Friday, April 4, 2008

Particular Patriotism

I was performing my usual circumnavigation of that most hallowed and distinctively idiosyncratic lair of fiction…internet news…when I espied a composition of noteworthy merit. It was an announcement of the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor to a dead sailor. The young warrior had been a member of that most elite of combatants. He was a Navy Seal. Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor, of Garden Grove, Calif. He was on a rooftop in Iraq and leapt on a hand grenade to shield his fellow SEAL’s from harm. He was 25 years old.

Now one must remember that I am an outspoken opponent of this, and any war. I fervently believe that killing is wrong, and have written a book (hopefully to be published at some point in time) detailing this standpoint. I believe our current President should be tried for no less then Criminally Negligent Homicide.

This young man deserved every tribute any of us can give, regardless of personal beliefs or feelings. I recognize true heroes and I am grateful the US government also recognizes such valor. The Congressional Medal of Honor is not issued flippantly. Much investigation goes into the selection, and the members of this small society within the larger society of armed force members are a special category unto themselves.

I had the privilege of serving with a Congressional Medal award winner. They are most definitely a breed apart. This gentleman I had the opportunity to meet was my Group Commander during my own tenure in the service. One day, as per orders from my First Sergeant, I lay underneath a 2 ½ton truck attempting to change the clutch. Not really my job, but sometimes, in the Army, one must do what one is told. As I lay under the truck, desecrating the English language with the most onerous of invectives, someone tapped my size thirteen and asked what I was doing. I looked to see who the annoyance might be only to find a silver eagle staring back at me. Being a private at the time and certainly no Beetle Bailey, I promptly got to my feet and saluted. I explained to him what I was attempting to accomplish. He queried me as to why I was performing a job that was not my responsibility as a truck driver. Not being as talented an orator I am today, my answer came out…“’Cause Top told me to.” He gave me this long stare. Anything more then five or six seconds is long time, in my opinion, and I believe he must have looked at me for about three thousand years. Well, at least it seemed that way. He was, after all, a freaking Colonel!

“What is the problem, Soldier?” I explained that the Good Lord had only made me with two hands instead of the required three. Not in that sarcastic and blasphemous manner, but the message got across. Another three thousand year stare. He reached up to the door to the cab and proceeded to lose his cap and field shirt. He told me to get back to work. He got on the ground and helped me finish the job!

Afterword, he walked with me to the mess hall where we ate lunch. He wanted to know about me, my family, and my hopes for the future. He did this type of thing with me whenever he saw me. He had a temporary duty assignment on the Czechoslovakian border and requested me as his driver. He told me of his life, and how he thought the medal was not really necessary because he was just doing his job. I would have followed him into the face of the Soviet Army, armed with naught but a water pistol.

I tell this story not to impress. Neither do I reflect in order to confirm the beliefs some might have of rampant hypocrisy. I say these things because I want to tell you what I believe patriotism is.

I think patriotism is a duty for all of people. Regardless of one’s political belief. As I begin this piece it is the anniversary of the day I pledged to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I still hold myself bound by this oath. I interpret it somewhat differently today then in 1971, but I still hold myself accountable for its requirements. In 1971 defending the Constitution meant that I change a clutch in a deuce and a half. Today it is about defending the constitution by practicing the rights given me in that document. My feelings on the President and the administration fall under the category of “Enemies domestic.” My stance on “enemies foreign” is that I trust people such as Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor to deal with those people who, whether I agree with or not on the amount of personal danger, wish to do me harm.

I have written, someplace, of my affection for the troops currently serving. Respect grown out of their demonstrated fidelity to all that is American, or all that is supposed to be American. That Navy Seal leaping on a grenade displayed total dedication to his oath by the giving of his life. The God I understand taught me that no greater love can be shown then this. What I take issue with, is the tripe vomited by our current administration on the necessity of murdering the citizens of Iraq, and endangering/sacrificing our beautiful and faithful service people. I would respect it more if they would just say what they mean. We are killing torturing, and maiming people in the pursuit of a greater-than-$100 a barrel-price tag-for- freaking-crude oil!!!!!

Now, as to the “particular” part of the patriotism I speak of. Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor displayed, valiantly, his particular brand of patriotism. I am, sitting on my sorry ass complaining about a war I am not obliged to go and fight. That is my particular form of patriotism. I do not for the merest millisecond believe my fervor for America is remotely on a level of this fine young man. I do think it is, and will always be zealous and honest. You see, I think that patriotism is a privilege and a responsibility. I also think the expression of that patriotism is not definable by anyone other then the individual expressing it. I think that patriotism is exercising my right to complain of things I see the government doing that is in conflict with my sense of right and wrong. I think it is my choice in which end of the political spectrum I exist. I am a liberal. Arguably, an extreme liberal, but still a dyed-in-the-wool-liberal. I receive e-mails and see comments from the current administration that would suggest that the word “liberal” can be likened to that of a four-lettered word my parents would admonish me for using as a child. It is not four-letter word. It is a seven-letter word…The same amount of letters as “Patriot.”

No comments: