Whether you can answer this question comes instantly down to precisely how old you are. Be advised: Your answer is critical and probably casts a long shadow as to how you view the world today.
Wapner, however, was more avuncular, grandfatherly. I swear, he didn’t appear to have a malicious bone in his body…something I have always attempted to emulate, successfully at times while failing badly at others. Where am I going with this? I think it’s an important distinction. Read on if you dare.
As like most of you, there are moments in time…pivotal moments where you realize your mind has just taken a fork in the road. One of mine occurred during a seemingly innocuous episode with Wapner. It was classic: On one side of the aisle, a genuinely pretty and sweet teenage girl, the sort of gal you’d be happy to have as a daughter. On the other side of the aisle: a young punk kid with a leather jacket, myriad tattoos, and an attitude that made you want to spit. And yet………
I can’t quote word-for-word but he admitted something intimate and important that day. He said, “This is particularly difficult for me. Susan, you’re young and pretty and I’m sure you are a very nice and sweet girl. Barry… if I were to judge you on your appearance, I’d give you 80-20 odds you’ll be in juvey court inside of a year.” BUT….. And here’s where things got interesting. “Despite all of that, the law is the law. Susan, from what I can deduce, you’ve broken the law. Judgment is for the defendant.” Something in my young impressionable brain shifted gears at that moment. Sometimes what’s right isn’t always pretty and doesn’t make you feel good.
Years later, stationed overseas during the Vietnam War, there was a generational outbreak by young punk, hippy protesters who were burning the American flag. A part of me wanted to slip on some brass knuckles and bust some heads. But then… Ole Judge Wapner flashed into my mind. At the officer’s club at Yokota AFB, Japan, the question came into crystal clarity. The mutterings around the table were, “Goddamn, hippies. They should take ’em out and shoot ’em. They’re cowards. They’re shits…” and on it went.
I remained quiet as everyone vented their spleen, that’s what America is supposed to be about. But then, I suggested that as odious and assholedly they were acting, it was the entire point of being American that they can say what they think and not get dragged off and shot in some gulag. In fact, this was and continues to be the one incredible thing that continues to define America: Freedom of speech for each of us, freedom to worship whomever you want, vote for whomever you believe in….and a couple more rather basic rights.
So far as I know and until something changes, those are still the rules of our country. Whichever side you are for, whichever religion you are, whatever politician you feel is right, you have a right to choose. That goes BOTH ways as it should and as it always should be.
If and when it ever comes to the point where one side tries to gag the other, by denying their right to vote…or worse…denying their right to live free and worship and say what they want……at that point we have lost the very thing it is to be an American.
Tempers and emotions are running high right now. You may or may not agree with your neighbor, your friend, your family, or your spouse. The fact that you can do that…and sleep safely at night says something wonderful about our country. Democrat or Republican, Catholic, Jew, Protestant and anyone else, those are the rules. If you don’t accept them, it’s your right and your duty to try to change them… not with bullets but with your vote.
I am rapidly approaching seven decades on this planet and a part of me vividly feels like I’m still in college, dating and studying what’s right and what’s not right. With all those years under my belt, this period…right now, is seriously scary. The fracturing of a country. This time is second only to the Cuban Crisis, where we came a thread width away from a nuclear war. And…there was a similar moment, the attempt by Senator Joseph McCarthy to take over the country. The term, witch-hunt was appropriate and feels a lot like what’s going on between our parties. Trust is down to zero. The finger pointing must stop for all our sakes and for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Enough…..
Yes, I am a veteran. Yes, I love my country. Yes, I was an LES, (Launch Enable) officer for the Titan II missile, and I want our country to remain a country I can be proud of.
Sorry for the soapbox, but these are scary times. Look to see what is real and what is not.
P.S. There is an idea floating around that if one party can remove the 19th Amendment to our Constitution, then one candidate can easily win. The Nineteenth Amendment is what gives women the right to vote.
I’d suggest that changing our Constitution so that one candidate can win…and 52% of America can no longer vote…is a pretty piss-poor idea. I remain very, very loyal to our softer, prettier, more empathetic and often more common-sensical gender. Yaay women. Brava. Bravisima, we need you to help us right now. Seriously. You are NOT a minority. Don’t act like one.