Hominy & Hash
TEAR DOWN THIS WALL - OF STUPIDITY!
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Most of us can mark our lives by events powerful enough to stop us right where stand. We can not go back and going forward is no longer predictable as it was just moments before.
Some events strike us personally with impact as great as universal calamities. But, this week, we all stand in disbelief knowing the Columbia shuttle did not complete the mission with the anticipated safe landing.
The seven astronauts aboard perished in an explosion of unknown origin.
The last time we were frozen in place was the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. As we wait for the endless explanations, speculations, predictions and preparations against "it" happening again, whatever the event, we seem to mellow.
The fear in my heart when Alan Shepard was shot aloft, not unlike the fear for the moon-walkers a decade later, had mellowed to the point of not even knowing the Columbia shuttle had been launched two weeks earlier. And I learned today two Americans and a Russian have been up there orbiting for a long time. Either there was no publicity or it didn't pique my interest.
We can rarely control events causing death and destruction. But we can place ourselves back in those times just to look at our attitudes then, and later.
When we hear the concise references we know immediately where our minds will go and where we were then: Nine eleven; Oklahoma City; Columbine; Challenger; Pearl Harbor, just to mention more than a few, but hardly all of the tragedies.
My attitudes did an about face between World War Two and Vietnam. I was exactly 10 that Sunday in 1941. As a 10-year-old, I delighted in playing old records on the phonograph - I'd hold my finger on the wax disk and slow the voices down to a long, drawn out groan. Or, I'd hurry them up and hear high-pitched sounds.
I had two favorites, both World War One marching tunes: "I don't want the bacon, I just want a piece of the Rhine." And, the other, "I didn't raise my son to be a soldier."
They meant nothing to me personally then, but as my five brothers went to war one by one, I asked my mother if she raised her sons to be soldiers. She said, "Oh, no. But what can I do about it? It's war and the strong young men of this country have to fight for it to keep the peace." She spoke in a sad, resigned way. I listened and I agreed.
The war ended, they all came home, and our world was safe for democracy.
The Korean Conflict took all the young men dating age away -- just when I thought they should be on the home front, but ... war is war. I didn't understand what in the world it was about but I figured our government did.
I paid little attention to President Truman and his recall of General MacArthur, but I tossed ticker tape out the windows at 59th and Broadway and cheered him during this triumphant parade. "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away," appeared as headlines in every newspaper in the city after he addressed the Joint Session Of Congress. He certainly appeared victorious. Isn't that what war was - victory and defeat?
But, I was not that April. I had no danger, no family in danger, no cares.
Two decades later Vietnam was getting closer and closer. A neighbor was classified as Missing in Action. I asked my friend what it was all about.
Well, she knew all about it. "The French were there for years and there's still no end in sight," she snapped. "It will be another years and our sons will be there, too."
I left her feeling helpless. Our oldest son of three was 12 years old. Twenty years? I looked at him walking off the soccer field and the World War I song came back: "I didn't raise my son to be a soldier."
My first thought was to raise them all to be conscientious objectors with the thought of killing someone so abhorrent to them they could convince the Draft Board of their religious convictions.
That didn't work. "Mom, are you kidding? You think I'm going to let those Commies win when I can join the fight?"
So, I would have to be a committee of one. Having the children of adversaries play together seemed like a good plan. I'll shorten this story to say I took a soccer team from Indiana to play a team in Moscow in the Soviet Union and we made friends, one team at a time.
That was 1971 and the conflict didn't go on too much longer. My loved ones were too young for the draft and now, with war in the offing, they are too old. Does that let me and my concerns off the hook? Hardly. Suddenly, I feel more committed than ever. Although I don't believe in voting a man into office and then looking over his shoulder, I do believe the government should know how I feel in situations that didn't exist until we were stopped where we stood on 9/11.
We now have witnessed slaughter of innocents of all ages, nationalities, races and religions and we really took it personally. We did not like being considered "collateral damage." How can we consider inflicting it on others?
War is no longer shoot-em-up, war is sophisticated weaponry - or, WMD, weapons of mass destruction. War is waged on computers. Missiles are shot at targets thousands of miles away. "I shot an arrow in the air, it fell to earth I know not where," is an old concept.
A popular anti-Vietnam War singer, Joan Baez, asked, "What if somebody called a war and nobody came?" Former President Ronald Reagan said: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Now, it's time for us to say: "Gentlemen, gentlemen, put down your arms."
Perhaps this verbal shower of hostility can still turn into a non-event.