Sunday, July 18, 2004

Loving John Kerry

Did anybody catch Terry Gross' interview with Hendrik Hertzberg on Fresh Air the other day?

In case you missed it, I'll do my best to recapitulate. Apologies if I get anything wrong. (Sorry, Hendrik! Love Ya! Mean It!) I was driving and couldn't take notes [g].

Anyolways, Hendrik was talking about his odd Viet Nam era draft experience, a curious combination of being drafted, serving, objecting, and being determined to be Four-F. Terry, shrewd interviewer that she is, asked for Hendrik's views on how we can assess the characters of various national politicians based on their draft experiences.

At the very (very!) bottom of the pile, Hertzberg places Dan Quayle (I once made the NY Times for disrupting a speech Quayle was delivering to the New York Conservative Party back in my ACT UP days) and Dick Cheney. Dan and Dick were very much for the war, but did their best to make sure that their convictions were never to be tested, and pulled all the strings they could lay their greasy little hands on to make sure they would remain out of it. One wee step up is the Former Governor of Texas who now occupies the Oval Office. Dubya had no strong political convictions about anything, and got himself a see in the Texas Air National Guard, where he got to fly planes and spend a relatively out-of-harm's-way couple of years keeping Texas safe from the Red Threat.

Hertzberg places Bill Clinton squarely in the middle, ultimately admiring him. Clinton was opposed to the war, and after much soul searching, managed to avoid service. Perhaps feeling guilt over this, he was active in the movement to oppose the war, which Hertzberg (rightly, in my mind) considers to be serving your country, too.

Kudos go to John McCain, who supported the war, and even though his Dad was the Naval Commander of the Pacific, lived out these convictions by enlisting. McCain famously became a prisoner of war, but did not allow the accident of his birth to get him out of that sticky situation.

But here's the gem. Hertzberg saves his absolute highest praise for John Kerry. Kerry was opposed to the war. But felt it was his duty to serve. So he did. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Now for the most part, being in the Navy during the Viet Nam War meant you were sitting on a ship somewhere, and the chances of getting into the crosshairs of a viet cong sniper's rifle were slim to none. In the Navy, if you wanted to see action, to serve on the front lines, you had to ask for it. Specifically. And John Kerry did just that. He asked for it. He didn't have to serve. But he did. He didn't have to go to the front lines. But he did. Not just once, but three times. And there, he conducted himself in a way that can only be described as both brave and heroic.

But it gets better. After fulfilling what he considered to be his duty to his country, Kerry returned to the States, and did that other duty to his country, serving admirably in the Anti-War movement.


I mean, I kinda knew all that, but until I heard Hendrik Hertzberg describe it that way, I don't think I really knew all that.


So. SingleTails is hereby enthusiastically on board with John Kerry for President.

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