© Arthur Ruger 2004
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 anything 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.
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 incensed by her Hanoi affair.
I don't remember hearing anything about our current Democratic candidate 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 1968 I deliberately 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 forgiveness. Most veterans have seen enough in life to know that there's not much
useful in taking an "I'll never forgive you for that!" attitude in most areas of life.
No, I'm not retired from
the military. I got out after 6 years and served 2 more in the reserve. 29 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.
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 withthout 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.
get real out there! Being so offended at what Kerry said and did in 1971 that you would vote 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 has not been there nor done that, then by all means betray what you think you stand for. Go ahead and
fault Kerry for mistakes that have made him a wiser grown-up than George, Dick, Donald and Paul combined..That fantastic four
haven't been there, haven't done that and ignored a Secretary of State who has.
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 says (like
he did today) that Koppel shouldn't have read the names of our fellow warriors who didn't make it.
betrayal friends. 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 series of games of Risk and where 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 and electing a militarily-experienced American President who's gotten wiser over the years just like we have.