Politicians By Other Means
Being Our Age, one of the things we remember from Our Youth was the annual Bob Hope USO Show. Whatever you think of Bob Hope’s politics — we weren’t aware of them at the time — the USO Show was unabashedly a Good Thing, bringing entertainment to Our Beleaguered Boys in Vietnam, none of whom was Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.
That war is long past, but the USO endures — not just with high-profile events like Stephen Colbert’s week in Baghdad, but visits to the troops from folks you’ve probably never of. Comedian Graham Elwood is one of those folks, and in a recent podcast chat with Chris Hardwick, Elwood describes the practicalities of doing stand-up in war zones. You don’t just work blue, for example — you go full on fucking indigo. But Elwood steers a wide berth from one subject:
“I’m fairly liberal in a lot my politics, but I was like, ‘They don’t need to hear this shit — they’re living it…’ They’re living the result of politics.”
We’re willing to entertain exceptions, but we can’t think of an honest American war in our half-century lifetime. The war we grew up with, the war we’re still living now, and all the wars in-between — all have been examples of a saying from our childhood, that old politicians are commanding young men to die for their re-elections. Those who don’t die, come back freaked out — PTSD is one of Elwood’s causes, following his many conversations with the grunts on the ground.
It’s worth remembering what Mitt said about his own potential cannon fodder the last time he was trying to buy an election:
“It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation, and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president. My son, Josh, bought the family Winnebago and has visited 99 counties, most of them with his three kids and his wife. And I respect that and respect all of those in the way they serve this great country.”
Compare that with Graham Elwood describing the “thousand-yard stares” among some of the soldiers he entertains. There’s a half-world of difference between a family Winnebago and a poorly armored Humvee.
We’re not opposed to war as such. But this isn’t 1941. Nor has any year been in our life. We’ve never felt personally threatened by the action of a foreign government. The only thing that’s come close is the action of a couple dozen terrorists, and that particular morning our only concern was to maintain a healthy distance from the Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge. Earthquakes have done worse. Not to mention traffic accidents.
Just once, during one debate, when a Republican proclaims his enthusiasm for bombing the shit out of Iran, we would love to hear a simple follow-up question: “Governor Romney, would that be worth sacrificing one of your children?” Because if war is politics by other means, it’s long past time we consider the ersatz politicians we send to fight it.
It’s always been that way since Agamemnon sent a thousand ships and bajillion Greeks to deal with his runaway bride problem.
In my yout’ I spent some time around veterans. I watched them during the remembrance day parades. The blank sad looks when they thought about friends long dead. The ones that missed limbs. I learned 2nd hand what it was like to face an MG42 machine gun. I heard the tales of war from my own father–the moment that stands out for me was how .50 caliber bullets (fired from a US American jet) missed my father as he ran for his life and killed a man 3 feet from him. How my grandfather and father ended up in such a mess is another story. I’ve wanted to be a soldier most of my yout’ too. It was a family sideline… of sorts. Not to say we were any good at it. Anyway, that didn’t happen (especially to my mom’s relief.)
It pissed me off to no end during the Walter Reed debacle when I read about men and women that were sent off to war were treated like utter shit by the very assholes who paraded them around for photo ops.
I’m no big wave the flag type, but I do believe the very least a society can do for its military is to be wise where/when they send them off to war and to take care of them when they get home (healthcare, psychiatric and pensions.)
I’ve seen the fucking magnetic ribbons here in Canada City and I’m pretty sure they vote Tory (our GOPers.) Yet, those same Tories want tax cuts (mostly for the 1%) which doesn’t jibe with me and have actually tried to chop the pensions of veterans (yet, love to pose with them at every fucking chance.)
Those fucking tools don’t seem to get that the financial cost of dealing with the human cost of war is more expensive than the financial cost of the material of war. The healthcare and pensions of veterans cost more than DOUBLE in today’s dollars than the actual weapons they used.
If Mittens were a character of fiction he would be the rather minor character of Harroldson the banker from the novel “Once An Eagle.” A tone deaf fool who uses word like valor and heroism yet does not understand what they actually mean and the price that comes with it.
/Off to do cognitive behavioral homework to try to kill the PTSD.
In Israel, everybody serves in the military except the hypocritical, freeloading haredim (ultra-orthodox). So say what you will about their military policies, but they are, literally, sending their own sons and daughters off to fight.
A thought: Would not Jared Harris make a terrific Bob Hope? I’ve never seen him play American, but he’s got that wonderfully mischievous grin.
My college friend who served in the IDF told me to stay the hell out of the Army when I wasn’t doing anything much besides manual labor and working at a ski area as a college drop out. “It’s the stupidest organization in the world,” he said. “You’ll hate it.”
We had Gun Inspection back at the Ancestral Homeland yesterday. About 150 men and teen boys from the Pueblo in blankets, moccasins, and leggings (can’t even wear glasses for things like that) standing in the shadow of the adobe church shelled by the US Army in 1847 stood for two hours as the War Chief and his staff (we still have that office, he’s called the War Captain elsewhere) made sure our rifles were in good working order and that we had adequate supplies of ammunition for hunting and defense.
The Gun Inspection takes place on the ground where people were shot by the Army as they fled the destroyed church. We didn’t know that the Mexicans in the adjoining village had given up their rebellion that they encouraged us to join as allies against the US, so we were left holding the bag on that one.
As for the USO tour, lots of second and third tier metal bands make the trip. (They’re not terrible, they’re just not Metallica, Tool or other act of that stature.) It’s almost like a job requirement and builds some cred.
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