The Right Coast

February 02, 2006
What WaPo liberals don't get
By Tom Smith

If you click through, you will eventually get to the offensive cartoon in the Washington Post, which makes a point about Rumsfeld by showing a "comical" depiction of a serviceman who has had all his limbs blown off.

For what it is worth, I will try to explain to people who do not already get it, why this is so offensive. First, terrible things like this really do happen. We treat them, or should, with a certain delicacy, because they are so awful. We usually do not make jokes out of miscarriages, children being crushed by cars, young people who die of cancer, babies born with horrible, disfiguring disabilities, middle aged women with children and other responsibilities who discover they are going to be dead in a few months from breast cancer, accidents in which whole families perish together, and one could go on and on. These are not funny things, and part of what makes them not funny is that they really happen, and all too often for most of our tastes. When my lovely wife Jeanne comes home from work, where she has had to tell some mom or dad that he or she won't be around to see their kids grow up, she is devastated by it, because it is one of those things that really, really suck. Similarly, it really happens that soldiers get some or all of their limbs blown off. It is not remotely funny. It is as dreadful as dreadful can be, so much so that but for courage most of us can only imagine, we think such a person would be better off dead. Out of this comes a point of civility: You just aren't allowed to use these heros, for that is what they are, to score your own, pathetic, allegedly homorous, little political points. You have to find some other way to do it.

There is another point that I am convinced the vast majority of people who think the editorial page of the Post or the New York Times taps into some deep wisdom, don't get. It is one of those facts that dawn on you maybe in your thirties or fourties if you are a child of the 1970's or maybe never. It is a fact like, you mean you have to work hard for the rest of your life? And, you mean children don't always turn out the way you would like?, and, You mean I really am eventually going to get sick and die? One of those facts the denial of which seems to be a pillar of certain world views. That fact is, that we get to live the way we do, free, rich, and relatively happy, because some people have what it takes to face down the miscreants with guns and bombs who want to take it away from us. It is shocking to me how few people seem to really know this. Without police, we would have no property. And without people like the one charicatured in the WaPo cartoon, we would have no freedom. It really is that simple. Yet those who "loathe the military" seem to view these people as being like the people who wash their cars or pick their lettuce for them. Paid servants, to be viewed with pity and contempt. It makes you wish that national defense were not such a public good, so that these sorts could not have their free ride.

Here's a somewhat relevant story I got from my father this Christmas. He is as deaf as a post, because, according to my lovely wife Jeane, of his service in the artillery in WWII. Big guns catch up with you that way, apparently, even many decades later. He was a young lt. commanding an artillery battery of 150mm howitzers in the Battle of Okinawa. His most dangerous moment came when a sniper (probably) managed to ignite the stockpile of ammunition behind the guns. The white phosphorus caught on fire, and rounds started to explode. Everyone ran. One round went off, caroomed across the ground, and cut off one of my dad's men's legs. They managed to save his life, but he lost his leg. Hundreds of thousands died on Okinawa, so I suppose you could count him lucky. But fifty years later, my dad still thinks of that incident with intense regret. He said that as a result, he gives money to Disabled American Veterans. It is not a fucking joke.