on bended knee

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Many years ago I served my country during the height of the Vietnam War.  Just a hayseed off the farm, I signed up with the Navy to be a hospital corpsman not realizing my government was desperately needing men of valor and courage to go into the jungles with the Marines.  I merely wanted to serve in a role of service to others, not in any combat situations.  It was my upbringing as a pacifist that led me to this decision.

After boot camp, hospital corps school, neuropsychiatric school, and a year on the wards of Philadelphia Naval Hospital, I was due for my deployment orders.  On the psych units where I worked, I ministered to men shattered emotionally by the horrors of what they had seen and done in the rice paddies and jungles.  Nearby on the orthopedic wards I interacted daily with the men who gave an arm, a leg, sometimes all their limbs to a war which was becoming increasingly unpopular.

At the height of the protests in the streets of Philadelphia against the war, we were restricted to the base for our own protection.  It was then that I questioned our government, I wanted to know why young men and women were rallying in the streets.  Certainly, our approved government propaganda would not provide any truth so several of us began listening to “the underground radio”, a local radio station which aired anti-war music and anti-government dialog.  Our base command threatened disciplinary action if we were caught listening to this “commie-inspired”  nonsense in the barracks.

That was 50 years ago when I was a naively trusting 20 year-old.  In retrospect, I believe that I would have taken a more active role in the protest if I were not also battling my personal demons which Providentially shortened my military experience.  Today, I know on which side of the protest lines I would have stood.  My government was wrong, it did not deserve my loyalty or my life.  But, what does a hayseed fresh off the farm know?

In the news headlines we see professional sports figures taking a knee to express their discontent with a government that apparently has learned nothing from the horrors of the Vietnam conflict, the civil rights movements, the gay rights protests of the 1960s through the 1980s.  Many athletes are putting careers in jeopardy to show solidarity with African-American players who see an increase of racial injustice and oppression within America.  They refuse to honor an institution or a flag which denies them equality.

The current Administration is labeling them ‘unpatriotic’ for ignoring a symbol, a piece of cloth, or a song while attempting to coerce the NFL ownership to cave to the distorted concept that patriotism is defined by an unthinking adherence to tradition.  That tradition got over 58,000 American men killed in Vietnam.  Most of them were too young to understand the lies behind their government’s involvement in a conflict across the Pacific.  They could not fathom the corporate greed of the American military/industrial complex nor the powers that condoned a winless strategy.  They are undoubtedly true patriots whose sacrifice we should honor and revere, but we must learn lessons from their experience and never stop questioning our government’s agenda.

The one salient lesson I learned back then in Philadelphia is “you cannot trust your government.”  It was confirmed again during the Iraqi conflicts. Today that lesson is apropos when we consider the deep divisions brought about by opposing ideologies intensified by a contentious election amongst the people of America.  We don’t yet know what freedom-subverting designs are being implemented behind the façade of chaos and confusion.

The players who take a knee are doing so under the good graces of team ownership.  Like any job which any of us work, ultimately it is up to the owners what behavior is allowed on company time.  But this has become a much greater issue since the involvement tweeted by the POTUS.  He has negatively politicized the rights of each of us to express our displeasure with a government which we believe does not uphold the tenets of its founding documents.  He has denigrated the patriotism of the protesting players and in doing so he has categorized all of us who question the actions of government as being ‘unpatriotic’.  Choosing the playing field to voice discontent is debatable, but the right to do so is guaranteed by our founding fathers and is as heroic an act as participating in any military conflict.

Like the protestors on the streets of Philadelphia and Chicago during the Vietnam War, this voice of dissent must be heard.  Perhaps if our political talking heads had actually served their country in a military conflict as Senator McCain did, they would understand that saluting, placing hand over heart, removing hat, standing at attention does not a patriot make.  Patriotism goes much deeper than a superficial act of respect.

During Vietnam many died on the battlefields, many suffered, many were persecuted at home for expressing their love of a country which supposedly honors the free exercise of God-given conscience.  We were all brothers in spite of the government’s attempts to divide us.  Let’s remember that lesson as we face again a government which is lying to us and intends to split us to the core.  Don’t allow the lessons learned by blood and tears to be wasted on a corrupt, self-serving Administration.

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Country Joe @ Woodstock

U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat of military intervention in Venezuela was “an act of craziness,” the South American country’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino told state television on Friday. crazy Trump

Anyone remember Woodstock? Woohoo

JOHN MCCAIN

I googled John McCain last night and was appalled by the number of results which labeled him as “Hanoi John”, a traitor, a coward, a friend of the communists in Vietnam, ad nauseam, etc.  They were no less distasteful than Trump’s loser quote during the campaign.  I never totally agreed with the Senator’s political philosophy, but the man has qualities which should endear him in the annals of politics and should receive words of praise rather than disparagement and anger.

“During the Vietnam War, he was almost killed in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. While McCain was on a bombing mission over Hanoi in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war until 1973. McCain experienced episodes of torture and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. The wounds that he sustained during war have left him with lifelong physical disabilities.”          JOHN MCCAIN

In spite of the tweeting twat’s assessment of McCain as “a loser, I like winners”, and subsequent infantile outbursts about the Senator’s betrayal of party agenda, John McCain is a surviving POW, a man who made service to country his lifetime endeavor, and Senator McCain is deserving of our respect and honor.  I don’t care what your politics are, his courage and sacrifice cannot be deleted from American history.

In his remarks following Trump’s address to the BSA, Senator McCain stated:

“we are an important check on the powers of the executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and, in many respects, to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!”                                                                                                               the new yorker

With his nay vote on the health care bill, John McCain exercised his ability to cross party lines and vote his conscience.  To the consternation of Trump and fellow Republican butt-kissers, Senators McCain,  Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have shown the American voter that there is a smidgen of integrity, ethics, and compromise in the Republican party.

The choices are yours in the upcoming elections of 2018 and 2020.  As a veteran, I admit that I am biased when looking at a candidate’s service history.  That directed my vote in 2016 when we had a choice of Hillary or Trump.  Neither was off-the-chart acceptable but Hillary had a legitimate history of public service.  While Trump was berating a verifiable war hero, his service record was nonexistent thanks to 4 deferments during his draft years.  When questioned about his military deferments, draft-dodger Donald Trump once said that the danger he faced from getting sexually transmitted diseases was his own “personal Vietnam.”  HOWARD STERN INTERVIEW

In 1997 with shock jock Howard Stern, Trump talked about how he had been “lucky” not to have contracted diseases when he was sleeping around:

I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era.  It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

Our political world today is disgusting.  Heroes are ridiculed.  Elected leaders who have the audacity to vote conscience are harangued.  We were asleep at the helm when a segment of Americans brought Trump and his cadre of billionaires and white supremacists to power.

In retrospect, Trump was indisputably ill-equipped to serve with the men of courage and valor during the Vietnam era.  He did not have the necessary integrity and sacrifice to serve others rather than himself.  The facts of life on Earth force most of us to grow up.  Apparently Trump has never faced those facts.  According to the oath of the Boy Scouts of America,

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

whom he flamboyantly and repulsively addressed, he doesn’t even make it to the starting gate regarding the race for wisdom and maturity.

We can do better.  We deserve better.  The elections of 2018 and 2020 will give us an opportunity for redemption.  Get to know your candidates and get out and vote.