What’s a patriotic white boy to do???

September 6, 2008

(copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

You’re almost made to feel guilty if you don’t vote for John McCain, especially if you’re a patriotic white boy like me.

Here’s this all-American son of a military family, a little wild – boys will be boys – darn near gets burned up on an aircraft carrier in a horrible fire where many did lose their lives and a year later gets shot down over North Vietnam while on a bombing mission. Says he really thought mostly of himself until crawling out of the darkness of a hole in the ground and seeing the light after being tortured way beyond the endurance of any normal human being (that’s why he was against torture until he decided lately he was for it again). Then and there, as he tells the story (and in my most non-sarcastic voice, I say a compelling one it is), he decided that there was something in life more important than himself – it was the good old USA, mom and apple pie he missed so dearly. But even though the longing for home was great and the torture dreadful, he honorably refused the propaganda ploy by the North Vietnamese to let him go before others who had been there longer (he was the son of an active-duty Navy Admiral at the time).

He went on to serve his country in the congress, first as a representative and then as a senator.

Well so far, so good.

I have no problem with McCain’s heroism, but I think I’ve heard the story enough now and would rather get on to the issues of the day.

Oh, if I were pressed, I could find fault with his military service, but even I have to admit I probably would be a bit unfair about it all. It was not McCain’s fault, as it was not the fault of most or all who served in the Vietnam War, but if ever there was a war we did not need or should not have been involved in, I believe that was it – well, maybe this one in Iraq ties it or even beats it.

North Vietnam and the Viet Cong did not attack us (unless you go by the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which it is entirely unclear what happened and in which there was no loss of life). The United States was trying to prop up a corrupt government in South Vietnam, whose only attribute was that it was opposed to communism. There is of course a lot more to that history, but we don’t want to get off into a whole different subject here. The idea is that we were not “fighting for our freedom” as unnecessary wars are always sold to us as being – a fight for our freedom, that is.

In Iraq, we are not “fighting for our freedom” as the Republicans and other war supporters claim we are. We are struggling for dominance of a region, which just happens to have a lot of oil. If your argument is that we have to go after all the world’s resources to ensure our freedom, well okay, I’m wrong, onward Christian soldiers.

Iraq did not attack us and there is no evidence that it in any way supported the 9/11 attack. Saudi Arabian citizens made up most of the attacking contingent (but the Saudis are our allies (???)). And we weren’t legally enforcing UN sanctions either, because the UN did not call for it (and I have little use for the UN, but that’s off point).

But the by gosh by jingo USA, USA, USA folks are not concerned with the finer points of all of this. They want to win a presidential election.

Really what we have here is ideological, philosophical, and class, and race (to some extent) warfare with things a bit jumbled. There’s not only a struggle going on between Republicans and Democrats, but between Republicans themselves. One piece I read said in the Republican Party it’s the old country club set vs. Sam’s Club, a clear reference to Sarah Palin (and I don’t know if she goes to Sam’s Club or not).

There is a similar struggle going on in Democratic circles involving women, working class folks, with some split among the races (the competition at the lower end of the food chain is often fierce), as well as moderates vs. liberals, and conservatives in there too, yes, there is also such a thing as conservative Democrats (the South had a lot of them until Nixon stole them away).

Interestingly, though, despite the struggles, it appears that both parties have come out of their respective conventions fairly well united and enthused.

Obama did it for the Democrats, and surprise, surprise, the spunky firebrand Palin did it for the Republicans. Actually, for once, the Republican convention, despite its delayed start, was more exciting, at least from my TV vantage point, than the Democratic one.

One TV commentator announced after the strong speech by Palin: “a star is born!”

If I were her, I wouldn’t quit my Alaska governor gig just yet (and watch out for those National Enquirer articles), but there is no doubt that the potential is there. She’s kind of the Republican version of Ann Richards, but better looking (sorry Ann and may you rest in peace).

But as that already tiresome modern catch phrase goes, “at the end of the day,” we have two basic philosophies running against each other:

The Republicans think that government’s job is more or less simply to provide for the best business environment and that a high tide lifts all boats. And they of course want the government to provide for the common defense. Their definition of a common defense is any war that the president decides is necessary.

The Democrats support a more activist government that supports or helps people in a more direct fashion, and they want a government that while providing a good business environment also protects workers (and the majority of the populace is workers). They support a strong defense as well.

But sometimes the compassionate get tired. You have a class of folks who howled and complained that they did not get the help they needed in a hurricane disaster a few years ago – we saw it played out on our television sets. The whole force of the United States government could not get in to help them, but TV news crews could get in to get the story. The complaints were bitter and understandable. Fast forward, though, and government acts swifter, evacuating folks before the storm. Now they complain that they want to go home, that their shelters are not good enough. Maybe so, maybe not, but such crying is not conducive to garnering more help or compassion from the populace as a whole. And anyone who is honest, knows that the ranks of the freeloaders of all races and ethnicities in society grow and grow over the decades, with some not able to hold down jobs but exceedingly skillful at reaping every benefit available, a trait passed down through generations. And my is this class prolific.

On the other side of the coin, though, there is corporate welfare. As an example, gamblers and out and out thieves manipulate the housing market and then get the government to bail them out when their house(s) of cards falls apart.

Philosophies aside, in the actual workings of government Democrats and Republicans often do pretty much the same thing. That’s why the presidential contest is one more between individuals than parties.

The wild card this time around is that both candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican McCain, are calling for change. In fact, McCain cleverly co-opted Obama’s call for change in his own acceptance speech and came off sounding, and I did say sounding, like he might just be the man to do it. He even rebuked members of his own party saying that they went to Washington to change things and Washington changed them. In the strongest terms he vowed to clean house on corruption and wasteful spending (McCain, though, has not been immune to scandal or accusations of such).

McCain has the governmental experience and he was been at odds in the past with those in his own party and he even tested the waters awhile back for switching parties, he was so frustrated.

Obama is of a new generation and he calls for a completely different way of looking at things, possibly, but will he be able to act, being the comparative neophyte he is in the national realm? And all those neither yes nor no but “present” votes in the Illinois legislature indicate a lack of conviction or perhaps guile to me.

But, if you are not of the upper economic echelon or not even of the middle class, who would more likely represent your interests?

I don’t have to answer that for you. In your heart (you know I’m right, no, whoops that was Barry Goldwater), you know the answer, but you might still wrestle with it.

P.S.  One of my main concerns (not the only, by a long shot) with McCain is that he has made it clear that he is itching for a fight with Iran over their nuclear program. While I understand the danger there, it seems imprudent to draw lines in the sand. One loses the option of choosing when and how to act when the adversary decides on his own to accept your challenge and cross that line. We have actually already made our position clear. It should be up to Iran to wonder what the next move is. McCain should know better. He’s a follower of Teddy Roosevelt who called for speaking softly and carrying a big stick. But McCain sees military puffery as his top campaign tool.