Saturday, November 29, 2008

Peace on Earth, etc.

November 29, 2008 -- RE The front page of today's Herald Bulletin -- Which is the more shocking news story? One hundred fifty (200 at last count) being killed in more than three days of terrorist attacks in Mumbia, or one WalMart greeter being killed by 2000 rampaging shoppers in New York?

We have become accustomed to reading about Black Friday atrocities throughout the years, but I believe this is the first time a store employee has been reported killed in a shopping stampede. Terrorist attacks, especially overseas, have not been all that common, but who really cares, despite the fact that several of the victims were American?

Lest we blame the East Coast crowd of rabid day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers for all the mayhem at the malls this year, Inside the newspaper was the story of two men gunned down in a Palm Desert, California toy store on Black Friday. They shot each other to death, apparently arguing over a purchase.

Black Friday is supposed to represent to retailers, a day when their ledger books show an income, as opposed to Red Friday, which would indicate a monetary loss. I propose we change the name to Bloody Friday in commemoration of the WalMart greeter who died in New York and the two nuts in Palm Desert.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Piece of My Mind

Politics I

I doubt there is anyone happier than I am that the presidential elections are over and that our media will be free of new campaigns for at least a few months. No sooner were the votes counted though, than the conservatives began predicting doom and gloom for the republic because the electorate saw fit to put a raving liberal into office.

I am a baby boomer born into a family of Yankee democrats. In the mid 1960’s, although I wasn’t yet old enough to vote, I spent many a political campaign in Connecticut volunteering to stuff envelopes and making campaign signs for the local Democrat Party. This was more of a social activity for me than a political one. It wasn’t until I was a freshman in college that my commitment to politics became guided by idealism.

Academically deficient in high school, I was accepted to only one of the half dozen institutions of higher education I applied to. That was Barrington College, a now defunct conservative evangelical Christian college in a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island.

Barrington didn’t allow drinking, dancing, gambling, smoking, cursing or going to the movies unless the film was being shown on campus. Chapel attendance was mandatory and 30 hours of religious courses were required for graduation.

The war in Vietnam didn’t affect me much in the beginning of that freshman year, 1966. After all, as long as I was attending college, my chances of getting sent off to war were minimal.

Then, in the summer of 1967, something happened to change all of that. My boyhood friend, Donny Walsh, who had enlisted in the Navy after high school graduation, was killed in Vietnam.

Donny was a corpsman assigned to a Marine unit. He was killed while treating a fallen comrade on the battlefield.

The war suddenly became very pertinent and personal. I could not understand why Donny had to go and die in a country I barely knew anything about.

When I returned to college in the fall, I was a budding antiwar activist. I began attending demonstrations in Providence. Soon I was spending more time marching against the war than I did attend classes at Barrington.

When Dr. King was assassinated, I spent four days and three nights sitting in at the Rhode Island State House demonstrating for passage of the Fair Housing Act. The more time I spent out of class the less important my education seemed.

I started volunteering at the Eugene McCarthy for President headquarters in Providence. Finally, I moved out of my dormitory into a room in the back of the campaign office. Later I moved into an apartment that some students from the Rhode Island School of Design rented nearby.

After several weeks, I learned of a paying position in New Jersey and I flew to Newark and became the McCarthy campaign’s field coordinator for the 5th Congressional District. I was given room and board with a democrat family in Manville and the use of a Lincoln Continental and American Express card that belonged to an attorney in Sommerville.

June 5th 1968 at 2 AM, my secretary, a sexy 20-year- old Italian girl named Ellen, and I were driving from an after primary party in Newark back to Sommerville. As we sped down Route 22, we were listening to the news.

Bobby Kennedy, who had won the New Jersey primary as well as the one in California, was scheduled to give a victory speech in a Los Angeles hotel. We heard his assassination on live radio.

I pulled the white Continental off to the shoulder of the highway and with tears in my eyes began pounding the steering wheel with my fists in anger and frustration.

“Why work to get a man elected president when some maniac can shatter a dream with a gun?” I screamed. Ellen was as stricken with hate and horror as I was.

My short foray into the world of professional politics ended as abruptly as Bobby’s life. I dropped Ellen off at her house, forgetting her earlier promise of a night of romance. I then drove to Manville and sat in the car listening to the news until long after the sun came up.

At about 8 AM, I called my mother, who had sent a scathing letter to Senator McCarthy a few months earlier, accusing him of bewitching her son and making him quit college to chase a quixotic dream of ending the war. I told her I was going back to college.

“I don’t think so Jeff,” she replied caustically. “A letter from the Selective Service came for you a few days ago. I think you are being drafted.”

I pondered my choices. Remaining vehemently antiwar, I could refuse to be drafted and go to prison. I could go to Canada. I could go home, open the letter and report to the Selective Service.

I opted for a fourth choice. I decided to go to the nearest recruiting office and enlist.

Since I had taken my Selective Service physical and a battery of other exams two years earlier and had been told I qualified for virtually every school in the Army, I decided to enlist for a military occupational specialty in the medical field.

There were five recruiting stations in a mall in Sommerville. The first one I visited was the Coast Guard. They had a six month waiting list. The waiting list at the Air Force recruiter was almost as long. Since the local Selective Service in Connecticut had already sent me a letter, these services were out of the question.

I bypassed the Navy recruiter as well as the Marines. I knew the Marines used Navy corpsmen and I didn’t want to end up like Donnie.

When I went into the Army recruiter’s office, I announced I wanted to become a medic and asked how soon I could sign up. After ascertaining that my physical and pre-enlistment tests had all been completed, I was told they could put me on a bus to basic training that evening.

It took me one day to go from being a professional politician in the McCarthy campaign to buck private in the United States Army.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why I Voted for Obama

Okay, I'll admit it. My vote in the 2008 presidential race was more of a vote against Bush and the war in Iraq than it was one for Obama. I would have cast my ballot for a guy named Beelzabub if it meant keeping a Republican out of the White House. Better to be led by the devil you know than by a proven liar and wolf in sheep's clothing.

I don't hate McCain as much as I distrust him to be different from the present president. I do despise what Bush has done to the Army I served in for 20 years and the country and world I have lived in for more than six decades.

A democratic republic gets the government it deserves. I did not vote for Bush either time he ran, but apparently he earned enough votes to get elected in 2000 and again in 2004. If those elections were not bought by voter fraud, we have no one to blame but the voters for the eight years of darkness we elected Obama to lead us out of.

Come January this country begins a new era, an era in which the names of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice hopefully will inhabit black chapters in America's history books. Although I sincerely believe these people deserve to be tried for war crimes, I hope they at least fade away quietly into the purgatory of political and social oblivion.