Saturday

Happy Memorial Day

Just taking time out to say "Thank you for serving."

There's alot of people who have served in the US military. My brother is one of them. He was lucky - while in boot camp, he was bitten by red ants and died on an operating table. But he was brought back to life by the doctor there with a shot of adrenaline. The doc knew there weren't red ants in Vietnam, but declared that my brother might die if he was bitten by a red ant in Vietnam, and signed medical dox that kept him from going there. My brother spent his time in the Army at the DMZ in Korea. Out of the 21 guys that were in his unit that served in Vietnam... something like three of them survived.

I was walking near the Vietnam memorial once some years ago - I wasn't aware that I was walking near it, I had just left the Lincoln Memorial and was heading up towards the Capitol, talking to a friend from college - and I was pretty focused on what we were talking about, and suddenly I was overcome with emotion. I had to stop to keep from sobbing. It was then I turned around and realized I was standing near a panel from the names on the Memorial. Mind you, I didn't know I was near the panels, I just had this overwhelming feeling of sadness.

Some years later, I was covering the inauguration for Variety - I had somehow talked the Editors of that mag into letting me cover the "music of the inaugural" for Clinton's first.. and had some great times - met Bob Dylan, scammed my way into seeing Streisand, sneaking into seats a few rows back from the just inaugurated Pres.. but I digress. While I was there, I took my video camera with me and walked along the wall again.. this time just filming the names on the wall. And when I came to that panel again, I was again overwhelmed by sadness. I walked a few feet past the panel and the feeling went away - then I walked back and it came back - stronger than ever. Like I should just burst into tears, and wrenching sadness overwhelming me. So I scanned the wall of names - I didn't recognize any of them - I don't know anyone who died in Vietnam. I know people who served, I know people who were shot, I know people whose lives were dramatically changed forever by that conflict.. but none that died, or who were named on that panel.

And the only logical conclusion I could come to is that people who had prayed in front of that panel - or people who came and cried in front of that panel, had somehow left behind an 'imprint' of their sadness. (Two other times I've had this effect happen to me - once in Dallas at the book depository, and the other was in Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam). I don't know how the physics might work for something like that to happen - but all I know is, I did an experiment, and the experiment proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt, that some kind of emotion was remaining in that wall. Maybe because it's marble - I don't know - maybe because of this one panel - I don't know. I know that no one is buried there, so it can't be some left over spirit calling out for emotion - the only reasonable explanation I have is that the sadness from those who've come and cried and prayed in front of the wall, left some of that emotion behind.

And that's basically in a nutshell why I'm anti-war. I'm not anti-service, and I'm not anti-fighting the bad guys where they might live - like in Afghanistan - but when the time came for me to sign up for the draft during the vietnam war era, I was relieved to get a really low number in the draft - something like 320 out of 365, for those of you old enough to remember how that went down. I was relieved, because I had decided that there was no way I was going to go and fight in Vietnam, that I would have gone to Canada instead - and told my father so. He was just as glad that I didn't have to make that decision back then - but in my heart I knew that LBJ was lying about Vietnam, you could hear it in his voice - I knew that Nixon was lying, and I knew that the whole govt. was lying and just plain wrong to be fighting that war - the same way I know the govt is saying the exact same things about the war in Iraq. "If we don't fight them there, they'll come here," "The rest of the countries around it will become our enemies," "if we leave now, it will all become a disaster." As George Santayana put it over a century ago; "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Or perhaps more aptly as Rudyard Kipling said: “If any question why we died, Tell them, because our fathers lied.”

But I honor those who served. My brother. My father. My mother. My grandfather, who at one point was National Commander of the American Legion. His picture is in every American Legion hall in the country, and when I find myself near one of them, I'll usually dip in to say hello. But they're heroes, all of them, and those who are serving and dying in this unjustifiable, contemptous war, are just as heroic.

There's a national cemetery near my home in Santa Monica - it's over in Westwood. And if you take the time to walk the grounds, you'll find that the majority of the dead were part of the Spanish American war. A war that most of us have forgotten, and history doesn't really reflect well upon. These guys signed up to protect the country, were shipped off to the Phillippines, (A war that is widely acknowledged to have been created by yellow journalism courtesy of WR Hearst)- and thousands died of malaria, fever, and other jungle diseases. It's easy for me to say "what a waste" and few would disagree - but it's all a matter of degree. They too signed up to fight for our country - right or wrong, and they deserve credit for doing so.

So when you're flipping burgers and sipping a cold one this weekend, raise a toast to those who've served.

My two cents.

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