Months ago when it looked like JFK-lite was going to get the Democrats’ nomination, some prescient pundit somewhere commented about Kerry’s combat medals, predicting the campaign would consist largely of arguments for and agin’ the veracity of his stories, the severity of his wounds, the claims and counter-claims of people "back in the day."
Call me naïve, but I thought that was pretty darn skeptical. OK, I’m naïve and wrong.
It’s not that I’m uninterested in the Viet Nam war, or unimpressed with combat ribbons and purple hearts. I spent three years as a hospital corpsman during that war, taking care of hundreds of young men returning in pieces from Viet Nam and Cambodia. And they were supposedly the lucky ones who survived.
That’s why, despite my disinterest in John Kerry’s candidacy, I was at least glad to see that the general election campaign might well include an airing of many things Viet Nam that are particularly relevant today.
For example, were we veterans of that war really "defending freedom" and "helping the Vietnamese build a democracy?" Were we even (gasp) "serving our country?"
Or, as many of us raised on John Wayne movies in the 50’s and 60’s have come to find out the hard way, were we the young foot soldiers of empire, idealistic (some), unlucky (most) commoners sent off to fight another rich old man’s war, that BELIEVE IT OR NOT, MA! turns out to have been based on a thick web of lies?
Now THAT would make for some rip-snorting campaign debates. It would have some relevance to what’s going on today in another corner of the world. Who knows, it might also help us finally face some of the lies and some of the truths about Viet Nam; help us repair some of the damage done to our society’s soul. You don’t send 1.5 million youngsters to a place like Viet Nam, have them participate in killing over two MILLION Vietnamese and lay waste to the land for generations without SOMEthing strange happening to our national psyche.
What a novel idea! That a campaign in 2004, by including even a modest attempt at dealing with the truth from 35 years ago, might be both riveting and beneficial.
But instead, we have the "Battle of the Swift Boats."
It is, to be sure, a grand way to keep from addressing anything relevant (like today’s war on which, coincidentally, both candidates agree) until…oh, mid September or so. Then the "527" ads will delve into other weighty matters like, "Has the Heinz Foundation stopped funding blood-sucking monkeys to do evil things to little kiddies…?" Or, "Why DID John Edwards see that psychiatrist in 1991…?" Then for the Democrats, Moveon.org will tell us to something crucial to the survival of Western Society, such as "The lost files from Bush’s Cocaine Anonymous classes: Where WAS he during those two meetings in September 1974?"
Any one of these will keep things going until mid-October. Then of course, there will be nothing left of a 2-year long campaign except the "Sprint to the Finish" and hourly poll numbers, culminating with the "Three Day Campaigning Marathon" wherein both candidates get hoarse repeating stump speeches and we watch, fascinated, to see if one of them collapses, proof positive he doesn’t really have "the right stuff," thereby making up the minds of all seven undecided voters in Ohio and determining the election.
NOW…I challenge anyone to dispute that this is a brilliant election campaign process. First, it was created by the Free Market-two years of TV ads are certainly better for the economy than two months-and secondly, it automatically selects for us the one candidate who, by being able to withstand the rigors of an extended campaign, can then withstand the rigors of the office.
Case closed. Whatacountry.
MIKE FERNER is a member of Veterans for Peace from Toledo, Ohio. He returned from a second trip to Iraq earlier this year. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org