Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Man from Cheyenne Comes to the Whaling City

The region had a visitor last Wednesday, actually it was the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Cheney, as commencement speaker at the graduation of the US Coast Guard Academy in New London. You've read the news stories and seen the video clips and I think we all understand there was more going on than just a graduation of two hundred plus young people from college.

By all accounts, those who showed up to protest "The War" (it always seems like it should be in capital letters because that's how so many think of it-I don't (I use lower case), but when in Rome (or New London)....) were peaceful in their protected right to demonstrate (it was a bit more tumultuous last year as you may remember, though studies suggest few of us probably do) and that's as should be but as a dad whose daughter is a year away from her college graduation (Michelle doesn't go to the Coast Guard Academy), I feel for the graduates and their family and friends on what was, really, their day.

I write a letter a month, every month, to the President of the United States and to the Vice President, expressing my deep unhappiness at the current course of interaction in, among places, Iraq (and I offer my insights on other issues as well. You knew I would, right?). That's my right as a citizen and the men and women serving in our armed forces would be the first ones to tell you that's one of the reasons they serve (I spent eight years in the US Air Force and understand, even if I don't always accept, the concept). I should get a medal from the Post Office and my local stationery shop, but that's for another time.

It's not a game or kabuki theatre-it's the process by which and in which we live. Eventually, drifting back come letters, signed by people who are as unknown to me as I am to them, on behalf of one of the two gentleman, that thank me for my thoughts (and perhaps secretly wonder how, after fifty-six years of giving everyone a piece of my mind, I can still have any left) and assuring me the President/Vice-President appreciates my concerns, don't sleep in the subway darlin'/ don't stand in the pouring rain/if you're out tonight and you're on your bike/wear white, and all the other automatic closers we use in correspondence. Do I imagine a file with my name on it somewhere in an FBI building? Yeah, in the 'cranky old coot' wing, on the left side of the hallway.

But that's not what went on Wednesday in New London and having thought about it for a little bit (and as unused to thinking as I am, I now have a headache), I really wish we all could be more respectful of each other, especially at 'family moments' where a child is marking a major milestone in her/his life such as a college graduation. It's expensive and it's hard and it takes a lot of tears, toil, and long hours (trudging through six foot high snow drifts, uphill both ways, for five miles just to get to the kegger. I'm kidding!). I'm not sure if my child were getting a diploma, I'd be so mellow about strangers showing up to voice their unhappiness about a national policy at the graduation.

I grasp the concept of 'that's Dick Cheney's the Veep!' and, as such, the embodiment and/or personification of an administration with which some do not agree. According to The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, we are the government, too, so are there gonna be lawn chairs in my driveway or yours protesting our trade policy, or lack thereof, with Lesotho? I'm only asking because I wanted to clean out the garage next weekend and will need someplace to stack all the stuff I'm throwing out.

In addition to being a buzz-kill for a lot of very talented young people and their families and friends, I do think it's a bit rude, as some were quoted as commenting, to use the freedoms of assembly and speech to try to keep someone else from using his same freedoms. Not meaning to put too fine a point on this, Mr. Cheney is the Vice President of the United States of America. In the lives of those enrolled at the Coast Guard Academy and the other service academies (for that matter), he's a Significant Other. We can (and should) disagree without being disagreeable. So maybe that's the lesson learned from Mr. Cheney's visit.

Hand on my heart, with all the reports I read and TV clips I saw, what he came to say didn't stick in my memory-and that's okay because here's a link to his remarks. I'm NOT a twenty-one or twenty-two year old young person graduating from a military academy in wartime, so his words weren't intended for me as the primary audience, I suppose, but I hope all the other people who had words they wanted to say didn't distract or detract from the day's celebration that the Coast Guard Academy graduates had earned. And, just between us, when I saw the Vice President standing at the podium with that cowboy hat on, first thing that flashed into my head: I'm Thinking Arby's.
-bill kenny


Rabbi Arian said...

In that case, no political figure should ever be allowed to give a commencement address. I don't assume that all the graduates of the CGA agree with Bush/Cheney, all the more so their parents. I myself boycotted my own graduation from Georgetown because of the speaker (Jean Kirkpatrick.

dweeb said...

For my part, I assume no one, regardless of politics or personal agenda, should want to distract or detract from what should be a gloriously celebratory day for any graduate. Most ,especially if they like curley fries. ;-)