Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The POW card...

John McCain is playing the POW card.

No, really. Did you see his appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno?

Leno asked him a question relating to his apparent inability a few days earlier to recall how many homes he and his family own. Instead of addressing that question directly, McCain went off on a whole tangent about how he was a prisoner of war for five and a half years and that he not only didn't have a house, he didn't have a table or a chair. I really expected fifes and drums to begin playing under his words.

Or, perhaps, the world's smalled violin, playing "My Heart Bleeds for You".

What in the name of all that is holy does his being a prisoner of war have to do with how many houses he (or his wife) owns now?

Nothing, that's what. It was just typical political misdirection, only even more disgusting than usual.

The whole theme of McCain's campaign seems to have become that because McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict, he is a) entitled to become President and b) immune from any criticism on any subject.

Both are contentions are, you'll excuse my language, a load of crap.

I mean, I'm sorry that he had to go through that experience of being a POW. I'm sorry anyone who has ever had to go through that, has had to do so. But, mostly, those who have been POWs, in whatever war or conflict, don't go around acting like it makes them somehow immune to any sort of correction or criticism and that it entitles them to get whatever they want.

And lest you think I'm being disrespectful of the experiences he had, let me add that my father was a prisoner of war during World War II, a "guest of the Nazis" as he used to put it. And it was no picnic. He didn't talk about it much, and most of what he talked about made it sound more like an episode of "Hogan's Heroes" than anything. About the worst thing he spoke of was that while he was playing baseball one day, he forgot where he was and chased a batted ball and started to go over a fence to retrieve it and got shot in the leg for his troubles. And he talked about being marched from the camp to another location as the war was drawing to a close and the Russians were approaching.

What he didn't tell me was that the march was several hundred miles across most of Austria (that's where his camp, Stalag 17b, was located), in bad weather and with nearly no food. Or that as the war started going badly for the Germans, the prisoners got less and less food and were treated more and more badly. It wasn't like "Hogan's Heroes" at all. It was a real war, and they were real prisoners, and it wasn't a fun time.

And, although my father went through all of that, he never acted like that experience made him somehow better than anyone else, or that it meant he could do no wrong, or that he was entitled to special stuff or more privilege because of those two and a half years of, well, pretty much hell.

I daresay that, were he still with us, my father would be appalled at the way McCain and his supporters are using McCain's POW experience in the campaign. If there are any small earthquakes centered anywhere around the far northwestern corner of San Fernando Valley in the next little while, that'll be my dad, rolling over in his grave.

But, my dad isn't here to protest the rhetoric coming out of McCain's campaign. So I feel obligated to do it for him.

Mr. McCain, cut it out. The use you are putting to that admittedly horrific experience as a POW which you endured in Vietnam is offensive. You are not entitled to do or say whatever you want, and get away with it without any criticism or questioning, just because you were a POW. You are not ordained from above to be President just because you went through that.

Why should you be entitled to be President of the United States just because you went through that? You know what my father got out of being a POW? Some shrapnel in his leg, and a Purple Heart in consequence. A grave marker. And a certificate signed by President Carter, who was in the White House when my dad passed. Or, anyway, a certificate signed by a machine in place of the then-President.

Well, my dad never wanted to be President. But even if he had wanted that, he couldn't ever have even been president because he was a naturalized rather than natural-born citizen. But he went and fought for his adopted country anyway, and never asked for anything in return. Not even to be treated with kid gloves because of his experience during the war.

No comments: