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Thank you so much for posting the full concert video of The Band on your website today. One of my biggest regrets in life is going to be that I never went to one of Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles. He lived only about 10 miles from me, practically a neighbor. It would have been so easy to go, yet I thought I'd always have the chance, so I waited. Now it's too late. Levon Helm was unique, a gift from the universe, and now he's been taken back.
Today's SAYWHAT? quote from Bishop Jenky brings to mind Godwin's Law, and this commentary upon it: "It is generally accepted that whoever is the first to play the 'Hitler card' has lost the argument as well as any trace of respect, as having to resort to comparing your adversary to the most infamous mass-murdering dictator in history generally means you've run out of better arguments."
This week's comic takes me back to Don Martin from Mad Magazine. Throw in a "Thwap!" or "FLOOT THWIP THOP KLOP" (man unfolding beach umbrella) and the mood will be complete.
Sunday's strip was a powerful reminder -- deployed soldiers haven't stopped needing contact and support. As a beneficiary of both Books For Soldiers and Any Soldier during my two OIF tours, I can testify to the impact of both those organizations. They have done and are still doing a great job of organizing on both ends, and ensuring that packages sent to troops contain usable, desired items along with caring cards and letters. My units couldn't thank them enough, and I am so glad to see they are still on mission.
Thank you for Sunday's strip about Mel not getting mail. I am a longtime volunteer member of Books for Soldiers, a troop support organization. Our members not only send books to our deployed troops, but also food, clothing, hygiene supplies, bedding, movies, music, comic books, computer and board games, letters, birthday cards and more -- just about anything they need to make their deployment a little easier. They and their families make great sacrifices for us as they serve our country. It's the least we, their fellow Americans, can do in sharing the challenges of deployment with them. I've lost count of how many times deployed servicemembers have mentioned to me that they feel forgotten because no one they know is writing to them despite promising that they would. I hope many of those guilty of forgetting our deployed troops read Sunday's strip and felt compelled to write a letter or send a care package. Thanks!
It's been sad to me, to see, in the this week's FLASHBACKS strips from ten years ago about Mark's father's death, that all Rev. Sloan could find to say about Phil Slackmeyer was that he "was a decent golfer, collected tie clips, and subscribed to three newspapers." What is heartbreaking is the juxtaposition of this total lack of mourning, with the FLASHBACK episode exactly 15 years earlier. There, Phil Slackmeyer spends an entire afternoon dancing with homeless taxi dancer Alice P. Schwarzman, for a dollar a dance, making her feel as enchanting as "the debutante [she] once was," before (and after) turning himself in, to the SEC, for arrest and imprisonment. That takes class, and courage. I wish there were more public media honoring those corporate criminals who do the right thing, admit what they've done, and turn themselves in.
What else could be said about Phil Slackmeyer? He accepted his son's same-sex partner and focused on his shared political views with Chase, rather than on their differences. He framed his son's Dean's List notice and hung it on the wall. He wrote memoirs of the war, admitting that he had lied to get out of combat. He did his best to encourage his son and his colleagues to succeed. He didn't hide his Jewish ancestry, even from racist colleagues at a segregated golf club. "In short," as Rev. Sloan eulogized, "a life well lived."
It's interesting that some Blowback posters are upset that Jeff has written "war porn" and made some money. James Jones was Jeff's age in 1952 when he was paid $82,000 for the movie rights to From Here to Eternity. Taking inflation into account, that would be about $775,000 today for the movie rights to a novel that, at the time, didn't rise to the level of "war porn," but was merely considered porn and unfilmable. Perhaps 60 years from now The Red Rascal will be considered a literary classic, just as From Here to Eternity now is. As a side note, it is interesting that soldiers who served with Jones have said that the novel was almost entirely fiction and had no resemblance to their actual service in Hawaii. Neither The Red Rascal (actually a double fiction) nor From Here to Eternity are history books, but rather are novels for people who weren't there.
I just saw Sunday's strip. Damned if it doesn't bring back a lot of hurt from 40 years ago. The 99% still forget those they send in harm's way.
Sunday's "Are we still there?" strip expresses the lack of interest among most of us for the fate of our military. Do we all have something more important to do? Someone else can face the danger, someone else can feel the pain, someone else can volunteer to sleep out in the rain. Someone else can face the bullets, someone else can face the bombs, someone else can do the dying like they did in Vietnam.
I returned from Vietnam in '69. I recieved my first "Thank You" in 2004 from someone other than my immediate family. However, as with most Vietnam vets (and, I think, current vets) I rarely mentioned that I was a vet. I'm glad to see the gratitude and appreciation for those who are currently serving or recently served their country.
As a Vietnam veteran I am always honored to meet the young men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have as a group been the most gracious when meeting those from my war. Not a phony moment passes when anyone from these two eras meet. That they are my heroes goes without saying.
The British used to fight their colonial wars with an army made up of men that the public could get sentimental about but didn't really care about. That's what Nixon had in mind when he ended the draft 40 years ago, and it's worked out pretty much the way he figured it would.
Maybe it's where I live, maybe it's from raising chickens. The term I use is "flustercluck."
Being of the Viet Nam Vet generation (I didn't receive a "Welcome Home" until 1999) I applaud the honesty of this strip. I wonder what we have learned about the service member we send so far from home, placed in harm's way and then promptly relegated to the back burner of our attention. Politics of this conflict aside, these are our children, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, classmates, students, teachers that are facing hardship, danger, and loneliness in a scary place because we asked them to do it! Please remember what they are giving us.
In comparing public attitudes toward the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam keep in mind that the press had a much freer hand in Vietnam, so the public was far more informed. It was Poppy Bush who first decided we should be protected from seeing the Gulf War as anything but a video game, and Shrub didn't want us to see bodies coming home. The public chooses the leaders, but we don't choose what they let us know.
What kept support for the Afghanistan war up was not the lack of a draft (we had one during Vietnam, and that war lasted ten years), but the lack of a dead Osama bin Laden. Ever since OBL was killed, support has dropped dramatically, to the point where the "Get out now" vote is louder than ever. Also, whatever perceived good might come out of a draft doesn't make up for the injustice of coercing young men to kill or be killed in a war of choice. It is a categorical evil to do so, whatever the intended results. It is no different than putting a gun to someone's head to get what you want.
There is a good lesson in the subtext of Sunday's strip. When I was in the Army stationed in Korea and Germany, I loved to hear something, anything, from home. We all lived for that. Even the most mundane news was welcome. So if you know a service member in Afghanistan, send him or her a card or letter or e-mail, or give them a call. They will be thrilled with anything they get.
As a Viet Nam vet I think it's ironic that returning Iraq and Afghan vets receive so much attention and big welcome ceremonies -- well deserved mind you -- and yet the general public, as so well pointed out in today's strip, remain basically ignorant of what's happening over there. The public seemed much better informed back in '69 when I came home to a group of protesters spitting at us and calling us baby killers. That unpopular war was on everybody's mind. The only ones to greet me were my mother and father.
Mel's story today is heartbreaking, but as a Viet Nam vet, I can relate: it was 20 years after I came home from Quang Tri before anybody actually said "Thank you," and that was my company commander at a unit reunion at Camp Lejeune. I've had two people say that to me since then. But in the 60s, at least people acknowledged that there actually was a war going on. Not now. It's just a vague annoyance while our guys still are dying or trying to recover and get a job. Shameful.
Wow. Today's strip hit home like a ton of bricks. The youngest is still at it, has been since 2005. He is raising his hand to take the oath again this August. I could count on one fingerless hand the number of times anyone has asked about him. I did have one 'friend' inform me that she knew just how I felt, as her son had served during the the first Gulf War -- all ten days of it. Thank you GBT and crew so much for reminding folks that America still has skin in the game. Too bad that skin belongs to a small group of us. As to the rest of the general populace, that final panel nailed it.
"Wait, we're still there?" Classic, GBT. I heard that when I was on leave from Afghanistan in 2005, and then heard it twice again when I was about to head to Iraq in 2009 and then 2010. It's troubling enough in that it indicates a lack of understanding of US foreign policy, but there's more. Americans continue to use "we" when referring to US military deployments despite general disinterest in the continuing policies that send the All Volunteer Force overseas. If it was truly "we", with shared societal stake and interest in these deployments, I can't imagine that the war in Afghanistan would have continued this long.