam guilt. I guess my answer to this reaction is that people don’t get to abdicate their responsibility as citizens because they acted shamefully towards veterans 40 years ago. Get over it!

Uncritical support today will not heal the wounds you chickenshit bastards inflicted in the 60s. Admit you were chickenshit little cowards hiding in college while poor people went to die in your place and move on. Of course I guess this would actually require a pair of testicles, something 90% of the baby-boomers seem to lack.

-Nuff said

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