Now Playing: This Veteran's View of Jack Murtha
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 and prove that I went and I 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
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
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 and I sure as hell wouldn't be proud of voting
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;
a pretend neocon patriot 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.
© Arthur Ruger 2006