Wednesday, September 3, 2008

John McCain Bought Me My Desk

Are any of you watching this craptastic smorgasbord of nonsense tonight?

You know, I kind of liked ole Mike Huckabee out there on the campaign trail, even if he didn't believe in evolution, and thought the world was 6,000 years old, and all that. He seemed like a decent enough sort of person--a mensch, in a southern Baptist kind of way, if such a thing is possible.

Well, that's gone.

At the convention tonight, Huckabee told a heartwarming story about a teacher in Little Rock who wouldn't let her students have a desk in the classroom until they could tell her how they could earn one. The students tried various things, like "get good grades" and "behave," but none of these were the right answer. Finally, at the end of the day, she had a parade of veterans, in uniform, bring in the desks, and she said, "you don't have to earn your desk, because these folks earned them for you, and don't you forget it."

And oy, such tears you could see in the audience. They were verklempt, in a doughy, white, middle-American kind of way, if such a thing is possible.

But let's dry those eyes and talk a bit, shall we? First of all, that's a terrible trick question and a lousy teaching strategy, and the lady should be fired or at least Seriously Warned to Cut It Out. But whatever. It's a quasi-religious/patriotic parable of sorts, and ole Mike has a license to tell those, so we'll let it pass.

The more serious point here, though, is that this was all a set up to talking about John McCain's sacrifice, and how he deserves a desk in the Oval Office, and so forth, because he helped buy our freedom with his service. And it's clever, for sure. Nicely put. It works. But is it honest?

I'm not saying McCain didn't sacrifice for his country, because God knows, he did. And I'm not saying he's wrong about us getting fat and soft and weak in an increasingly dangerous world, because we probably are. But to say that his service--in that particular war--"earned those kids' desks" is to say...quite a lot. Because let's face it--his job during that war was to drop bombs on a bunch of peasant farmers thousands of miles away from this country, who had never done the people of this country one single harm, nor ever intended to, nor ever could have, had we not gone over to their house with our terrible toys. The only danger the people of Vietnam posed for our country was in the fevered imaginations of crazy politicians (until, of course, we turned them into enemies worth killing). Had we never lifted a finger against them, I doubt that anything very much would have changed in recent world history. Vietnam would have been united and communist, which it is anyway. The Soviet Union would still have fallen. But we would have had about 56 thousand fewer dead people then we have now...and a country that was, perhaps, less fractured.

So--honorable service, absolutely. Honorable sacrifice, yes, beyond words. Honorable fight in the cause of freedom...not so much. Not his fault, perhaps, as a soldier, but certainly ours, as a nation. And we should own up to it. Because when we can't (and we can't) we keep making the same bloody mistake all over again.

I wonder in what future decade an American politician will be able to say that out loud, and if I'll still be alive to hear it.

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