I'm guilty. I voted for Perot. I've regretted that decision ever since. If I and others who voted for Perot hadn't we might not have ever suffered through the embarrassment of the Bill Clinton Administration and the threat of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Imagine that. Now that we are faced with two unqualified candidates for President, I am once again tempted to cast my ballot for the third party choice, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Dare I?
The election of '92 was a crazy affair. George H. W. Bush should have won. Few imagined that he wouldn't. Teddy Kennedy didn't believe he could be beaten. That's why Kennedy refrained from throwing his hat into the ring. He was going to wait for the end of Bush's second term when he'd have a chance of winning. Yes, Bush was that popular. His coalition of nations had not only chased Saddam Hussein and his minions scurrying back into Iraq, but also reminded the world of America's supremacy. The Pax Americana established by this nation's ascendancy over the evil empire of the Soviet Union was reaffirmed. No other President had such high approval ratings at the end of his first term.
If you read the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, you're familiar with Calvinball. It's a game in which a young child changes the rules to favor his chances of winning regardless of what happens.
Now imagine life were like that. Imagine the frustration of teenagers returning home and being punished because parents changed the curfew without telling them. Imagine the frustration of waiting for delivery of a product or service you ordered and paid for only to learn that the terms of the contract changed without notice. Imagine the frustration of being jailed because the law you obeyed no longer applies and it's been replaced by a new version.
Traditionally, Presidents enjoy a brief period following their election and inauguration during which they get a pass. No one complains. Criticism is held in abeyance. Why? Probably because we're exhausted. The campaigns are over. Everyone is tired of arguing. The loser has conceded. We give politics a rest. Not for long. Just a while. When has any honeymoon lasted more than a couple of weeks?
Normally, that happens. Sadly George W. Bush didn't get one. Instead of throwing rice, the opposition threw hanging chads and went to court (and I don't mean courtship). The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and even their wisdom couldn't put the conflict to rest. Indeed, the wrath of the opposition fell on their heads as Candidate Gore and his followers accused the Justices of playing politics. Thus, even before his inauguration, Bush was named the “President-Select”, and the acrimony never ended, even after he was sworn in.
RallyPoint is an online forum for the military. Its members are scattered all over America. More than a few it seems are scattered over other parts of the world. I've made friends with a few of them. Some are even contacts. But I had never met one in person before yesterday. I had posted a notice about the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War at Fort Irwin, California, and Ken Ellis contacted me to find out if we could go together. We could and did.
We rallied at the Main Place Mall in Santa Ana, California, about midway between our homes. A car club of Shelby Cobras happened to be meeting there and provided a welcome diversion before setting off. Another Vietnam Veteran, John Gleason, a member of my VFW post, met there too and we took off for Fort Irwin about midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Actually, this Army post, affectionately known as the nation's cul-de-sac, lies 30 miles off Highway 15 in the middle of the desert.
We may well-imagine sound arguments being made for several wars or the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) being worthy of the trophy as the greatest or costliest mistake in modern U.S. History. However, all of these are merely the symptoms of other mistakes, aren't they? Finding the root cause depends upon how far back you're willing to look for it..
Ultimately, it may be argued that We the People are accountable for all of the decisions made by our representatives in government, state and federal. Yes, We pay the price, don't we? We pay the taxes. We shed the blood. But the responsibility for those bad decisions vests in our elected representatives.
How does responsibility differ from accountability? Simple. Those who make the decisions are responsible in that they were elected for that purpose: They are responsible for making decisions or executing them. They may even take the blame for making bad ones. However, they never really pay the price for those decisions. They never actually suffer the consequences of them. More often than not, they are reelected so they can return to their seats of power and continue making bad decisions. Whose fault is that?
That being said, We the People electing poor representation to government is not a very satisfactory answer to the question: What is the greatest or costliest mistake in modern U.S. History? Ultimately, it is too broad. It means that We are both responsible and accountable for all mistakes. To determine which is the greatest or most costly mistake, We must narrow our vision to one specific mistake.
It's true. The highest ranking general will snap to attention and salute the lowest ranking enlisted man wearing a Medal of Honor. Why do you suppose that is? Are they honoring the man, the medal, or the act of valor that it represents?
Hero-worship is as natural as breathing. Most of us join the military fresh from childhood reverence of sports heroes. Thus, we didn't invent the practice but we certainly elevated it. I more so than most. As Chief of Awards and Decorations for the 9th Infantry Division during a portion of my tour of duty in Vietnam, I investigated many acts of valor and sat with senior officers who evaluated my recommendations including four that rose to garner the Medal of Honor.
Everyone who has ever worshiped a hero ultimately has been disappointed because every hero falters. Go ahead. Study the record of history. Even mythology tells the same tale. In retrospect, it seems that the West Point statue of Benedict Arnold's boot, commemorating his contribution to the Continental Army's victory over the British at the Battle of Saratoga before he “turned coat”, is the most rational memorial to heroism to be found. [Note: Arnold was wounded in the foot during the Battle of Quebec.]
To be fair, I've never had bad hospital food. I've never even seen it, that is not until I visited the VA Hospital in Long Beach, California.
In the interests of complete disclosure I have eaten plenty of hospital food, but never in a VA hospital. I've eaten it while a patient in civilian hospitals as well as military hospitals. I was stationed for a time at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii where I was a patient for a week with my second bout of malaria. My first hospital stay with malaria was in an Army field hospital in Vietnam where I contracted it, and the food wasn't too bad even there.
I can't speak to the food served at other VA hospitals, but my expectations aren't very high. The food being served at the Long Beach VA Hospital is prepared at the one in West Los Angeles and trucked to Long Beach. The kitchens at the Long Beach VA hospital are closed for lack of sufficient funds in the federal budget. Congress could allocate more or the President could rearrange his priorities, but they have more important matters on their minds.
Sometimes I wonder what I've left undone. I've lived a long and adventurous life, one filled with love and hate, success and failure, great joy and great despondency. Still, there seems to be something left undone. I'm still here. Why?
There is one question that hasn't been answered. Why did my wife wait so long for me? She is a beautiful woman. The perfect mate. She was thirty before we met and I have often wondered what was wrong with the men in California? Why did they leave the most desirable fruit unpicked?
She'll probably blush when she reads this. She always does when I tell her. Then it occurred to me that she may have had a premonition, one that discouraged her from encouraging just any man. She was waiting for me. Why?
Like any good storyteller, I used it as grist for my mill.
The better question may be what's right about American crime dramas? Nothing. Seriously. They use stick thin women to play detectives and beat cops who would have a hard time carrying their own weight on a fashion show runway. Whenever I see them kick in a door or rough up a thug, my ability to suspend disbelief cries out in anguish. Also, the Brits seem more enamored with acting ability than with beauty.
And American crime dramas don't have a consistent theme. American producers, directors, and writers should study their British counterparts. The Brits have a theme. They love cops who are broken human beings. The more dysfunctional the better.
Take, for example, River, a recent offering from BBC and available on Netflix. Detective Inspector John River is barking mad. If he were any crazier they'd have to keep him in a straight jacket whenever they removed him from the funny farm to investigate a case.
John sees dead people. He talks to them. They talk back. John responds physically and emotionally to them. Like I said, John River is barking mad. A nutter, as the Brits would say.
Oh dark thiry
Did you ever feel deprived because you family never lived up to a Norman Rockwell image? I did. However, one day a Lutheran pastor assured me that no one else's family did. Did yours?
It's gotten worse with age, especially in this age of political correctness. My children have little tolerance for my traditional views and they certainly don't want their children infected with them. My wife, a very successful mother, is remonstrated if she dares suggest any child rearing advice to the very children she lovingly raised.
Then there are those other relations: Siblings, nieces and nephews. Dinner conversation is a minefield for any so brazen as to broach it with them. That's why I'm going armed (or armored) with a list of 10 No-Fail Dinner Party Conversation Starters provided by that bastion of political correctness, The Huff Post.
I've also read The Democrat's Guide to Talking Politics with Your Republican Uncle to inure myself to the propaganda I can expect in spite of every effort to avoid discussing politics.
Thus I shall endeavor to abide by my wife's most fervent wish to keep peace in the family.
Good luck to all others who find themselves in my position.
Blogs written at Oh-Dark-Thirty
...or whenever the spirit moves me. Enjoy.
Past postings: More than 500 postings have accumulated since 2011. Some categories (listed below) are self explanatory, others require some explanation:
Guest postings are welcome: Use the Contact Form to request more information.
Copyright © 2013, Jack Durish All rights reserved