Thursday, November 11, 2004

Today is Veterans Day!

Today you're going to hear a lot about the enormous sacrifices of our veterans, both living and dead. As far as I'm concerned, every day is Veterans' Day. We have so much for which to thank them, not the least of which is the ability to engage in a debate over allegiance to our leaders' military operations.

Like most liberals, I've been accused of hating the men and women who serve in the armed forces. In the early days of the Iraq War, furious debate echoed back and forth in The Vermilion, sparked by a pair of female editors that served in the National Guard. They were arguing that they knew better than the average civilian about the need for war because 1) they were in the military themselves and 2) their family had a proud tradition of serving. The rest of us anti-war people, they said, needed to shut up. After all, there's no way that any of us could ever understand the rigors of fighting, being that we had no veterans in our families. It's a war thang--you wouldn't understand!

Well, guess what--I do! Among my family members are numerous veterans and current soldiers. Here's a partial list:

My maternal grandfather, Henry Roberthon (1921-1999): Gave up a four-year full-tuition scholarship to fight with the Navy Seabees during World War II. He walked the streets and highways of Nagasaki just days after the bombing, and witnessed firsthand the horror of a post-nuclear ghost town. He told me he saw people mutilated while the highways had not been affected at all. He also toured San Francisco, the Aleutian Islands and Hawaii.

My great-uncle, John Harrell "Ham" Hamilton (1922-2002): An ace pilot, Ham told me countless stories of his jet-fighter exploits. Shortly before he died of lung cancer (from chain-smoking Camels, a side-effect of being a pilot at that time), he had assembled a collection of his pilot's licenses and military IDs. Flying bombers during WWII was clearly one of the defining experiences of his life.

Meet Henry and Ham here.

My uncle, Mikel McGibboney (194?-): Served in Vietnam in 1967-68, including a particularly harrowing battle during the Tet Offensive where he found himself so close to the Viet Cong that a cough would have had him killed. When he landed in San Diego, was spat upon by misguided protesters. Hates Dubya even worse than I do, and has an even stronger reason than I do. (Is also a frequent contributor to this blog.) His family visited ours in the summer of 2001 and for Easter 2005.

First cousin, Damon McGibboney (1977-): Joined the military in 2001; currently lives in Germany. While in Iraq, worked a security checkpoint in Tikrit (you can see his picture on page eight of this newsletter). More about him here.

First cousin, Joey Bueche (1977-): I haven't seen or talked to him since 1990, but did see him a lot as a kid. His dad died about 10 years ago, and we hadn't heard much from Joey since then. He recently called my dad (his mom's brother) out of the blue, and told him that he was frightened about going off to fight in Iraq. I wish I'd been there to talk to him as well, and hope that I have another opportunity to do so.

Third Cousin, Mitch Venable (1970-): Served in the Navy from 1988-1998, traveling the world and spending several years living in Hawaii (ah, the Clinton years). He was as big of an advertisement for the Navy as there was, at least until he had an apparent change of heart. He now works at the NASA Control Center in Houston, and is one of my favorite cousins (he recently wrote me to say he spent two hours reading my site when he found it). Two of his brothers, twins Jack and John Venable (1965?-), also deserve a mention for serving with a medevac in the Gulf War.

Cousin, Brandon Gallagher (1983-): Mitch's sister's son, Brandon joined the military in 2001. He is based in New Mexico, doing technical things he won't even begin to divulge to me. By his own account, he is having the time of his life (and got a hot girlfriend in the process). Frequently surprises me with an impromptu visit.

Cousin, Ryan Roberthon (1981?-): New to the list in 2005; is currently serving a second tour in Iraq.

These are just the relatives that come off the top of my head; there are many, many others. Their politics run the spectrum and each have varying opinions of life in the military. One sentiment that they all have in common, however, is that war is always a rotten game, no matter who you are or why you're there (even if the war is justified). My opinions have been shaped, in no small part, by the choices and experiences these men have made. And for the right to do so, I thank them and their counterparts endlessly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Do you believe I get published?

You know you want it Posted by Hello

Now that I'm officially in the snazzy-graphics business, I offer you a friendly reminder about my other great site, More Than Words.

Since June 2002, I have served as the liberal columnist for the University of Louisiana Vermilion. MTW is the online archive for all of my Vermilion columns, and is a great way to kill several days and billions of brain cells. If Not Right About Anything isn't soothing your online fix, then get help! But not before devouring More Than Words. It's good for the country and good for you!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

What NOT to do

Greg Peters is a local cartoonist who (at least until recently) contributed to our "alternative" weekly, The Independent. His style in the comic "Snake Oil" is a variation of Tom Tomorrow, using classic-style illustrations to highlight absurdities in local and national politics.

Following the anti-gay marriage landslide in Louisiana, Peters did a cartoon that lambasted the people of Louisiana. I wish I could find it, but I apparently hid it very well in my newspaper collection. Suffice to say, it depicted a grim reaper and two massive columns of text telling Louisianians what a bunch of bigoted, backwater, fanatical nuts we are. It was shocking, yet refreshing. The rest of his collection runs along the same lines as well. You think I'm bold? Check out the sentimental insight Greg has to offer about the 2004 election results:

On second thought, maybe not. The reason I brought this up is because Greg's action is the perfect example of what NOT to do in light of Bush's second term. We need every voice we have without resorting to fits of fury directed at the very people who agree with us. I understand that a lot of you are still reeling from last Tuesday. But take heed of the words sung by those famous anarchists Chumbawamba:

I get knocked down / But I get up again / You're never going to keep me down!

Are we going to stay knocked down, or are we going to get up again?