A little anecdote: Forty-seven years ago, the Viet Nam War was raging, America was seriously split between the hard hats and the hippies. And much like the Civil War, the split went right down to the family level, brother against brother, father against son. My family was no different. In college, it would seem I was a commie, pinko-liberal hippie piece of shit.
But then, a sudden and miraculous transformation took place… I shaved my beard, drove down to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, to begin OTS, Officer Training School, where they also shaved my head and gave me a uniform to wear. Suddenly, Dad was proud of me, though what was going on between my ears hadn’t changed all that much. Oddly, the same thing continued in pilot training. Turns out my fellow pilots weren’t wild-eyed with blood dripping from their teeth. We were people doing an incredibly serious job.
One weekend after hours, my buddy, Joe Zumpf and I (we were both scheduled to go to pilot training) went down to the River Walk in San Antonio. Still in uniform with scalps that registered the slightest breeze, we decided to go to the rock musical, Hair, that was playing. But a funny thing happened as we got close to the theater. There was a small demonstration going on, the hippies vs. the hard hats. Showing up in uniform, was like tossing gas on a bonfire. We took a whole lotta crap, though ironically, about a month before we would have visually fit right in.
And then things escalated and an American Flag suddenly appeared and someone was holding a can of lighter fluid. For what it’s worth, Joe and I were outnumbered about 20 to 1. One skinny guy in bell-bottoms and hair about as long as mine had been seemed to be the leader. He was a bit frothy and wild-eyed and he confronted the two of us. He said, “Ya know what we’re gonna do, don’tcha?”
I said, “Yup. You’re gonna burn the flag.” “Well, what are ya gonna do about it?” I looked at him and there was a moment… I said, “Joe and I are joining the Air Force, where we’re probably gonna get killed. And you know why we’re fighting? So that you and anyone else in this country can protest…do whatever crap things you want to do, and not get put up against a wall and shot. America is about freedom…all kinds of freedom, even freedom to be a dumb shit, which I think you are.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.) And those were pretty rough times in Viet Nam and America. The truth was…and is…that when push-comes-to-shove, I believe that 95% of us in America are in a whole lot greyer area than you think.
Scroll ahead to, uhmm…this past week. Last week I wrote a column right here in defense of America, the country I pledged to support and, strangely, now I have continued to do so. It was about basics: protecting your wife and family against sexual abuse, honoring the Constitution of the United States…and even the Pledge of Allegiance. If you were reading last week, you know. What you don’t know, was the invisible behind-the-scenes story. For the record, this past article was the most reacted-to article since I’ve been writing these hundreds of articles since 2012. And they fell into a perfectly sharp pattern. Those who applauded the difficulty now in being an American and a handful of ranting, raving, pretty damn nasty and threatening insults. Who knew that standing up for the Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance could be so divisive?
The story continues. I’ve been contacted by many, many people plus old friends and new. To a person, their prime concern is the same: FREEDOM of SPEECH. It’s the very first pillar of what makes America…America. It reminded me heavily of finding myself in a position as an officer defending the right of someone to burn the flag that I love and would willingly die for. But that’s the point: That’s the exact point: Fighting and defending the right of Americans to exercise their freedom of speech, no matter how pissy, and annoying and nauseating that may be. THAT is what it’s all about.
What concerns me and a very large majority of the country is attempts that are being made to silence freedom of speech.
A Little Lesson in History: Know what the first rule of war and of fighting is? It goes back to close to 500 years before Christ was born. Divide and Conquer. They taught it then. They teach it now, in the Army, the Marines, the Air Force and the Navy. When there’s an enemy, the first goal is to break them up. BUT, here’s the kicker:
When someone is attacking America, when their goal is to divide America and make it WEAKER, know what the first rule is? It’s the same. Right now, we Americans are being driven apart with each news cycle. With each new pronouncement …and they are flowing hot & heavy now. Think and really listen to the words: Who is trying to split the country into small “easily digestible” pieces, and who is trying to heal the country? The people of America must not be split, not from the left, not from the right, not from some foreign power, and not from some small group of people.
Go back to your history books. America is a Republic…always has been, and it is a FREE LAND with FREEDOM of SPEECH, governed by LAWS that have been hammered out over a hundred years, not the whim of the moment.
A little whisper in your ear. If you think, standing up and saying your piece is easy…it ain’t and right now it can be downright dangerous. Last night, before going to sleep, Pam and I discussed just “taking a pass” this week, taking the easy way out. It sure as hell would have been easier. But a line from a poem written in 1914 in Europe flashed into my mind. It’s as pertinent today as it was in pre-war Europe back then. It was a protest poem written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men.
Right now, it’s vitally important that we, the millions of “little Amercans” living in suburbia, the cities, the tiny country roads, the “fly-over states,” we need to never forget that WE are the fabric of what is good about America. Don’t turn on your neighbor. Don’t fall into the easy mistake of thinking all of any group is bad or stupid or arrogant. We are under a very sophisticated attack from many sides. The way to fight back? Talk to your neighbor. And remember, not that long ago we were all on the same side.
God Bless America!