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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Men better than us.

I was done posting on election stuff until I saw two things this weekend that has me ranting. Again. First is a post Jetpacks did for his father on the campaign race and the topic of race. That I reference it here and that it may come off as me almost parroting the idea of writing about dads is just serendipity.

Had the other thing not happened, this would be a non-issue.

Watching the last-minute blitz by both sides has me numb, as it probably does most people at this point. It’s Friday night and on comes McCain and Governor Schwarzenegger stumping in Columbus, Ohio. They were speaking to people probably no different than those who live near me. Guess Joe the Plumber couldn’t make it. Which is fine, really. After all, Obama does have half of Hollywood making short films on his behalf every week, so all’s fair.

Love. War. Politics.

At the end of this particular speech though, McCain did something he’s been doing more and more as of late. Previously, the campaign had alluded to his service and the physical torture he experienced as a POW, and only in the past month have they really ramped that message up, pictures and all.

The language and specific phrases may change, but you know what he means: “I was beaten. I was a POW. You were not. I’m tough enough.” Done. I got the point years ago because I already knew his story. Regardless of your party affiliation however, you have to respect what he went through.

As I’m watching a crowd in turn watch two Real Men behind the podium revel in the moment—and their own glory—the crowd builds to a frenzy as McCain points to himself and shouts over it all:

“And I have the scars to prove it!

It’s not trademarked, but it should be. The way he tacked it on at the end like that reminded me of a desperate car dealer throwing in free floormats, all because he felt a sale slipping away. The last thing it felt was presidential. I was used to him saying it up to this point, but in that particular moment, in that sloganesque way, it just hadn’t hit me until Jetpacks posted about his father’s military service.

Now it bugs the shit out of me.

The guy in the pic is my old man, back before he shipped off to Korea as a young Marine, having joined at 17, bad football knees and all. I never saw this shot until just after he passed away and the stories from relatives you never knew came out.

All good, as they usually are when someone dies, right?

Now, if you believe conventional wisdom, Boomers like me and others will never live up to what that greatest generation accomplished. Yeah, I know, WWII is usually the cut-off for Greatest Generation status, but our fathers were still very much Real Men who fought wars, worked three jobs, watched a fledgling NFL, and drank bourbon. Straight.

We sit in front of Macs and bitch about Super Bowl ads while surfing YouTube.

You know why that generation was cool though? They didn’t talk trash. They didn’t thump their chest after scoring a TD, then point the ball at the safety, forgetting their team was still down by seven touchdowns with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

As for politics, he was a diehard Republican. Period. Done. End of story. He may not have agreed with everything a candidate did or said, but he toed the line and voted GOP, first time, every time. In his world, you shut the hell up, did your job and supported the home team.

While this was originally going to be about honor, the differences in the generations and a bunch of other stuff, it became as much about things you learn about your parents as it was anything else. Live a little and you discover things about them. While you always thought they were this great larger than life figure, over time they become more average, more human even.

From what I read about McCain, even by his own admissions, my old man was just as prone to the ‘pastimes’ of both the bottle and female varieties. He could hold his own in any fight or drinking at any bar, and I have no doubt he and the senator would, as they say, hit it off famously in that regard. (Although Navy would have to buy.)

In real life, I never saw that normal left side in the pic. What I remember is the sizable portion of his arm and chest scarred for life after being severely burned in an explosion while in Korea. Growing up, our family was used to it.

When he went swimming, working outside, whatever. We just always though that it was normal, because, well it was. Still, I can’t even imagine how bad that had to have hurt. The only thing our mom said about it was that dad got hurt in the war.

Even when he had his buddies over, either those who served or guys he worked with, he would never discuss his service, other than to say “This is so and so, he was in the Corps, c’mon over and say hi.” In the last few months before he passed away because of cancer, I was visiting him along with my son, who, up to that point, had never mentioned the injury, asking what had happened. All my father said was “I’ll tell ya about it later.”

We had to leave it at that.

As far back as I can remember, that’s how it always was. It wasn’t brought out at Christmas to show off. He didn’t brag at picnics while kicking back with a few beers throwing out Colonel Jessep punchlines. Never once did he talk about it in private with us either. For whatever reason, he just never felt the need to.

Not. Fucking. Once.


RFB said...

The more a man tells you how honorable he is, the less you should believe it. Sounds like your old man was the real deal.

At this point, I pity McCain. He's lived his whole life pointing out how awesome and honorable he is. His desperate appearance last night on SNL was the nail in the coffin of his sad campaign, though he doesn't know it.

Cynthia said...

The story about your dad is real, authentic, from the heart and inspiring. You were lucky to have him as a role model.

Anonymous said...

anything i write will be so meaningless to the significance of this post.

so, i offer up this thought: a true man is a man who stands up for his values. these days, values are not valued anymore.

you, mr green, stand up for your values.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been able to understand how McCain's confinement and torture elevated him to hero status. Is the American government, then, creating heros in Guantanamo and Bagram and those dozens of other secret locations around the globe?

warren said...

Nicely written comment, and something to really think about. My dad came back from ’Nam with a purple heart and very much closed mouth -- he's never boasted, never discussed, never worn his service as a badge.

Is the American government, then, creating heros in Guantanamo and Bagram and those dozens of other secret locations around the globe?

To those who will come to idolize them one day, yes.

Anonymous said...

@anon @warren - Yeah, I think it’ll happen, but anon, not just because of the U.S. Terrorist groups in general have done a pretty good job of making sure their dead are viewed as martyrs all over the world. Not just Al Qaida either, but groups like the IRA, PLO, etc.

Anonymous said...

@Cynthia - Thanks. The hellraiser part was legit though, so maybe not everything’s good to emulate. ;-p