by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
September 15, 2004
IN POLITICS, IT ALL COMES DOWN TO 'SO WHAT?!'
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and lied about it. Not a very honorable thing to do; yet, 30 or so years later he served this nation admirably becoming not only the first President of the United States but forever more known as the "Father of our Country."
Should chopping down the cherry tree, lying, marrying a woman who had inherited slaves and wouldn't free them - should any of this matter today? This is now. That was then. Do we take his picture off the dollar bill, rename the Capitol, change history to reflect who he was before he came into our lives?
The news this week is being written by people who were not there in the late 60's. I was. Although my son was only 12, I worried about his having to go to war. The temper of the times was fear. None of us around the sandbox had ever heard of Vietnam but we knew the French had been there for about 20 years without success and the news from the front when "our boys" were there was frightening.
We were more worried about drugs than bullets. We heard the soldiers smoked dope. Arhrrrgggh! Words like "body bags" were creeping into our conversations and we wondered about deferments. Yes, all of us mothers, not yet an integral part of the work force, started to plan on how we would manage to keep our children safe.
"They'll be deferred if they're in college," one mother would say. "They could continue on through Graduate School, the war can't last forever."
"Don't forget the French commitment before they got out," we'd remind each other.
"I didn't raise my son to be a soldier," a firm voice said.
"What are you going to do about it?" was the general question, asked with a shrug.
I came up with an idea to have the soldiers of the world meeting as children, playing together becoming friends and then refusing to fight. Actually, I did take a soccer team to the Soviet Union in 1971,still a Communist regime, making friends within the two teams but not doing much toward ending the war. Now what, the boys were getting older.
Some of us attempted to indoctrinate our sons with the philosophy of becoming a conscientious objector. When we explained it meant not carrying a gun - refusing to carry a gun - the hoot and holler that came from each son was enough to have any enemy turn tail and run. We tried to forge on.
We said they could drive ambulances, work in the kitchen, and do all sorts of non-combatant work to serve their country.
"What? Do you think I'm going to see a Viet Cong crawl out of a hole with a grenade in his hand, all set to pull the pin, while I wind up and pitch a roll of bandages at him?" They all laughed, rolled on the floor, and we felt all the more helpless. They were only 12 and 13 years old, it was up to us to figure out some way to put an end to the madness.
This was not just around the sandbox and little league fields. The atmosphere was not at all one of serving our country; it was more one of "it's not our war." We supported the troops and despised Jane Fonda for making them feel they're doing the wrong thing and the Vietnamese were their friends and their own government was betraying them.
Those were the times. The National Guard was not an escape, but an option. George W. Bush was serving his country and was honorably discharged. John F. Kerry served his country in Vietnam and was honorably discharged. They made choices and nobody then had a problem with their deportment that wasn't handled then and there. You don't misbehave in the military without the transgression being taken care of.
It's over! It is not our job to chastise John Kerry for tossing his medals, whether the metal or the ribbon. So what?! If I had any comment at all it would be about the haircut he sported in front of the committee. But that was then. So what?!
Whatever happened then is over. To let the behavior thirty years ago of two young men of privilege impact in any way on who they are today is ludicrous. George W. Bush imbibed to excess decades ago. So what?! None of that matters now.
I know that character counts, and it's those building blocks called integrity, honesty and loyalty that strengthen it.
Our last President was squeaky clean all his life, a Rhodes scholar, a young man who shook the hand of President John F. Kennedy and then as President besmirched the Oval Office with X-rated behavior and a history of the same. So what?! He was elected anyway. For him to continue that behavior was a shock but in the light of history and the general consensus that his terms in office were successful, then So What!
I expect to go to the polling booth ovember 2nd and cast my vote based on how I feel now about world and national events and what is best for me and mine.
I don't like changing Presidents in the middle of war (which is why Roosevelt got three terms) but, additionally, my personal concern is for Homeland Security. Either one of the candidates will work in my behalf for health care, social security, the economy, and the education of present and future generations. But, personal safety outweighs them all.
I want strong leaders pledging to protect us. I once tried to preach peaceful coexistence, really conscientiously objecting to armed warfare. But like the 12-year olds 30 years ago, I say if someone comes at me ready to pull a pin on a grenade, I don't want to wind up with nothing to pitch at them but a roll of bandages.