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My father was a “Goldwater Republican” in ’64. Hated the Kennedys, hated Johnson,Truman, FDR. He tolerated blacks but wouldn’t live next door to them. Later, his oldest son married one, and slowly my dad’s tolerance increased–yet never would he wish to live next door to them. My father was also a longshoreman–really a “checker” to be exact. They were in the some union, but the checkers did the paperwork, the others did the lifting. I guess his one year at Brooklyn College and his high IQ saved him some sweat. My old man quit college, simply put, to go to work. It was 1935 and jobs were scarce and money tight. So, he, his father and his mother all found jobs, any jobs.
Now my grandfather, he was a college graduate–but that was in Tunesia, North Africa, so it did not count as much–and like I said, jobs were scarce. So, my old man’s old man used his skills and became a “trade unionist”, a machinist. Rumor has it that he may have actually invented the double bolt lock.
By the late 30s things were really rough in NYC, as in most of America. My grandfather got involved with the union movement, went to demonstrations organized by the Communists, got arrested, couldn’t make bail–my grandmother and my father had to go around “begging” everyone they knew to kick in a little (the CP turned them down) and grandpa got himself blacklisted from his craft (“you’ll never work here again you RED”).
One day not too much later in this story, my grandmother returned home from a long day of working on her feet too much, tired and needing a nice warm bath. The only problem was that my grandfather had beaten her to the tub. She found him there with a pistol nearby his very cold and very bloody once handsome face. Soon afterwards my father registered as a Republican (go figure).
By 1968 the war in Vietnam was as divisive as ever. Lines were being drawn, in the Congress, in the streets, schools, homes and relationships. You were either a “hawk” or a “dove”. When my brother turned 21 and was ready to graduate college-thus losing his draft deferment–my old man, Mr. “bomb-em Barry” Republican, became a dove. He stated, at a family gathering: “before they try to take my kid and send him to some jungle to get shot at by some other kid, I will personally drive my sons to Canada!” Was my father simply a hypocrite, now that his boys were “body bag age”? No, not really. He was a proud man with a past, a sad sad past, who knew that he had been wrong. He knew, instinctively, that he had been led by leaders, not through example, rather rhetoric and lies. He knew, from some truths being shown every evening on Cronkite (truth was still a luxury in those days as well) that boys his son’s age were being killed by others in black pajamas, for the right to “claim” a rice paddy as theirs. Who in the hell on the 17th Street pier where he worked would give a crap about places called Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia? All the news reports showed were peasants, farmers, and jungle, and hot as hell, rainy heat! No, this was no longer a “just war’ to my old man–this was not a war against the superb and deadly German war machine! This was a war against barefoots in pajamas shooting up a ricefield!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, back in Texas USA, another father did not see things quite the same. George SR. was a hawk, a “Let’s go get em, kill a commie for Christ” type. His son, from all accounts, publically agreed with dear old dad. One always has this sneaking suspicion that privately he may have (and may now) have very different views. As the saying goes “actions speak louder…” so what did GW the son do? Did he enlist in the Air Force to help in the “good fight”? To fly sorties over enemy concentrations and take out some of those black pajamas? Of course, that would be risking the fate of a Lt. John McCain, and perhaps being shot down. No, our boy took the road less travelled and defended our nation over the skies of Texas, while my friends were returning to our neighborhood in but my memories, and McCain spent years in harsh captivity. The “man who would be President” was not alone during the late 60s and early 70s. Our Congress is filled with men who we called back then “chickenhawks”. They not only supported the war, but they demanded we attack! attack! attack!, always keeping their deferments to never serve there there there!No man should serve who dissents against his countries policies or actions–but to act as these men did is a disgrace!
Now we have the newest “war” against Iraq. This is a country and a regime, with the very same leader, who was our “friend” during the 80s. We gave him all the economic and military support we could muster, so long as he was fighting “the good fight” against our enemy Iran. While Iraq was our “friend”, did not Saddam commit atrocities against his own people? Did not he use mustard gas and slaughter the Kurds? Did not he develop (through whose help, one wonders) chemical and biological weapons? Now, those very things make him candidate for our “war” with him.
Here’s what I say: Number one, I do not want my sons, or my fellow American’s sons, to be shipped to some desert, or to some city thousands of miles away, to be killed or to kill innocents. Number two, I want all these so called “War With Iraq Hawks”, all these media pundits, to strap on the helmuts and gear and get on that next transport. Finally, I want our leader to get behind that cockpit and do what he should have done some 30 odd years ago: “Lead by Example!!”
Philip Farruggio, son of a longshoreman, is “Blue Collar Brooklyn” born, raised and educated (Brooklyn College, Class of ’74). A former progressive talk show host, Philip runs a mfg. rep. business and writes for many publications. He lives in Port Orange, FL. You can contact Mr. Farruggio at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.