October 14, 2008
Ed Tubbs (San José EJ)
McCain, Palin, and their Republican supporters: the most un-American of Hearts of Darkness.
Most of us have been thrilled, exhilarated on the amusement park ride through the pitch black House of Horrors, where some ghoul or something ghoulish popped from around the blind bend.
Let’s, and not for the fun of it, ratchet up the thrill and the exhilaration, oh, say 1,000 times. Let’s place you in an impenetrable jungle setting; day or night, no matter. That rustling a few feet away in the bush: is it just the wind through the foliage? Or, is it a deer, or a wild hog? Think quickly because thinking slowly can prove fatal, or worse. You might not be killed. Rather, you might be terribly mutilated for life; a face burned to the extent that, “back in the world” little children run from you, and adults turn away at the horror. Is it a tiger? Is it an enemy soldier? Just what the g*d-damned hell is it? Every nerve in your being clamors to know.
Or, let’s put you in an urban setting, behind that closed door. What’s in there? What will you find confronting you? Huddled children with their mother and grandparents, or an insurgent, his coal-black eyes seething with hatred for you, and a lust to kill you? Think quickly on this one, because an error either way will damn you forever. Should you lob a fragmentary grenade through the door? You’ll be physically safe, perhaps. But if what’s in there is that terrified family and . . . Well, if the military doesn’t court martial you, then imprison you in disgrace, your conscience will, or should. That you know of a certainty. Yet, if you take too long, and what’s behind that door is an enemy combatant . . . Well, you’ve seen the product of that error also.
Now, instead of that ride through the House of Horrors that lasts but a few minutes, in our fight-or-flight, intensely more energized scenario, this tour lasts more than a year, and you’ll return to it again, for even longer, then again, and again, and maybe again, until you have perished emotionally, or psychologically, or physically.
That’s what being a combat infantryman or marine is like. It’s what it’s all about. One way, or the other, it’s about your death, as a humane human with a soul and a mind that can think human thoughts.
You don’t know. Nor do I. Nor does anyone have the capacity to suppose whether he or she would be able to endure the travail Senator McCain endured while a prisoner of war. Perhaps we would. Perhaps we wouldn’t. But enduring what one must does not make of one a survivor “hero,” only a survivor.
There were others besides John McCain. There are many who point to the offer of early release and his refusal as some mark of heroism. The plain and simple is that he had no real choice. For to have accepted early release would have destroyed utterly whatever future career he might otherwise have, as well as that of his father. He knew that full well, and being so aware precluded any choice but the one he made.
This is intended to in no way diminish Senator McCain’s Navy service or 5½ years in a North Vietnam prisoner of war camp. But what he experienced aboard the aircraft carrier, or in his airplane at 35,000 feet, or in the POW setting equips him not the least to understand or speculate what being on the ground, as an infantryman or marine is at all like. No one who hasn’t been there can have the first hint of a guess what it’s like, what it does to the soldier or marine . . . forever. Bluntly, John McCain just does not get it, he will never get it, so long as getting “it” defines the protracted hell the combat infantryman or marine suffers. Neither flying over a target, nor getting shot down, nor being stuck in a vile hole for years on end gives the getting of “it.”
While serving on an Air Force tarmac on some Nebraska base, or as a section chief aboard some naval craft, is highly laudable, in no way at all does it equip that serviceman or veteran to pass judgment on what should or should not be US military policy. NO — it just does not! PERIOD! And for the person who has never donned a military uniform . . . That person has no legitimate say whatsoever, and would be better off just keeping those flapping jaws shut.
That’s why nothing I can conjure gets me more angry than someone who cavalierly, nonchalantly, a slip off a careless tongue, even contemplates a military action; as if the matter under discussion was no more troubling than whether to visit the gas station, to fill the tank - something ya gotta do. That’s one of the major reasons both John McCain and Sarah Palin and all who support them are to me such execrable icons of base immorality. They know not what they do, what they are calling for, and I cannot forgive them their exceedingly vile trespasses.