Monday, November 11, 2013

The Cleanest Dirty Shirt

This is Veterans Day across the United States and Remembrance Day in Our Neighbor to the North, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Actually that was an attempt at light-heartedness that may have struck you more as light-headedness, as our neighbor to the north is Canada, as you hopefully already know. Geography and sophistry in the same ether at the same time! 'Murica!

Patriotism, George Bernard Shaw once offered, is the misguided belief that one country is superior to another because of the accident of your birth. I'm proud to be an American and particularly delighted I'm not Lee Greenwood.

I'm proud of my nation because of who we are as people and what we do as a country when we follow the voices of our better angels-though I'm sometime disappointed by we who are and how we sometimes behave towards the rest of the rest of the world and one another.

This time a month ago, I watched political leaders in my nation's capital use veterans as a political fulcrum and prop in a passion play of pandering and posturing that led many of us to cry out 'a pox on your houses' as they held one another and all of us hostage.

A month later, there's still a lot of talking but it doesn't look like a lot of listening is happening. This column from the NY Times' Thomas L. Friedman captures our dilemma, I think, quite nicely.

I'm a veteran, but not a Sgt Rock of Easy Company (that position was filled; I asked). I didn't have a hard job in my eight years in the US Air Force and what difficulties I had, I concede, I mostly made for myself (and were probably deserved). I didn't fix planes, dig ditches, rescue people or hump cargo (or vice versa; okay, some payday weekends I only have the fuzziest of memories).

I worked for the American Forces Radio and Television Service as a broadcaster. Yeah, I know, who'd have thunk it, right? My big worries were a record skipping on a turntable, or an audio splice separating. I had a small, nearly minuscule job but like the millions with whom I served, I took what I did seriously and attempted in my shambling way to do it to the very best of my ability. And, at least for today, I'd like to believe each of us in, and out, of uniform did (and do) the same.

This isn't Memorial Day, dedicated to preserving the memories of all those who gave their lives in the defense of their nation. Today honors everyone who has ever served in our Armed Forces. The distinction between the two observances is important, I think, when I recall Joseph Heller's Catch-22 where Yossarian tells LT Nately 'it makes no difference to a dead man who won the war.'

It's a reminder it's incumbent upon those who survive 'the war,' whichever 'war' you wish to cite, to help fashion a more peaceful world that follows. A world where Carl Schurz is correctly and completely quoted, 'My country, right or wrong; if right to be kept right, if wrong to be set right.' Beginning with each of us, everyday. Forever.
-bill kenny

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