Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Wounds That Don't Heal

On a recent morning at 4:30AM, I drove my son back home from the emergency room after a truck in which he was riding was involved in an early morning accident. He made the close acquaintance of the truck's windshield when the young man who was driving hit a tree. My kid was lucky - cuts, bruises, a swollen face, and several stitches - but nothing more serious than that and some residual aches and pains.

He wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Getting close and personal with auto safety glass will make you a quick believer. In addition to his physical injuries, he has a minor 'wound' to his psyche - but those kind of wounds are what teach us the lessons of life. I don't think he'll forget to buckle up again.

A little over a week ago, Sinclair Broadcast Group sent a directive to all 62 of its affiliate stations, requiring the affiliates to air the crockumentary, "Stolen Honor", in prime time spots and pre-empting regular broadcasting. SBG's intent was quite clear. And they got called on it in a way I don't think they could have ever foreseen.

To date, thanks in large part to web based initiatives, 80 companies have publicly pulled their advertising from SBG. Sinclair's stock has tanked - losing over 15% of its value in the past week. The past criminal record of Sinclair CEO David Smith has resurfaced nationally - Smith was caught in a company car with (to steal a line from General J.C. Christian) his little soldier in a prostitute's mouth back in 1995.

On Tuesday afternoon, SBG tried to pull itself back from the abyss, issuing a press release stating they would "not air Stolen Honor in its entirety", but in the context of a larger faux news event examining POW issues from the Vietnam era. I'm still smelling a load of bullshit in their press release, and certainly a whole bushel full of sour grapes - but regardless, it's clear that quick internet organizing had a major impact on their corporate decisions, and also (much to SBG's chagrin) focused attention also on general past bad management practices in SBG.

So at least two old wounds were opened at SBG - generic "family values" hypocrisy on the part of their whoremongering CEO, and a generally lousy management track record over at least the last 12 months.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

The other night, I watched "Going Upriver", which is being billed as the story of John Kerry's service in Vietnam, and perhaps more importantly, the story of his post-Vietnam work with Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The documentary is much more than the story of John Kerry - it's the story of a movement. In that regard, the producer of the movie has done a disservice to a movement that contributed so much to awakening the American public to the real story of our involvement in Vietnam.

There's been a lot of misinformation and flat out bullshit about Sen. Kerry's honorable service in both his capacity as a swiftboat commander in the U.S. Navy and his leadership position within VVAW. "Going Upriver", and last week's "Frontline - Choice 2004" should dispel any misconceptions about either.

What struck me about watching "Going Upriver" was not so much the rendering of Sen. Kerry's personal story, but the emotions that it brought to me. I lived in that era. The fresh faced kid in the ROTC picture to the left is me, circa 1969. The Tet Offensive was a year past when that picture was taken. In retrospect, both the government and the media did much the same thing with the Tet Offensive that is now being done with the situation in Iraq - soft pedal the actual cost in both treasury and lives, and downplay the future implications to success (or lack thereof) in Vietnam.

I was close to tears while watching "Going Upriver". I was moved because, with 30 years in the rear view mirror, the human race has apparently learned so little. You'd think that in an era of mutually assured destruction, the concept of war for political purpose would indeed be obsolete, as Buckminster Fuller opines:

...He (all humanity) was given enough cushion of resources, and so by trial and error he could gradually discover that his mind was much more important than his muscle; and that his probable functioning was metaphysical and not physical. We are all of us at that extraordinary moment where the totality of humanity is beginning, to realize these things. Rather than a few leaders leading ignorant and helpless humanity.

When we have man in great fear, when he is ignorant and also fearful, he can panic officially and war has been an enormous official panic: great mandates to employ that which mind has already discovered. To build up weapons. Under the aegis of the great mandate of fear. The only way the administration really has any great powers is war powers: then they can really undertake anything. If evolution really wanted man to acquire these capabilities, he could only be really motivated to do these things through fear.
"Going Upriver" drives home the stark differences between John Kerry and George Bush more than any words can convey. One man served, and learned the horrific reality of war by actually getting his hands bloody. One man took the easy (though legal) way out, and even in taking the easy way out shirked his duty. George Bush has never seen the reality in the killing fields of war - experienced a "free fire" zone - gazed upon another human being ripped to shreds with the mask of death on a face that no longer exists.

This, more than anything, is why I can't understand how 50% (or more) of the country has been bamboozled into believing that George W. Bush is (and would be) a better "warlord" than John Kerry. True warlords have compassion, because their psyche has been tempered on the fields of battle. Faux warlords have hubris, because it's all a video game to them. Probably the best movie I've ever seen that depicts this ethos is "Gladiator". Rent it or buy it, and view it through the lens I've just given you, and you'll see what I mean.

Back to the kid in the picture. The presidential campaign this year should have been a referendum on the last four years under George Bush. It hasn't been. Both campaigns have picked and picked at a national scab that had yet to fully heal, even with 30 years of hindsight. For someone my age, and of my generation, perhaps that wound will never heal - but for Christ's sake, at some point, humanity has to learn a lesson.

...Doesn't it?

If my son can learn by hard experience to wear a seatbelt, can't we collectively learn, in an age of supposed "enlightenment", to hold our leaders accountable for creating fresh wounds that won't heal?